Lien currency takes the form of a plastic card with a black magnetic reader strip on the back and a small notation on the front. Several different colors of lien are seen, including turquoise, pink, yellow and blue. The Lien symbol is an L crossed with two horizontal lines (Ⱡ), similar to some real-world currencies such as Yen and Euros.
Sometime before the start of the series, Lien was commonly denoted with paper bank notes.
Due to Huntsmen being allowed the freedom of how they work, many usually work for criminal organizations specifically for the Lien promised. Others like Dee and Dudley usually offer their protective services in exchange for being paid extra Lien.
In the past, Jacques Schnee took control of the Schnee Dust Company for himself so he could profit from the Lien people used to buy Dust from the company. He cared more about the profit of the company than the lives of his family and his own workers. Eventually, his greed led to his arrest at the hands of the Atlas Military and death at the hands of James Ironwood.
During the events of "RWBY: Roman Holiday", Lil' Miss Malachite and Spider teamed up with Lady Browning's Preparatory Academy For Girls and planned to place spies and assassins all over Vale while amassing billions of Lien to remove the Xiong Family from the criminal underworld and take it's place. However, the plan was foiled when Roman Torchwick and Neopolitan have a hardrive to Lisa Lavender and the Vale News Network network containing the truth about Lady Browning's and exposing them while Spider is forced to retreat back to Mistral.
Two years before the events of RWBY, Lien is often used by members of Team SAFR whenever they need to purchase Dust. A large amount of Lien was also paid to Team SMMK by the Wave crime syndicate to prevent anybody from interfering with their plans. While they helped them with many of their plans, the team had no actual loyalty to the Crime Syndicate and eventually decided to leave the leader of the group Lemon to fend for herself while taking one of their Magic artifacts for themselves. This led to Lemon dying at the hands of Abigail Pyre, an assassin from "The Hearth" who was payed by Vermillion Raddock and the Hana Guild to kill her and give them her magic artifacts.
In "Ruby Rose", when Roman Torchwick and his Henchmen robbed From Dust Till Dawn, the Shopkeep offered to give him all of his Lien. Roman refuses to take them, instead ordering his henchmen to steal the store's entire supply of Dust.
In "Best Day Ever", Emerald Sustrai offers Mercury Black some money that she pick-pocketed from the Shopkeep in return for him shutting up, but he declines her offer. In "Round One", Emerald pickpockets Ruby Rose's wallet, filled with Lien, only to return it to her claiming that she found it.
In "Beginning of the End", Mercury presented Adam Taurus with a briefcase full of Dust and Lien. While Adam and his men eventually started to work with them of their own free will, it is likely that they accepted the Dust and Lien as well.
Oscar unsuccessfully uses a Lien card to pay for a train ticket in "Kuroyuri" which he later obtained thanks to the help of Hazel Rainart. In a flashback during the same episode, Lie Ren recieved some Lien from his mother An Ren so he could buy a gift for his father Li Ren once he returned home. After trying to purchase a new Weapon and Sake, he eventually ran into three boys bullying a young Nora.
In "Known by its Song", Qrow pays the Ramen Shop Owner 16,000 Lien in order to clear Shiro Wan of his debt to him after realizing that Shiro was killed on a mission.
In "Uncovered", Cinder took the clothes and money from a Mistral citizen she encountered and killed and used the Lien to request the services of Lil' Miss Malachite. While Lil' Miss Malachite accepted it and told her to wait a week for her information, one of her guards asked her why she didn't tell her since Hazel asked them two weeks earlier where Ruby's Group was heading. She later said that she wanted to know who wanted to know about Cinder. This suspicion was later confirmed when Neopolitan payed Lil' Miss for information on her.
While many Huntsmen working for The Crown were loyal to the group, Bertilak Celadon was only working for them due to the Lien promised. Due to this, he originally helped with the group's human trafficking ring for people with powerful Semblances. After being punished by them for failing and Carmine Esclados using him as a scapegoat, Bertilak eventually turned on The Crown and decided to hunt Carmine down after she disappeared.
- In RWBY: Grimm Eclipse Horde Mode, Lien is used as a currency to purchase turret defenses, and is earned by defeating enemies.
- In RWBY: Amity Arena, Lien is used to purchase cards in a store (run by the Shopkeep) and upgrade the units featured in said cards, and is earned both by battling and completing missions. It takes the form of coins.
- In the episode "Ruby Rose", when his men are defeated, Roman sarcastically remarks that they were "[truly] worth every cent." This could indicate that cents are a smaller denomination of Lien. A Lien penny is later shown in the short "Find a Penny" in "Magic Show", the third episode of RWBY Chibi Season 2.
- In the real world, a "lien" refers to the legal claim a creditor has on a debtor's property, should they fail to meet the obligations of a loan contract, although the two words are pronounced differently, with the currency being pronounced phonetically in two syllables, the English word using the two letters to represent a single vowel.
- Currently, the value of Lien compared to real life currency is unknown.
- The price for Dust in Lien is also unknown.