Overseas Tourists Can Now Use Alipay and WeChat Pay in China
During travel in China, you will find that cash has become a rare sight since mobile payments have become the norm, especially the young generation almost never uses cash anymore. But it doesn't mean they don't use money. WeChat Pay and Alipay are two of the most popular mobile payment methods in China, and most people pay on with those platforms using barcodes, known as QR codes, on their phones. People use them to pay and buy everything; from vegetables at the wetmarket and street breakfast to luxury entertainment; from flight or train ticket bookings to taxi reservations. From tuition to hospital bills. You can even use it to pay your monthly water and electricity bills, anytime and anywhere.
For me, it really easies my life and enhances cash security. But unfortunately, until now it was only a thing for Chinese people. The problem for many foreigners was, that these platforms require a Chinese bank account, and it's become difficult for people on tourist visas to open bank accounts in China (and probably not desired either), because most banks require a visa that is valid for at least 6 months.
If you’ve ever been on a trip to China, you'll know that paying for things in China can be very difficult tricky if you're a tourist. Not many places accept foreign credit cards like Visa or Mastercard and tourists have few options but to use cash, which not everyone feels comfortable to carry a lot with them all the time — but all that's about to change.
In November 2019, Aplipay announced that from now on, foreigners can connect their overseas credit cards in to an Alipay account to use it when traveling in China. A few days later WeChat followed. This is really good news, but maybe not exactly yet, since their features are still in its infancy. But we have a good feeling that in the future it can work well.
So, what's the effective way?
In Alipay, users can find the a mini-program by searching for Tour Pass within the app. Then according to the requirements of the form, you will need to fill in the information. And then you have your own Alipay Tour Pass. After you put some money on this tour pass, you can use your Alipay account during your travel through China to buy services such as buy performance tickets, order a “didi” (a Chinese Uber), pay at restaurants, supermarkets, street vendors and so on (you can even pay a charity to the street beggars).
In WeChat, you can add a foreign bank card the same way as a Chinese bank card, but you can only use it for limited services. At least for now.
Here's a guide to use Alipay in China as an overseas tourist:
First of all, you need to make sure you have the following:
1, An overseas phone number. Numbers from China Mainland, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwai don’t work.
2, A valid Chinese visa.
3, A bank card, including Visa, MasterCard, JCB and more.
Then follow these steps to be able to use Alipay for payments in China:
1, Download the Alipay App app from Google Play or another App Store (Google Play is not accessible within China without VPN). Make sure you got the international version if you cannot read Chinese characters. This should be automatically when you download it outside of China.
2, Sign up with your phone number.
3, Search Tour Pass in the Alipay app.
4, Fill in the requested information according to the form. The app gives a clear explanation to help you through the process.
5, Now you are ready to use Alipay!
How to use Alipay?
Not unimportant is the question of how you can actually use it? There are ways to pay with Alipay:
1, The vendor might ask you the question "wo sao ni haishi ni sao wo?" (你扫我还是我扫你？), which means, I scan you or you scan me?
2, You scan the QR code of the shop with "Scan" on top of the screen. Almost any vendor or service provider has their Alipay or WeChat QR code somewhere around the counter. You then have to enter the amount to pay yourself.
3, The vendor scans your Alipay QR code. For this you have to click “Pay” at top of the screen. You might get a new screen asking you to enable Open Payment. You have to type in your pin code or use fingerprint and then you can pay. You do not need to enter the amount, it goes really quick. Afterwards you get a message how much is paid.
A few notes:
- The minimum you can top up is 100 CNY (about 14 USD) and the maximum you can put on the Alipay Tour Pass is 2,000 CNY (about 285 USD) per time, total amount can not exceed 5000 CNY.
- You need to provide your nationality, passport number, full name, date of birth, and a photo of your Chinese visa.
- At time of writing, there are no fees for topping up your Alipay Tour Pass, but it could change in 2020. The only fee you pay is your own credit card's fee for foreign transactions.
- After 90 days, any money left on the Tour Pass, will be refunded to your card.
Here's a guide to use WeChat Pay in China as an overseas tourist:
First of all, you need to make sure you have the following:
1, A phone number (bot Chinese and international accepted).
2, A WeChat account.
3, A bank card, including Visa and MasterCard.
Using WeChat Pay with international credit cards is not as developed as the Alipay Tour Pass. We would recommend using Alipay Tour Pass for most tourists to China.
To add an international bank card to WeChat, follow the next steps (we assume you already have WeChat installed and working, this process can be a bit tricky):
1, Go to “me” in the main screen in WeChat.
2, Go to “Wallet” or “WeChat Pay” depending on your WeChat version.
3, Go to “Wallet” again.
4, Go to Cards.
5, Click “Add Bank Card”.
6, Here you can add your bank card number, you can type it by hand or make a photo of your card where the app will automatically add the number from the photo.
7, The app will recognize the type of card by itself as Visa or Master card or any card that is accepted. If your card cannot be accepted, you will get a message and it unfortunately eds here.
8, Fill in the requested information. If you cannot find your region, you can just enter the closest city. You can both use your international or Chinese phone number.
9, You will now find your international bank card in the list of cards!
- The methods for paying are the same as with Alipay. Wo sao ni haishi ni sao wo?
- For now, there are only a limited amount of services you can use with WeChat pay, so as mentioned before, for easiest travel experience, using Alipay is more recommended.
- Services you can use are JD.com (online electronics shop), buy train tickets via China Railway 12306, get a Didi (Chinese Uber) and make purchases on Ctrip.com (hotels, flight tickets, train tickets, car rental etc,.).
Mobile payment may not resolve all problems during travel, but it can definitely provide some extra convenience to ease your travels. If you have any question please don't hesitate to contact Wonders of Yunnan. We're happy to help you out!
Author: Sissy Wang
Proofreader: Melanie Timmerman
Editor: Sissy Wang