For travelers heading to China, here’s some exciting news! You can now experience the convenience of seamless, cashless payments using China’s popular mobile payment solutions, WeChat Pay and Alipay. In a recent announcement, both platforms revealed that foreign users can link their Visa, Mastercard, and Discover credit cards to make payments at Chinese retailers. This development marks a significant improvement in the experience of foreign visitors to China, allowing them to navigate the country’s bustling retail landscape with ease.
Previously, using WeChat Pay and Alipay in China required a local bank account, posing a challenge for short-term visitors who couldn’t easily access these payment methods. As these two mobile payment giants rapidly replaced cash transactions throughout the country, foreign visitors faced difficulties finding places that still accepted traditional currency. Despite government efforts to discourage merchants from rejecting cash, cashless payments had become the norm from metropolitan cities to rural villages.
The recent announcement brings great relief to foreign visitors, as they can now enjoy the full benefits of WeChat Pay and Alipay during their stay in China. These payment solutions have become ubiquitous in both online and offline retail spheres, making it possible for visitors to engage in various transactions, from hailing Didi cars and using public transport to renting shared bikes, purchasing groceries, ordering food delivery, and shopping online for a wide range of Chinese e-commerce goods.
WeChat Pay has provided useful details on the setup process for foreign users. To activate their WeChat wallets, travelers need to verify their identity by uploading their passports, while foreign phone numbers can be used to receive verification codes. This streamlined authentication process ensures that users can quickly and securely start using WeChat Pay for their transactions.
While foreign visitors can now enjoy the convenience of cashless payments, there are still some limitations to keep in mind. Unfortunately, they won’t be able to participate in the digitized Chinese hongbao custom, which involves sending or receiving digital red envelopes filled with money—a feature that initially drove WeChat’s mass adoption. Moreover, money transfers are not permitted due to China’s strict control of capital flows across borders.
For foreign visitors using WeChat Pay, there are specific transaction limits per transaction, month, and year, set at 6,000 yuan, 50,000 yuan, and 60,000 yuan, respectively. Payments under 200 yuan incur no transaction fees, while amounts above this threshold carry a 3% fee. Exchange rates are based on the rates of the card organization and the issuing bank.
The integration of international bank cards into WeChat Pay and Alipay has been a long-anticipated move. While plans for such integration were previously announced but not realized, it’s hoped that regulatory approvals and infrastructure are now in place. Once the new system is operational, we will provide further updates on its functionality and convenience for foreign visitors.
The introduction of cashless payment options for foreign visitors in China through WeChat Pay and Alipay marks a significant milestone in enhancing their overall experience. Embracing the convenience of these popular mobile payment platforms, travelers can now navigate the vast retail landscape of China with ease and enjoy the benefits of a cashless future in one of the world’s most technologically advanced countries.