Alipay and WeChat Pay for Foreigners in China

Shanghai Living

When it comes to financial transactions in China, Alipay and WeChat Pay are the twin pillars supporting the digital economy. For foreigners, navigating these platforms can be challenging due to language barriers, bank requirements, and other local regulations. This article offers a comprehensive guide for understanding and utilizing these payment services.

Alipay for Foreigners

Getting started with Alipay as a foreigner has become increasingly easier. All you need is a valid passport, a Chinese phone number, and a bank card, which can be either Chinese or international. Verification usually takes less than 24 hours, after which you’re set to go.

Alipay offers a Tour Pass feature designed explicitly for travelers. This allows you to load an amount in your home currency and convert it into RMB, all within the app.

For a more permanent solution, you can link a Chinese bank account to your Alipay. Many banks such as ICBC, Bank of China, and China Construction Bank are supported. International bank cards can also be linked, although functionality may be limited.

WeChat Pay for Foreigners

Creating a WeChat Pay account is a straightforward process. Download the WeChat app, go to the ‘Wallet’ section and add your bank card details. Just like Alipay, both Chinese and international bank cards are accepted.

What sets WeChat Pay apart is its integration into the broader WeChat ecosystem. You can book flights, hotels, and even invest in financial products, all within the app.

The QR code payment system is prevalent in China and is fully integrated into WeChat Pay. To make a payment, you can either scan a QR code provided by the vendor or have the vendor scan your code.

Security Measures

Both services offer zero transaction fees for most operations. However, cashing out from WeChat wallet might incur a small fee. Transaction limits vary depending on the verification level of your account, but they are generally high enough for daily activities.

Alipay vs. WeChat Pay

Alipay: Operated by Ant Financial, an affiliate of the Alibaba Group, Alipay was initially developed to facilitate transactions on the e-commerce platform Alibaba.

WeChat Pay: Part of Tencent’s WeChat platform, which is primarily a social media and messaging app. WeChat Pay was integrated into the WeChat ecosystem to enrich the social interaction experience.

While both Alipay and WeChat Pay are incredibly versatile and foreigner-friendly, Alipay takes the lead in financial services and the number of supported vendors. WeChat Pay, on the other hand, offers a more seamless social experience.

Alipay: Primarily designed for online shopping and various kinds of bill payments. Alipay is often used for transactions on e-commerce websites and at physical stores.

WeChat Pay: Initially served as a P2P (peer-to-peer) payment method within the WeChat messaging app. It has since evolved into a full-fledged payment solution but is still more socially oriented, often used for splitting bills, gifting red envelopes, or small transactions among friends.

Both apps offer English versions, making it easier for foreigners. However, some features may only be available in Chinese, for which you can use in-app translation services.

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