Exciting news for travelers visiting China! If you’ve heard about the convenience of cashless payments in the country and felt left out, fret no more! China’s leading mobile payment platforms, WeChat Pay and Alipay, have made a significant announcement that allows foreign users to link their foreign credit cards, such as Visa, Mastercard, and Discover, for payments at Chinese retailers.
Previously, using WeChat Pay and Alipay in China required a local bank account, posing challenges for short-term visitors who wished to enjoy the seamless payment experience. With cashless payments dominating transactions in China, it has become increasingly difficult for foreign visitors to find places that still accept cash, despite government efforts to discourage merchants from rejecting cash.
This recent development is a game-changer for foreign visitors, offering them a more convenient and enjoyable experience while in China. As WeChat Pay and Alipay are widely used both online and offline, visitors can now seamlessly navigate services like hailing a Didi car, riding the subway, renting a shared bike, purchasing groceries, ordering food delivery, and shopping online for a wide range of Chinese e-commerce products.
To activate their WeChat wallets, foreign users need to authenticate their identity by uploading their passports, and they can use their foreign phone numbers for verification codes. However, certain features like the digitized Chinese hongbao custom (sending or receiving digital red envelopes with money) and money transfers remain unavailable to foreign users due to China’s strict capital flow controls.
Foreign users should take note of spending limits per transaction, month, and year, which are set at 6,000 yuan (approximately $835), 50,000 yuan, and 60,000 yuan, respectively. Payments under 200 yuan (approximately $28) incur no transaction fees, while amounts above that are subject to a 3% fee. Exchange rates are based on the card organization and issuing bank rates.
Previously, there were plans to integrate international bank cards with the payment platforms, but those efforts did not materialize. With this latest announcement, it is hoped that regulatory approvals and infrastructure are now in place to make the cashless payment experience accessible to foreign visitors. As travelers head to China, they can look forward to a smoother and more modern payment experience, bringing added convenience and enjoyment to their journey.