Before the advent of mobile payment apps in China, everything from food, clothes, rent, bills, all the way up to taxis, etc. was paid for in cash, but since the advent of apps like WeChat and Alipay, China is now basically on the verge of becoming a cashless society, with many payments being made through mobile phones.
Whether you’re currently living in China, planning to move back home, or traveling to China, this curated guide tutorial is complete with all payment methods, and not just mobile, but also cash, financial card / credit card methods, so you can learn about payment methods in China at once.
What I should be aware of when using WeChat and Alipay in China
You must have a Chinese bank account before you can use China Mobile Pay, and if you don’t have one and are only coming to play for a short time, it might not be a good choice. Also you may have heard that WeChat will allow registration with foreign credit cards, about which I will explain more below.
Prepare to move back to the country, then be able to open a Chinese bank account to set up Alipay and WeChat payments.
Mobile payments can pay for almost anything, including public fees, bike sharing, groceries, food and more across China.
Top 4 mobile payment apps in China
Alipay is China’s premier payment application for purchasing goods, services, direct debit, bill payment and other features that connect to your Chinese bank account for payment and transfer.
You should have heard of WeChat, an app that can be used to purchase goods, services and transfer money to friends/family in addition to sending messages, sharing news and pictures.
When you need to find a taxi, DiDi is the easiest and most convenient taxi app in China.
Meituan is China’s leading group-buying app that saves money by buying takeout, food, hot pot, movie tickets and more with others!
Do I need a Chinese bank to use Wechat Pay and Alipay?
In the past, when you wanted to make mobile payments using apps like Alipay and WeChat, you had to connect to a Chinese bank account. However, WeChat recently announced that it would support foreign credit cards, which many people may find amusing, but there are actually some conditions.
- What you add must be a credit card, not a financial card.
- You download WeChat in Mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong or Macau
- Your credit card is Visa, MasterCard or JCB.
There’s also a small problem here, with news that adding a foreign credit card still doesn’t seem to work, either that or some people succeed and some don’t and are a little less reliable.
Assuming that yours is not also not to worry, because as far as WeChat is concerned, there are ways to top up even without a Chinese bank account, this part we will have the opportunity to add later.
Can mobile payments be used all over China?
If you’re traveling to or living in a first-tier city in China, almost 95% of businesses accept payment apps like Alipay and WeChat.
Even in smaller cities in China, you’ll see a QR code in front of the cash register at many stores, and you can pay by scanning it.
Basically if you want to use mobile payments, just ask the person and basically there’s a very high chance that the person will say no problem.
With mobile payments becoming quite common in China in recent years, it’s really a lot more convenient for living without having to carry much cash on the go (or even at all), and it’s also very friendly to foreigners, just looking forward to the future when all foreign credit cards will really be open.