Chinese payment giants Alipay and WeChat Pay have both opened their platforms to international travellers in China for the first time.
To use Alipay app while in China, visitors will need just an overseas phone number, a visa and their bank card to sign up for Tour Pass mini-programme. They can top up in increments of as much as RMB2,000 (US$285), and use the service to not just make offline payments but also hail cars, purchase train tickets and book hotels, among other features available within the Alipay app. Access to Tour Pass lasts three months, and any leftover funds are refunded automatically.
In a similar move, WeChat Pay has partnered with Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover Global Network, and JCB to allow foreign visitors to link their credit cards to WeChat Pay. With this new service, WeChat Pay users can add international credit cards directly to their digital wallets on the WeChat app.
While WeChat Pay allows users to make payments directly through its e-wallet, Alipay provides users with a prepaid card that can be topped up with international cards.
Previously, Alipay and Wechat Pay required a local phone number and Chinese bank account to access both payment systems, which precluded short-term international visitors from using the app.
The move by China’s two dominant mobile payment services providers to offer global visitors access will enable Chinese vendors tap the growing number of international visitors to the country, which welcomed 30.5 million international visitors arrived from overseas in 2018, an increase of 4.7% from a year earlier.
At the same time, the Chinese authorities are seeing greater spending from foreign tourists, with expenditure in areas such as hotels, shopping, and food rising 5.1% to a total of US$73.1 billion last year.