China is now famous for its systems of online payment. China has begun the transition to a cashless society, and many Chinese people simply use their phones to make all their everyday purchases. Cash has started even becoming a bit of a novelty, a cause for a small chuckle between cash-paying customers and merchants, or even just inconvenient, such as Shenzhen Metro’s refusal to accept anything other than coins and 5 RMB notes for purchasing metro passes.
Due to developments in November 2019, international travelers may finally avail themselves of these systems.
The two main systems of online payments is Alibaba’s Alipay (Play Store) (App Store) and Tencent’s Wechat Pay (Play Store) (App Store). Both now accept the linking of their online accounts with Visa and Mastercard.
Alipay has a helpful infographic walking you through the “TourPass” program, which allows you to top up prepaid bank cards up to 2000 RMB that will link to your Alipay app, through which you can make online payments.
Wechat Pay is a function within the mega-app Wechat and might be slightly more difficult to acquire since Wechat now has a more elaborate procedure to create an account than before (requiring verification and other Wechat users to “vouch” for you). However, once you have a Wechat account, simply open up Wechat Pay and link up any bank card, including international ones. This way, Wechat Pay will charge your international bank card when making online payments.
When making a purchase, simply open up the app of your choice and scan the QR code that the merchant has. The app will open a screen in which you punch in the amount you owe. Confirm and the money is paid.
In some cases on Alipay, you can press the “Pay” button and the merchant will instead scan your QR code and charge you that way.
You will find that these systems of online payments greatly expedites travel. Going to ATMs or going to banks for foreign exchange is no longer a chore you have to undertake every couple of days. One doesn’t have to flub around with cash when making purchases. Walking around cash-free also makes travel slightly less burdensome since now you only have to remember to take and keep your phone, instead of keeping track of your phone and your wallet.