Tourists Can Finally Use Chinese Mobile Pay Apps AliPay, WeChat

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Tourists Can Finally Use Chinese Mobile Pay Apps AliPay, WeChat

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Spend just a few hours and China and you'll notice locals aren't pulling out their wallets to pay for dinner or groceries. They're using AliPay or WeChat Pay, two massively popular smartphone payment apps that have become a part of daily life in China.

But not for tourists as those payment apps required a Chinese bank account. And considering many Chinese businesses also don't accept foreign credit cards like American Express or Visa, it leaves cash as the only constant option for travelers visiting China.

Until now. CNBC reports both AliPay and WeChat Pay have opened up to tourists with international versions that can be funded via foreign accounts. Both apps can be downloaded on Apple and Android devices. You simply scan QR codes to start the payment process at your restaurant, bar, or store.

AliPay will allow Visa and Mastercard, along with a few other foreign banks. WeChat Pay will allow both as well as American Express.

It marks the first time international visitors will be able to use the wildly popular payment platforms. Today, AliPay is used by 1.2 billion people while WeChat Pay has nearly 1 billion users. That number will only grow as tourism to China increases.

Thrifty Tip: U.S. tourists need a visa to visit China – though you might qualify for a visa-free transit visit if your stay is short.

China saw 141 million visitors in 2018 – up 1.2% from the prior year.

Bottom Line

This is great news. China is increasingly moving towards a cashless society, and that has made it tricky for some tourists. The ability to use either AliPay or WeChat Pay is much more convenient than constantly heading back to the ATM to withdraw cash.


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Lead photo courtesy of Gotovan via Flickr

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Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews, or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.

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