Alipay vs WeChat Pay: Your Guide to China Payment Apps

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by Bethy

China has the biggest digital payment market in the world. Now, more than 90% of people in China pay with mobile apps, moving swiftly towards a real cashless society. The 2 big names dominate this digital payment shift are Alipay and WeChat Pay. These platforms make it easy for everyone to pay for things and handle their money using just their phones. In this blog, we're going to talk about how to use them in detail. If you are going to China, you can't miss this blog to learn about all these important digital payment tips!
china payments app

The Best Payment Apps in China: Alipay & Wechat Pay

In China, the shift towards cashless transactions is nearly complete. Alipay & Wechat Pay accounted for over 90% of all digital payments made in China. Alipay serves as the most preferred payment app in China. Specially designed for facilitating payments, it's the most widely used option across the country, rendering it the most accessible choice for users. Following closely is WeChat, which ranks as the top app for communication and the second most utilised for digital payments. Offering the convenience of combining payments with social interactions, WeChat presents an excellent alternative for individuals looking to pay easily while keeping in touch with friends in China.

What is Alipay

Best China Travel Apps: Daily Use App Payment

Alipay is the most frequently used payment app in China. Users can make payments easily by scanning a QR code with Alipay. It allows linking to Visa debit/credit cards without the need for a Chinese phone number. With over 1.3 billion users, Alipay dominates the digital wallet market, holding a 55% share. It's owned by Ant Group, an affiliate of Alibaba Group. Alipay is accepted by major Chinese e-commerce platforms and offers several payment methods, including escrow services. It has expanded internationally, entering the US and UK through partnerships. Alipay operates in various regions, supports facial-recognition payments, and handles 14 currencies for cross-border transactions.

What is WeChat Pay

Best China Travel Apps: Daily Use App Wechat

In China, WeChat is the top app for communication and is the second widely used app for payments. It enables users to carry out a range of activities such as ordering food, online shopping, booking taxi, all without the necessity for cash or physical cards. With a user base of 800 million, WeChat Pay commands a considerable 38% of the market. By 2020, its adoption rate had soared to 92.7%. Introduced by Tencent in 2013, WeChat has expanded its offerings to include a variety of functions, notably in payment services. It facilitates investment payments at low fees, specifically 0.1% for transactions of RMB 10,000 for those within China.

Stay Connected for Your China Travel!

Find out how to keep in touch easily with our guides on discounted China eSIMs and tourist SIM cards. Get to know the benefits and important points of both to choose what's best for you. From ancient cities and lively markets to peaceful scenery, our advice ensures you stay connected, share your moments, and travel smoothly.
  • If you're going to China, choose eSIM! We explain how to choose discounted China eSIM and its pros and cons

How to Use China Payment Apps for foreigners

How to Use China Payment Apps for foreigners

Source from alipayplus.com

Embrace the convenience of China's cashless society by following these steps to set up and use a digital wallet. With WeChat Pay or Alipay, transactions are effortless, whether you're shopping, dining, or using public transport.
General Steps to Use Payment AppsDescription
Download a Digital WalletChoose WeChat Pay or Alipay. Download your chosen app from the app store. Both supports Visa, Mastercard, Diners Club, Discover, JCB.
RegistrationRegister using your phone number and complete the app's verification process to secure your data.
Link Your Preferred Payment MethodConnect an international credit card to start.
Use QR CodesGet ready to scan QR codes with the app's scanner for instant payments in various scenarios including shopping and using public transport.
Next, we will provide detailed guidance for each of the two payment apps to help you use these apps more effectively. 👇

How to use Alipay as a foreigner

Once you've got the Alipay app on your phone, signed up, and linked it to your international bank card from one of the big networks, you'll be all set to start using mobile payments in China, just like the locals do. Follow these steps to get started with Alipay:
Steps to Use AlipayProcess
Download & RegisterScan QR > Download Alipay > Enter mobile number > Tap "Next".
Add Bank CardTap "Add Now" > Enter or scan card details.
Check Eligible CardsCheck card eligibility: Visa, Mastercard, JCB, Diners Club, Discover.

1. Download and Set up Alipay

  • Scan the QR code or search > download Alipay app.
How to use Alipay as a foreigner
  • Select your Country/Region > Then enter your mobile phone number, tap “Next” to register.
How to use Alipay as a foreigner

2. Link bank card on Alipay

Tap “Add Now” and follow on-page prompts ('Enter Card Number' or Scan Card) to complete the process.

How to use Alipay as a foreigner

3. Check Eligible Cards for Alipay

Please ensure your card is supported by checking this list of international cards eligible for use with Alipay: Visa, Mastercard, JCB, Diners Club, Discover:

Check Eligible Cards for Alipay

How to Use Wechat Pay as a foreigner

To set up WeChat Pay, essential documents are needed: a valid Passport or Foreign Permanent Resident ID Card, plus an international bank card for linking. Complete real-name verification with your ID and bank details to enable Quick Payment. No Chinese bank account? You can still link foreign credit cards or bank accounts to WeChat Wallet. Here's how to get started with WeChat Pay, from downloading the app to adding your bank card:
Steps to Use Wechat PayProcess
1. Download/Update WeChatOn your mobile, download or update WeChat to the newest version, then register or sign in with your phone number.
2. Activate Weixin PayTap: Me > Services > Wallet.
If not found, go to: Me > Settings > General > Tools > Weixin Pay > Tap Enable.
3. Add Identity & CardIn Wallet, choose Add a Card > Agree to terms > Enter identity details > Tap Next to add card, following prompts.

Note:

  • Passport verification may require uploading a passport photo if you use passport to link.
  • Transaction Fees: WeChat Pay incurs fees, such as a 3% charge for payments exceeding RMB 200 and a 0.6% merchant fee for commercial transactions.
  • Restrictions with Foreign Cards: Foreign cardholders face certain restrictions on WeChat Pay, including the inability to withdraw cash at ATMs and restrictions to making purchases only within mainland China.

Download and Register Wechat

Here's how you can easily download and set up your WeChat Pay account:
  • Download WeChat: Head to your device's app store (Google Play, App Store), find the international version of WeChat, and download it.
  • Sign Up: Launch WeChat and tap the 'Sign up' button.
  • Enter Details: Provide your personal details as prompted.
  • Account Creation: Follow the on-screen instructions to finalize creating your account.

Activate and Link Bank card to WeChat

Here’s how you can easily activate and use WeChat Pay:
  • Accessing WeChat Pay: Head to Me > Services > Wallet. If not immediately visible, enable WeChat Pay by going to Me > Settings > General > Tools > WeChat Pay > Enable.
  • Linking Cards: Inside Wallet, select Add a Card > Agree to the WeChat Pay User Service Agreement and Privacy Policy > Fill in your identity information as prompted > Next > Follow instructions to link your card.
Activate and Link Bank card to WeChat
Activate and Link Bank card to WeChat

How to Pay by Payment Apps in China?

How to Pay by Payment Apps in China?
Now that you've set up your digital wallet by downloading Alipay or WeChat Pay and linking your cards, you're ready to make payments. Here is how you can actually pay in China:

How to Pay by Alipay

How to Pay by Payment Apps in China? How to Pay by Alipay
  • Present and Pay on Alipay: Open a code for cross-border payment on an Alipay+ partner e-wallet > Present the payment code to the merchant for scanning > Payment completed.
  • Scan and Pay on Alipay: Scan the merchant’s payment code with an Alipay+ partner e-wallet > Enter the payment amount and confirm to pay.

How to Pay by Wechat Pay

How to Pay by Payment Apps in China? How to Pay by  Wechat Pay
MethodDescriptionApplicability
Quick PayCustomers show unique QR > merchants scan for instant payment.Offline stores.
QR Code PaymentMerchants create QRs > customers scan to pay.Websites, stores, ads.
In-App PaymentWeChat Pay processes payments inside other apps.App purchases.
In-App Web-based PaymentPurchase through links in Official Account or QR scans.Social media, official accounts.
  • Quick Pay: Merchants scan a QR Code displayed by customers on the Quick Pay page, ideal for quick offline payments.
  • QR Code Payment: For different products, merchants generate distinct QR codes that customers can scan to access product details and pay, suitable for websites, physical stores, and media advertisements.
  • In-App Payment: By integrating the WeChat Pay SDK into their apps, merchants enable payments within other applications, with WeChat processing the transaction.
  • In-App Web-based Payment: Merchants can promote products through their Official Account. Followers can make purchases on a shopping page accessible via links in chats or on Moments, or by scanning a QR Code on the page.

FAQs about China Payment Apps

  • What is the payment app used in China?

    In China, Alipay is the predominant payment application. It has become integral to the daily transactions and financial dealings of millions, thanks to its user-friendly interface and the wide range of services it offers.
  • Why AliPay is so popular in China?

    Alipay's popularity in China is attributed to its comprehensive ecosystem, which not only facilitates easy and secure online and offline transactions but also provides various financial services under one platform. This convenience and versatility have solidified its position as a preferred payment method among users.
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