inally, traveling to China doesn’t have to feel like traveling back in time when everyone is living in the future. Until now, coming to the Mainland with only a foreign card meant no Didi, shared bikes, food delivery, and even ordering in some restaurants!
Put your euros and dollars on the Alipay app!
Thankfully, Alipay has introduced a version of the popular app specially designed for international travelers, so for the first time, they too can enjoy the ease of paying with their mobile phones when visiting the country.
Starting immediately, visitors can download Alipay for both iOS and Android devices and register for the International Version of the app with their overseas mobile phone number to access the “Tour Pass” mini program.
Through the mini-program, they can use the “Prepaid Card” service provided by the Bank of Shanghai to top up CNY and enjoy services such as scanning a QR code to pay at restaurants and shops and making online purchases through Alipay.
Alipay, together with its local e-wallet partners, already serves more than 1.2 billion users with its widely-adopted QR code payment services. In China, users can also access services such as paying for taxis, hotel room bookings, and movie tickets, directly within the app. However, because access typically requires a local phone number and Chinese bank account, short-term visitors previously could not use mobile payments in China.
How to use the international version?
- For the International Version of Alipay, visitors can use their international debit or credit cards
- Load funds onto a prepaid card provided by the Bank of Shanghai within the “Tour Pass” mini program.
- The minimum top-up for each card is CNY100, with balance capped at CNY2,000.
- The card is valid for 90 days, after which any remaining funds will be refunded automatically.
No more feeling left out
In a speech in 2017, Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong recounted the China visit of one of his ministers, who felt left out when he couldn’t scan a QR code to pay at a local hawker stall. China welcomed 141 million visitors from overseas in 2018, a slight increase of 1.2 percent from a year earlier, bringing a total of US$127.1 billion in revenue to the tourism sector, according to government data.
According to a week-long poll conducted by Alipay on Twitter, about 220 people out of 1240 respondents, or 18 percent, felt that not being to pay with their mobile phones as the locals do was their biggest annoyance when visiting China.
While that ranks behind the phobia of squatting-style latrines (many Chinese cities have Western-style sitting toilets, it’s mainly rural regions where you’ll encounter these) and not being able to buy a panda (they’re national treasures and aren’t for sale), the responses show how being able to use Alipay will benefit a significant group of future visitors.
Drago proves you CAN actually buy a panda. Just don’t try to bargain for the live ones.
Another informal series of polls on Facebook indicated that several netizens felt not being able to use mobile payments was a bigger challenge in China than:
- trying to use chopsticks
- sorting trash correctly
- reading menus in Chinese
- dealing with crazy queues at tourist sites
- eating spicy hotpot.
Alipay is China’s most popular digital payment service, according to market researcher Statista, with 87 percent of survey respondents in the country aged between 18 and 69 reporting that they use Alipay for their digital financial needs. According to analytics company App Annie, Alipay was the highest-ranked non-social networking application worldwide by monthly active users in 2018.