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  • Writer's pictureScott SK Fong

FACTORY VISIT (PART 3) - A Guide to Setting Up Mobile Payments in China

Updated: Mar 18


Now that you are all sorted with your entry visa and accommodation - there is one more thing you may need to prepare, that is how to pay for things when you arrive! Ever since the lockdowns started and ended, the payment landscape has changed a bit, and it is worth to read on to see how you can arrive without being left out in the cold.

China has emerged as a global leader in cashless transactions, with mobile payment methods revolutionizing the way people make purchases and conduct financial transactions. By adopting mobile payment solutions, residents and travellers in China can enjoy the convenience and efficiency of a cashless society. In this blog post, we will guide you through the process of setting up a cashless payment method on your phone to navigate the Chinese market seamlessly.

However, due to higher transaction fee's and rental costs for merchants, there could be less terminals that can accept Visa, Mastercard or American Express in areas away from the big cities in China. The covid lock downs exacerbated the situation where foreign visitors were scarce and many operators chose to stop the rental of these payment company's terminals. This will in time change, but for now - it is advisable to setup the payment app used by locals.

Step 1: Choose a Mobile Payment Platform

In China, two dominant mobile payment platforms have gained widespread popularity: Alipay and WeChat Pay. Both offer robust features and an extensive network of partner merchants, making them convenient choices for cashless transactions.

  • Alipay: Developed by Alibaba's affiliate Ant Group, Alipay boasts a large user base and a wide range of services beyond payments. It offers features like bill payments, money transfers, and access to investment and wealth management products.

  • WeChat Pay: Integrated within the WeChat messaging app (similar in function to WhatsApp), WeChat Pay allows users to make payments, transfer money, split bills, and even hail taxis. It offers a seamless user experience within the app ecosystem.

Step 2: Download and Install the App

Once you've chosen your preferred mobile payment platform, head to your phone's app store (such as the Apple App Store or Google Play Store) and search for either "Alipay" or "WeChat." Download and install the app onto your phone.

Step 3: Account Setup

After installing the app, you'll need to create an account to get started. Follow the on-screen instructions to provide the necessary information, which typically includes your mobile number and email address. You may also need to link a bank account or credit card to your mobile payment account for funding purposes.

Step 4: Identity Verification

To comply with regulations, mobile payment platforms in China require users to complete identity verification. This process typically involves providing a photo of your identification document, such as a passport or Chinese national ID card. Follow the in-app instructions to submit the required documents for verification.

Step 5: Linking Bank Account and Adding Funds

To enable seamless transactions, link your bank account or credit card to your mobile payment account. This step involves verifying your bank information and authorising the app to access your account for fund transfers. Once linked, you can add funds to your mobile payment account by transferring money from your bank account. For Wechat users, click "Me" on the lower menu and select "services". Then click "bank cards" to add your the source of your funds (bank account or credit card).

Step 6: Exploring Features and Making Payments

With your mobile payment account set up, you can now explore the various features and services offered by Alipay or WeChat Pay. These platforms allow you to make payments at a wide range of merchants, including restaurants, supermarkets, taxis, and online stores. Simply scan the QR code provided by the merchant and confirm the payment within the app (method used in Taxis).

Alternatively, open up the Money folder to reveal a QR code for the merchant to scan.

Exchange Rate Pro-Tip

If you are a frequent overseas traveller, you may want to keep your eye on opportunities to make use of a more favourable exchange rate at any point in time. In that case, you may want to consider using WISE. This app enables you to transfer money in from your bank account, and convert it into almost any currency that you choose, just like a physical cash wallet - but James Bond style where you can have multiple currency wads of digital cash. Take opportunity to convert some money into currencies that are at multi-year lows. In general, WISE follows the same rates provided by google online and is typically better than rates offered by banks or travel counters for currency exchange. You can include the resulting virtual card in your apple or google pay wallet.

For a very small fee, you can also opt to have a physical WISE Visa debit card sent to your address. This is recommended as some payment terminals in Asia can only accept the physical card payments.


Embracing cashless payments in China opens up a world of convenience and efficiency. By setting up a mobile payment method on your phone, you can seamlessly navigate the country's cashless society. Whether you choose Alipay or WeChat Pay, both platforms offer a plethora of features and a vast network of partner merchants, ensuring a smooth payment experience. So, don't hesitate to join the cashless revolution and unlock the benefits of mobile payments in China!

Disclaimer: Please note that the process and requirements for setting up mobile payments in China may evolve over time. It is advisable to consult the official websites of Alipay and WeChat Pay or seek up-to-date information from relevant sources to ensure accurate and current guidance.

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