China is very advanced in technology field where you can literally live without carrying a physical wallet. When you are living in China as a foreigner or expat, it is essential to do payment transactions for your daily routines and for shopping. You can use the mobile payment systems to quickly pay your bills without talking in Chinese. There are two major mobile payment systems available in China – WeChat Pay and Alipay. In our earlier article, we have explained about WeChat Pay for foreigners, and here is Alipay guide for foreigners.
What is Alipay?
Alipay is part of the Ant Financial from the world’s popular ecommerce company Alibaba. In fact, Ant Financial was earlier known with the name as Alipay before renaming. You can use Alipay app on Android and iPhone by verifying with your phone and bankcard numbers. After successful verification, you can do many things like taxi booking, bill payments and money transfer directly from Alipay account.
Related: WeChat Pay guide for foreigners in China.
Alipay Guide for Foreigners and Expats
The Aplipay app is an one-stop payment solution for paying, collecting and transferring money.
Before You Signup
Foreigners need to verify the real name by using bankcard and also verify the phone number before using financial apps like Alipay and WeChat Pay in China. Therefore, prepare the below before signup in Alipay app.
- Note down your passport number, if possible keep a scan copy on your phone ready to upload.
- Have your correct phone number, preferably Chinese phone number for getting verification code.
- Keep your Chinese bank account details, Chinese debit or credit card is mandatory for transferring fund from the App.
Download and Install the App
On your mobile phone, visit the official Alipay website and download the Alipay app. Alternatively, you can download the app from Google Play or Apple App Store. Signup using your official mobile phone number to get a text message with a unique verification code. Use the verification code to confirm your identify.
Next step is to setup a password for your app, you can enable touch or face ID if available on your device. Now that, you can login to your Alipay account. Remember that your phone number is your Alipay account number. In addition, you will a have QR code similar to WeChat Pay and you can also link Taobao account with Alipay.
Go to “Settings” page and tap on “General” option. Again tap on “Language” option and choose “English” as your language. Though you setup the language as English, some of the options will still show only in Chinese.
What Can You Do With Alipay?
WeChat Pay and Alipay are the top two online payment processing apps in China. For foreigners, WeChat has many advantages than Alipay. However, it is worth to use Alipay as some places you can only use Alipay.
- Transfer money to other Alipay account and to bankcards.
- Top-up yours or any other person’s mobile.
- Use interestedly with Tmall, Taobao, Didi Taxi and many other services.
- Send and receive Red Packet during special occasions.
- Pay utility bills and pay for purchases by scanning the QR code.
- Add friends, chat with them and send or receive money and Red Packet.
Remember, you should have a bankcard added and verified with your Alipay account in order to any of the above mentioned features.
Add a Bank Card
After signing up, on the right bottom corner, tap ‘Me’, and then tap on ‘‘Bank Cards’’. You will see a ‘‘Add Card’’ button in Chinese as shown below.
Tap on that button to proceed further. Alternatively, on the right-hand corner of the app, hit a plus sign and to add a bankcard. The page will automatically display the card if the process was successful. If you are using a credit card, include a MasterCard or a Visa credit card in the bankcard section.
Enter Your Card Details
Here, you will enter your foreign debit card details or credit card details. You can also use Chinese bankcard number which is preferable to pay with most of the local vendors. Remember, the Chinese card number is important if you want to top-up or withdraw funds from your account.
Press “Next” to go the the screen.
- Alipay payment system will automatically pickup the correct bank name for your card number (in China the card number is the bank account number). Ensure the ‘‘Card Type’’ is showing the name of your bank with credit / debit card.
- Fill in your name exactly as in the bank account. Remember, in China the first and last names are used alternatively. Therefore enter the correct name as in the bank records.
- Choose “Passport” for the “ID Type” and enter correct passport number as “ID No.”. If you are from Taiwan or Hong Kong the you must use Home Visit Permit as your “ID Type”.
- Type the correct phone number and tap on “Agree And BindCard” button.
- Alipay will trigger a confirmation code through your bank’s mobile SMS verification. If you have provided all the details correctly, you will receive a verification code from your bank. Enter the code to complete the process.
Once you have added the bankcard, you can view it under “Me > Bank Cards” section. Your bank also will send a confirmation message on linking the bank account to Alipay account. The message may look like below indicating you can do financial transactions using Alipay password and don’t need bank PIN number. Note, that 95555 is the National Unified Call Center customer service number of China Merchants Bank (CMB) and 95556 is from Bank of China (BOC). You should receive such a message from the bank’s National Unified Call Center number.
Confirming the Verifications
You need to have real name verification before sending or receiving payments. After adding bankcard, your name and phone numbers will be verified automatically. However, you may need to upload the copy of passport to verify your identification.
- Tap on “Me” and then choose your account name on the top.
- Tap on “Identity Verification” to go to Identity Management Center.
- Here, you can complete personal, photo and financial verification.
The “Pay” button on the “Home” page displays a bar code on your smartphone that you can show when making payments. In order to enable the payments, tap on the “Pay” option and choose “Enable now” button.
You can anytime change the preferred payment method from bankcard to balance or add a new card for payment.
Making Payments with Alipay
After enabling the payments, you can make payments or receive money in China from anyone. However, you can’t transfer the money to your foreign bankcard as per Chinese regulations.
Paying to Vendors and Friends
- When making payments, some local shops will ask you to scan their QR code.
- Tap on “Scan” button on the “Home” page and scan the QR code of the vendor.
- Enter the amount you are paying and your password to complete the payment.
- Alternatively, you can show your payment code by tapping on “Pay” button in Alipay app. This is widely used in stores that have a scanner designed for payments. After scanning, you need to enter the password or use touch id to confirm the payment to vendor.
- You can also scan the code to make online payments on many popular websites.
Receiving Money from Friends
Sometimes, you may also need to receive payment from your friends. Simply tap on “Collect” button and show your QR code to your friend. Your friend can “Scan” your code and pay the amount. The received amount will show in “Balance” section of your account. Alternatively, someone can also add you as a friend and send money through chat window.
Transfer Money Using Alipay
You can also send or receive money using the “Transfer” button on the “Home” page. You can tap and select transfer to other Alipay account or withdraw to your bankcard.
If you have friends, then tap on “Friends” tab and transfer the amount to your friend similar to WeChat Pay.
Remember, you can also scan the QR code of anyone and add them as your friend only for chatting with them. However, WeChat dominates the instant messaging in China compared to Alipay.
Payment Transfer Limit
Alipay will allow you to transfer up to RMB 20,000 daily for free. If you want to transfer more amount then you need to pay 0.1% as transaction fee.
We hope, this article helped you to understand the basics of using Alipay in China as a foreigner. Though the app offers English language, many of the content and services are still in Chinese. However, once you know how to use the basic options, it will really help you to do vendor payments and money transfer to friends.