Millions of foreigners from all over the world visit China every year for various reason including business and tourism. China is a very interesting, technologically advanced and you may not get most of the digital tools you use back at home. For instance, there are no popular social apps and sites such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp. Instead, people in China use WeChat, a popular app that is not only for communication, but for also making payments while in the country.
Therefore, it is important for anyone planning a trip to China to understand how the Tencent’s app works, especially using the WeChat Pay (or WeChat Wallet) feature. This guide explores everything that you need to know about WeChat Pay to make your trip to China more comfortable and memorable.
Wēixìn 微信 Vs WeChat
Well, this is the biggest confusion among foreigners that WeChat has two different versions within a single app. The local version of WeChat, as referred as Wēixìn (微信 in Chinese), has different payment features than the international WeChat app that you can download outside China. Basically, it is a same app which will get different features based on your mobile number.
In this article, we will explain the app features with local Chinese mobile number. This essentially means, you have restrictions on payment options and read on further to understand more. You can also checkout our Alipay guide for foreigners.
What is WeChat Pay?
WeChat Wallet or WeChat Pay is one of the easy and convenient ways for foreigners to do financial transactions in China. WeChat Pay is a mobile payment method integrated into the WeChat app to enable users to complete payment in different scenarios from their smartphone. It is one of the most convenient ways to make payments for purchases, ordering a cab, or airtime top-up among other things in China, as well as send or receive funds to other users. All you need is to download and install the app from your app store. Create a WeChat account and activate the WeChat Pay to enjoy a range of feature for different payment situations.
Installing WeChat App
Most foreigners believe that WeChat is only meant for Chinese users with a Chinese ID, but the truth is the app is available to anyone with a contact number whether inside or outside China. To sign up;
- Go to your app store and search for “WeChat”, download and install the app in your iPhone or Android phone.
- Launch the app and tap the “Sign Up” option.
- Fill in your personal details and tap the “Sign Up” button.
- Follow the screen instructions until your account is successfully created.
Activating Your WeChat Pay
Depending on the region where you downloaded the app from, you may already see the “Wallet” feature. Simply tap the “Me” icon at the bottom-right corner of the WeChat interface and go to “Services” section. There you will see “Money” and “Wallet” options as shown below. For some regions, the option may not be available and you need to activate the tool.
Tap the plus “+” sign showing at the top right corner of the screen and select “Money” from the menu that appears.
- Tap the “Enable Now” button on the next page and then “Verify User Info” when prompted.
- Here you will need to add your bankcard. WeChat supports over 300 banks and a number of foreign credit cards like VISA, MasterCard and JCB.
For Foreigners with Mainland China Bank Card
If you have a Chinese bankcard and phone number, you can add either debit or credit card. Remember, getting a bankcard needs you to work in China for longterm. The easiest way is to apply through your organization along with appropriate document proofs.
- Simply enter your card number and press the “Next” button.
- On the next screen fill in the bank account details such as the bank name, the card type and so on and then press the “Next” button.
- Follow the instructions of the pages that follow to complete the process.
For Foreigners Without a Chinese Bank Account
If you don’t have a Chinese bank account, you can still use WeChat Pay by linking a supported credit card.
- Enter the credit card number press “Next” and then follow the instructions on the next pages to complete the process.
- Once your card and the phone number have been verified, your WeChat Wallet will be active and you can now use the WeChat Pay.
WeChat Pay currently supports foreign credit cards only, so debit cards will not work. Moreover, this option limits the usage to paying for purchases. You can pay to vendors like mobile top-up from WeChat Pay through the connected credit card. However, you can’t perform the general transfer, Wallet top-up or send red envelops to other users from your Wallet.
Add New Bankcard, Set Default Payment and View Transactions
If you want to change or add additional bankcards, go to “Me > Services” section and select “Wallet” option. Select “Cards” option to view all your existing cards linked to WeChat Pay. Tap on “Add a Card” option and add a new card to your account.
For viewing all transactions, tap on “Transactions” link showing on top right corner after tapping on “Wallet” option. When you have multiple cards and balance amount, you can choose the payment method. Go to “Me > Services” and tap on “Money” option. Tap “Balance” option showing below the QR code and set your default payment method.
Loading Money into Your WeChat Wallet
You can transfer money to WeChat account through the following three ways:
- Chinese Bank Transfer – You can add funds directly to your WeChat Wallet from your Chinese bank account and use the money for transactions. Alternatively, you can directly spend the money using WeChat payment gateway to debit it from the connected bank account.
- Peer to Peer WeChat Transfer – If you don’t have a Chinese bank account, you can request a friend or a colleague to transfer money to your account either through the general transfer or the red envelop function. The transaction is free, however you can’t withdraw the money if you don’t have Chinese bankcard linked to your WeChat Pay.
- Third-Party Transfer – There are many online platforms that you can use to load money to WeChat Pay but with a small fee. We do not recommend to use this method as it may be a scam.
Making Payments with WeChat Pay
There are various options for making payment at the merchant’s store:
- Scanning the Merchant QR code (Quick Pay) – Scan the QR code on the device provided at the store, and directly transfer your money from your account to the merchant’s account.
- Allow the Merchant to Scan Your QR Code – Tap the + icon and select “Money” option to view your WeChat Pay QR code. You can show this at the store’s scanner and allow the merchant to scan the code. This will take away money from your account to their account.
- Online options include payments through apps like JD, Taobao Meituan or even in a McDonald app.
WeChat Pay service is not only available to individuals but also foreign companies can sign up for an official account. Through the mini-programs, overseas vendors can use WeChat Pay feature to receive and make payments to suppliers in China.
WeChat Pay Available Countries
Though WeChat app is available in app stores for download, WeChat Pay is only available for few countries. You can use WeChat Pay if you are in Mainland China, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, South Africa and Malaysia.
- You can’t use WeChat Pay in countries other than the countries mentioned above.
- If someone sends you a red packet to your Wallet, it is mandatory to link your Mainland China bankcard within 24 hours to withdraw the money. Otherwise, it will be returned back to the sender.
- It is not possible to transfer the amount available on your Wallet to bankcard outside Mainland China. This is an important point that WeChat in not a money transfer app. You need to go to bank and provide earning proof for sending money outside China.
- When you have multiple WeChat Pay accounts in the countries mentioned above, you will have Wallet Region option in the app. This helps you to switch the WeChat Pay account and use the money from the Wallet. However, you can’t transfer the money from one region to another.
China is a country of cashless transactions. If you are planning to visit the country for either leisure or business, you need to embrace the available cashless payment options. One of the most convenient payment methods is using WeChat Pay. However, it needs China bankcard to to make full use of the features.