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Foreign visitors to China will be able to use WeChat Pay for their transactions

In an effort to stimulate the Chinese economy and to attract international travellers, WeChat, one of China’s most popular online platforms, is allowing foreign customers to link their international credit cards to the application.

Tencent, the creator of WeChat, recently announced its collaboration with financial service providers such as Mastercard, Vida and Discover Global Network, among others. This initiative will facilitate the transactions for foreign clients interested in using the app.

Since 2019, WeChat Pay allows operations with international credit cards in specific sectors. However, with this additional service, tourists will be able to utilize WeChat Pay and link their international bank cards to make purchases at millions of merchants.

Tencent is currently offering support to merchants in various sectors, including dining, transportation, retail, and hospitality, as well as diverse payment methods like QR code scanning, in-app purchases, and WeChat Mini Programs, offering added convenience to users.

Foreign customers will also benefit from fee exemptions for small international card transactions below RMB 200 (US$27.82).

The Chinese government is interested in improving mobile payment solutions for tourists and increasing their convenience in making payments ahead of major events. Since the 2022 Beijing Olympic Winter Games, authorities have encouraged domestic payment service providers to collaborate with overseas card issuers within legal and regulatory frameworks to offer mobile payment services to visitors.

Large numbers of travellers are expected for various international events in 2023, such as the Chengdu FISU World University Games and the Hangzhou Asian Games. Tencent’s expansion of the WeChat Pay merchant network will significantly enhance the mobile payment experience for foreigners, further promoting China as an attractive destination.

Foreign visitors can easily set up WeChat Pay on their WeChat app once they arrive in China and link their international credit or debit card to their account.

With the card successfully linked, foreign customers can use WeChat Pay to make payments to merchants across various sectors, including dining, shopping, transportation, and hotel accommodation. This service eliminates the need to carry cash or open a local bank account.

Six types of documents are accepted to open a WeChat Pay account, such as passport, foreign permanent resident ID Card, Mainland Travel Permit for Hong Kong and Macao Residents, Mainland Travel Permit for Taiwan Residents, Residence Permit for Hong Kong and Macao residents, and Residence Permit for Taiwan residents.

Foreigners opening a WeChat Pay account do not need a local phone number to receive the verification code, during the configuration process. A password is necessary to ensure the security of the account. Once the process is complete, visitors can start using WeChat Pay with their foreign card.

Transaction fees will be waived for small operations. For transactions above RMB 200 (US$27.82), a 3 percent transaction fee is charged. In the event of a refund, the fee will be reimbursed proportionally based on the amount.

The exchange rate is calculated based on the rate of the card and the issuing bank.

There are some limitations customers should know about when using a foreign card with WeChat Pay.

Currently, foreign cards are restricted to daily consumption transactions, and do not support special features like red packets (a kind of monetary gift used during holidays or special occasions in China) and direct transfers.

There are also certain transaction limits when using foreign cards through WeChat Pay. The maximum amount for a single transaction is RMB 6,000 (US$834.75), with a monthly cumulative limit of RMB 50,000 (US$6,956.23) and an annual cumulative limit of 60,000 (US$8,347.48).

Alipay, WeChat Pay’s competitor, offers a similar international card service in terms of recommended usage scenarios, transaction fees, and exchange rate calculations.

However, WeChat Pay has expanded its support for international card types by adding JCB cards, while Alipay does not offer this option. Additionally, when it comes to transaction limits, Alipay allows a maximum of RMB 3,000 (US$416.88) per single transaction, whereas WeChat Pay allows up to RMB 6,000 (US$833.76) per transaction.

China’s mobile payment market is one of the most advanced in the world and is expected to reach a value of US$37.15 trillion by the end of 2023, maintaining an annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.38 percent between 2023 and 2028.

The popularity of a cashless society is one of the most important key factors that has reshaped the payment landscape, as well as a thriving e-commerce market in China.

China’s path has been different than those countries, which underwent a gradual transition from cash to credit cards before embracing mobile payments. Credit card use in China, particularly for e-commerce, is relatively low compared to other forms of payment.

The widespread availability of QR codes in China has played an important part in facilitating fast and convenient mobile payments.

Alibaba and Tencent are also responsible for the shift away from cash through the introduction of AliPay and WeChat Pay. Both applications offer users an easy and convenient payment experience, which facilitates the purchase of services and goods both online and offline.

While both platforms offer comparable functionalities to cater to the needs of international users in China, they employ slightly different approaches to enhance the payment experience.

WeChat Pay’s upgrade is specifically created for foreign users in China, offering access to millions of merchants across various sectors. By allowing international credit or debit card linkage, Tencent aims to simplify payment processes for travellers and expatriates.

In contrast, Alipay had already allowed overseas users to access local merchants using international cards.

In the past, foreign visitors had difficulties navigating the complexities of setting up Chinese bank accounts to access mobile payment services. International credit or debit cards were also restricted.

After three years of COVID isolation, China has reopened its doors and is trying to attract foreign tourists. The country is working to provide a welcoming and convenient environment for visitors, making them feel at ease during their stay.

The upgraded WeChat Pay service aligns with China’s broader economic goals, particularly its drive to boost domestic consumption.

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