Alipay, WeChat Pay Accept Foreign Cards With Regulators' Encouragement

The new initiative makes it easier for travelers in China to use mobile payment platforms and leave their wallets at home like the majority of the Chinese population.

Belinda Zhou
    Nov 07, 2019 10:00 AM  PT
Alipay, WeChat Pay Accept Foreign Cards With Regulators' Encouragement
author: Belinda Zhou   

Alipay and WeChat Pay have begun to accept international credit and debit cards, enabling wallet-free travel for tourists in China, with encouragement from regulatory authorities.

Alipay, operated by Ant Financial Services Group and backed by Chinese giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. (NYSE: BABA), announced this week on its official Twitter account that QR code by the cashier will no longer be a foreign sight for international travelers. 

On its official website, Alipay stated that tourists can download the new international version of its mobile payments app, launched on Tuesday, and register to be a qualified user. 

Short-term visitors can pay for online purchases through Alipay's mini-program TourPass with support from the Bank of Shanghai, a local commercial bank. Visitors can buy prepaid cards with Visa, Mastercard, Japan's JCB and Singapore's Diners Club that would expire after 90 days, upon which the balance will be returned to the user's foreign credit card or debit card account automatically.

"Thanks to China's open financial technology market and innovative partners, we are delighted to see that we can help more foreign friends enjoy safe and convenient mobile payments," Xiandong Jin, the chief executive officer of Ant Financial, the chief executive officer of Ant Financial, said at the China International Import Expo, a fintech forum in Shanghai.

Alipay's rival, WeChat Pay, operated by tech giant Tencent Holdings Ltd. (HKEX: 0700), also initiated the international online payment service this week. In addition to Alipay's four bank partners, WeChat also accepts AmericanExpress for its prepaid 90-day cards.

In fact, WeChat has previously enabled overseas users to purchase railway tickets with Visa, Mastercard and JCB for certain merchants including Inc. (Nasdaq: JD) and (Nasdaq: CTRP). WeChat Pay said it has already supported overseas users with mainland bank cards, savings cards and credit cards from up to 128 available banks.

Both online payment platforms stated they offer the tourist service under the guidance of China's central bank, the People's Bank of China. 

Previously, tourists were required to open a bank account in China to use Alipay. "This is extremely inconvenient for foreign tourists who are only stranded in China for a short period of time because foreigners who do not live for a long time are in principle unable to open bank accounts, " Moriyama Hiroyuki, a Japanese journalist from Industrial and Economic Newspaper, said in June.

"Visa believes this is a great step forward, both for consumers traveling to China and the overall payments industry. In a truly global commerce environment, collaboration is essential to provide consumers with a seamless payments experience," the California-based payments technology company said on its Twitter account on Tuesday.