China has embraced mobile payments, becoming an almost cashless society in recent years. While this makes life very convenient for people living in China, it can create problems for people who are just visiting
Thankfully, in July 2023, WeChat announced that it would start facilitating the use of Visa, Mastercard, JCB and other international cards for payments in China via WeChat Pay (sometimes known as Weixin Pay). This follows a similar move by Alipay in May 2023. WeChat has been trialling the ability for users to add international cards since 2019, but efforts had fallen by the wayside during the pandemic.
How to add an international card on WeChat Pay
To get started adding an internationally-issued card to your WeChat Pay, you will need:
- Your identity document (for Brits, this will most likely be your passport, but the 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 are also accepted)
- A mobile phone number that can receive SMS verification codes (does not have to be a Chinese number)
- Your debit or credit card (must be the same name as the name on your identity document)
Then, take the following steps (the WeChat interface is available in English, so it should be fairly self-explanatory):
- Open WeChat and then tap “Me” in the bottom right-hand corner
- Tap “Services” and then “Wallet”
- If you haven’t already, you’ll be prompted to fill in your identity information for real-name authentication. Simply follow the steps on screen
- When prompted, select “Add Bank Card”
- Enter the card number, select the type of card, and the issuing organisation. Fill in the required card and personal information
- Once you have filled out your information and clicked “submit”, an SMS verification code will be sent to your phone number. Enter the code to complete the verification process
- You may also be prompted to create a 6-digit payment password
Where can you use WeChat Pay once you’ve linked your international card?
International cards can be used for everyday transactions in mainland China by scanning a QR code to pay or presenting your payment code or for in-app payments for things like e-commerce, food delivery and ride-hailing.
You won’t be able to send or accept money transfers or red packets (these can only be used if you have a mainland China bank account).
Are there any spending limits or transaction fees?
WeChat waives transaction fees for any single transaction under RMB 200 – very handy for everyday spending in small shops and restaurants. Above RMB 200, the transaction fee is 3%.
There is a limit of RMB 6,000 per transaction and a cumulative monthly spending limit of RMB 50,000.
Can you add international cards on Alipay?
Alipay also allows you to link a Visa, Mastercard or other international card, and the process is similar to linking a card to WeChat Pay. You will also need to have your identity documents to hand to complete real-name authentication.