Chinese payment giants Alipay, WeChat open apps to international cards
China mobile payment giants Alipay and WeChat Pay announced plans to open up their platforms to foreigners visiting the Chinese mainland. Alipay now allows travelers to use the app through a prepaid international bank card, while WeChat plans to link the app to five foreign credit card companies.
The two leading mobile payment companies previously only accepted Chinese bank accounts.
Alibaba backed Alipay said that starting Tuesday, international travelers can register with their overseas mobile phone number on the app, through the in-app "Tour Pass," and use a prepaid card service provided by the Bank of Shanghai. Users can top up their account with up to 2000 yuan (285 U.S. dollars) in each transaction when multiple transactions are allowed.
In comparison, Tencent's WeChat Pay intends to allow international users to connect their existing cards to its app more directly. The company said it has been discussing cooperation with Visa, Mastercard, American Express and Discover as well as Japan's JCB to support the linking of overseas credit cards to Wechat Pay. The company already supports credit cards issued by some foreign service providers for limited services.
China has increasingly become a popular destination among international travelers. The country welcomed about 30.54 million international visitors to the mainland in 2018, a year-on-year increase of 4.7 percent, data from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism showed.
International travelers spent 73.1 billion U.S. dollars in China in 2018, and opening up the most popular payment platforms may provide them with convenience when paying with their smartphones for daily tasks such as paying bills, shopping or booking taxis.