The Alipay app and Alipay+ enable cross-border payments for local e-wallet apps overseas.

Alipay+ enables cross-border payments for local e-wallet apps overseas. (Source – Alipay+)

China’s Alipay app and Alipay+ integrating into more financial systems around the world

  • The Alipay app is one of the most used digital wallets in the world. 
  • Alipay+ enables cross-border payments for e-wallets. 
  • Alipay and Alipay+ have been expanding their services beyond Asia. 

Alipay was first introduced by Alibaba founder Jack Ma nearly two decades ago. What started as a third-party mobile and online payment platform in China, soon became one of the most used payment apps in the world today.

In 2013, Alipay surpassed PayPal as the world’s most popular digital wallet and continues to hold the stop spot today, with nearly 1.3 billion users. While China’s WeChat Pay is still the biggest payment app in China, Alipay has been able to spread out globally, serving customers worldwide. The closest competitors to Alipay are WeChat Pay and Apple Pay, with 900 million and 507 million users, respectively.

As the usage of the digital wallet grew, it needed to enable international use. However, cross-border payments back then could be tricky, especially in dealing with the exchange rate through banks. As such, fintech companies started developing their cross-border platforms to enable faster money transfer and payments internationally.

That was an opportunity for Alipay to develop its cross-border platform within the Alipay app, that can be easily used without troubling customers. And it did precisely that.

The Alipay app is the most used digital wallet in the world.

There have been calls for a unified QR code for payments in China.

From Alipay app to Alipay+

In 2020, Alipay introduced Alipay+. Alipay+ allows local businesses, especially small and medium-sized enterprises, to process mobile payment methods, including cross-border payments.

That allows the app to reach more than 1.4 billion regional and global consumers through one-time integration and simple technical adaption. Alipay+ is widely accepted in destinations including the Chinese mainland, Macao, Singapore, Thailand, Japan, the Philippines, Malaysia, and South Korea.

The cross-border digital payments and market solutions platform already partners with several large regional fintech companies, including TouchNGo in Malaysia, TrueMoney in Thailand, and Kakao Pay in South Korea. The cross-border digital payment function, in particular, has been a crowd-puller, with customers finding the flexibility in using their local e-wallet in different countries a seamless process.

By partnering with the significant e-wallets in Asia, the capabilities of Alipay+ cross-border payments have enhanced business opportunities for many. In the Philippines, for example, e-wallet usage has increased, especially among tourists visiting the country. Alipay+ recently announced several new e-wallets being integrated into the Philippines for better coverage and use.

“The Philippines and its many islands, such as Cebu, have long been a favorite destination for Asian travelers, and we look forward to working with our local partners to enhance their travel experience. We believe digital adoption and solutions will shape travelers’ expectations, mainly how they engage with travel-related businesses, from airports and hospitality to F&B and retail stores.

Our focus now is to work with more partners to onboard more merchants with Alipay+ across the Philippines, particularly local small businesses, and promote digital travel and travel recovery,” said Dr. Cherry Huang, general manager of Alipay+ Offline Merchant Services at Ant Group.

The Alipay app is making big advances in the Philippines.

Alipay+ in the Philippines. (Source – Alipay)

In Malaysia, Payments Network Malaysia Sdn Bhd (PayNet) and Ant Group have partnered to expand cross-border payment acceptance at 1.8 million merchants, with five leading Asian e-wallets as the first batch, with more to come in the following months.

Customers can scan the DuitNow QR for payments. DuitNow QR is Malaysia’s National QR standard, supported by PayNet, that allows merchants to accept real-time payments from customers of participating banks and e-wallet operators using a unified QR code.

The partnership will enable all Malaysian e-wallets supported by PayNet to be accepted by the Alipay+ merchants network globally in 2024. Beyond payments, Ant Group and PayNet will also collaborate on joint digital marketing efforts to enhance the visibility of businesses directly within the users’ e-wallets.

Meanwhile, in Thailand, the Central Retail Corporation (CRC) has joined forces with Ant Group to launch Alipay+ at all its stores. This includes enabling cross-border payments across over 3,000 stores nationwide under Central Retail. This comes as tourists who shopped at Central Retail significantly increased in Q1 this year.

Sales from international travelers increased to almost 200% compared to the same period last year, and 16% when compared to the same period in 2019 (before the spread of Covid-19)

The Alipay app - making e-wallets easy across Asia.

Alipay is becoming a global digital wallet. (Source – Shutterstock)

Apart from the Philippines, Thailand, and Malaysia, the Korea Easy Payment Foundation, the official operator of ZeroPay, announced the introduction of Alipay+ global cross-border digital payments and marketing solutions at over 1.7 million merchants across South Korea in a move to ensure a smooth and convenient experience for Asian tourists.

Users of six digital payment apps can travel and shop cashless in the country. The tie-up between Alipay+ and ZeroPay through ICB is expected to let Korean merchants offer a hassle-free payment experience for international tourists and increase their potential outreach.

Introduced by the Seoul Metropolitan Government, ZeroPay is South Korea’s public QR-code-based digital payment service, designed to help small businesses with a direct transaction system that enables zero-fee settlement for merchants and digital payments through e-wallets for consumers.

Commenting on the new partnership with ZeroPay, Danny Chung, general manager of Ant Group in Korea, Australia, and New Zealand, said, “We’ve been striving to enhance the convenience of seamless payment services for Asian tourists visiting South Korea by connecting Korean merchants with a variety of mobile payment methods that their customers are most familiar and comfortable with.”


From Asia to the Middle East

But the Alipay app and Alipay+ have not only been dominating Asia. Alipay+ recently announced that it will offer its solutions to the Middle East market. At Seamless Saudi Arabia 2023, Alipay+ Payment Tech, a full suite of e-wallet solutions, will debut. The Alipay+ Payment Tech will present its digital wallet, digital lending, super app (mini-program), card acquiring, anti-fraud solutions, and professional training and talent development program.

These solutions originate from Alipay’s proven technical know-how and operating experience in China and other markets, and have served customers worldwide, especially in Southeast Asia and Africa. Apart from a complete set of online and in-store payment components and marketing features, the solution enables e-wallets to provide seamless user experiences, improve user and merchant stickiness, and enhance brand awareness and customer loyalty.

Alipay also features industry-leading risk management and anti-money laundering systems, and the whole solution is built on cloud-native technical infrastructure to cater to mobile internet-featured businesses.

The suite offers a loan management system (LMS) and credit risk-decision engine (CRE) for digital banking services. Alipay+ Payment Tech’s digital lending solution can also help e-wallet apps develop Buy-Now-Pay-Later (BNPL) and cash loan products to serve users’ various credit needs, and help customers manage their loan business and risks efficiently.

At the same time, it addresses concerns about fraud in the payment and financial services industry. Alipay+ Payment Tech also provides an individual solution for security risks that meet e-wallet apps’ comprehensive operating and marketing needs.

“As the Middle East market is proliferating with increasing demands for inclusive financial services such as digital payment and digital lending, Alipay+ Payment Tech is ready to provide its diversified solutions and services as well as share its rich experiences on the global payment ecosystem with local partners to help them successfully build up their e-wallet businesses,” said Li Zhixian, senior director of Alipay+ Payment Tech at Ant Group.

A screenshot of the international version of the Alipay App. (Source - Alipay)

A screenshot of the international version of the Alipay App. (Source – Alipay)

Alipay app goes international

Going back to the Alipay app, despite its large number of users, there are still concerns about how users can easily navigate the app, especially with the language barrier. The app is predominantly meant for use in China, so most of the functions and instructions are in Chinese. This can be difficult for those who can’t read or understand the language.

Given that China is hosting the Asian Games this year, the Alipay app will launch an updated international version of the app for customers. The international version of the Alipay app will have customized services for overseas travelers to China.

With Alipay+, a user can use a local e-wallet service provider that has partnered with the technology in China. The new update will mean users have an additional option to utilize when in China.

The new international version, with language options including English and an easy-to-use translation tool, aims to fulfill international travelers’ mobile payment needs in China and enhance their local travel experience. It also integrates frequently-used travel services, including hotel booking, air ticket booking, car-hailing, public transport, and exchange rate checking. The updated version also includes services related to the Asian Games through the Smart Hangzhou program.

Alipay has partnered with international card networks since 2022 to upgrade its payment service for international travelers. After downloading the Alipay app, overseas tourists can sign up and link their international credit or debit card from Visa, Mastercard, JCB, Discover, and Diners Club International to pay at tens of millions of Alipay partner merchants across China, including restaurants, cafes, tourist attractions, shopping malls, street stalls, and public transport.

“We will continue to optimize our products and services to better serve international visitors to China by enhancing their travel experience with convenient mobile payment services,” said Yaoyao Jin, Alipay’s product lead in charge of its international version.

Jin also encouraged more merchants and service providers operating digitally on the Alipay platform to enhance their services for international travelers.

The success of the Alipay app and Alipay+, both in China and internationally, indicates that everyone can use technology if it’s appropriately implemented. Despite concerns about certain Chinese products, the Alipay app and Alipay+ will likely continue to grow their global capabilities and reach.