Except for a few ad-hoc street vendors, not many sellers accept cash in China. Source: Shutterstock

Except for a few ad-hoc street vendors, not many sellers accept cash in China. Source: Shutterstock

Foreign professionals and tourists in China can finally use WeChat Pay

CHINA is one of the pioneers of the cashless movement — with most of its merchants and shopping establishments only accepting electronic payments.

As a result, tourists and foreign professionals in China often struggle to access many of the services that local residents enjoy.

The WeChat ecosystem, for example, is one that binds the nation together, with restaurants, ride-hailing services, and even laundromats offering services to customers through mini-programs on the app. Fortunately, WeChat Pay — the app’s own e-wallet — is finally being opened up to those that hold international credit cards.

The company is now collaborating with Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover Global Network (including Diners Club) and JCB to enable overseas users to link their credit cards to WeChat Pay and use it for payment transactions and services in China.

As a result of the collaboration, overseas users will now be able to use WeChat Pay across multiple payment scenarios spanning shopping, restaurants, transportation, and accommodation.

For instance, overseas users can use WeChat Pay to purchase railway tickets on China Railway (www.12306.cn), hail a ride on the Didi (China’s Uber/Grab), make online purchases via JD.com and Ctrip, and more.

Over the past year or two, WeChat and its biggest competitor Alipay have worked hard to forge partnerships that assist Chinese tourists traveling overseas. However, the number of foreigners — professionals and tourists — coming into China is also growing year-on-year and hence, WeChat decided to look for a solution.

According to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, the number of inbound tourists reached 141.2 million in 2018, an increase of 1.2 percent over the same period of the previous year. Further, the Minister of Science and Technology believes that China is also attracting foreign talent looking to start innovative businesses in the country.

Overall, there are more than 950,000 foreigners working in China, and the country has cumulatively issued 336,000 overseas talent work permits in 2018.

The Chinese government realized that the inconvenience of not being able to use the widely adopted local mobile payments is becoming a major pain point for overseas people living or visiting mainland China — which is why they introduced new policies recently — which WeChat has embraced.

While the initiative is bound to significantly help foreign tourists and professionals working in China, it will also help many of the local businesses looking to grow their business. This is especially true in some of the more popular destinations such as Shanghai, Beijing, Chengdu, and Hangzhou.

In the coming months, as China opens its doors, more innovation in payments should be expected.