Saturday, 2024 July 13

Tencent updates WeChat Pay to facilitate easier payments for foreign visitors

The Chinese government, eager to rejuvenate its tourism sector in the wake of the pandemic, has implemented measures to facilitate easier payments for foreign visitors. The People’s Bank Of China (PBOC) has spearheaded these efforts, introducing various initiatives such as optimized currency exchange services, e-ticketing for public transport, increased cash acceptance, and easier mobile payments. According to the bank, around 4 million foreign visitors have utilized mobile payments in China, underscoring the significance of these advancements.

The mobile payment sector in China is currently dominated by Tencent’s WeChat Pay (also known as Weixin Pay) and Ant Group-owned Alipay, which collectively service around 954 million mobile payment users in China as of December 2023, according to Statista.

As mobile payment platforms evolve to better accommodate foreigners, Tencent has recently announced updates to WeChat Pay, aiming to further enhance the user experience for foreign visitors to China.

A more seamless WeChat Pay for foreign users

Effective 12 April 2024, Tencent introduced enhancements to WeChat Pay, offering a more convenient and safer account registration process while linking the service with more overseas digital wallets. Foreigners can now register for a WeChat account with an overseas number and swiftly activate WeChat Pay when using an eligible international card, including Visa, Mastercard, JCB, Discover, Amex, and Diner’s Club cards. Users can also opt to link with UnionPay’s prepaid Tour Card.

Previously, WeChat Pay users had to go through an extra step of identity verification before accessing  the payment service. However, verification is no longer required following the latest update, although users who opt to verify their identity can enjoy an increase in their transaction limit from USD 10,000 to USD 50,000 annually. The single transaction limit for verified users has also increased from USD 1,000 to USD 5,000.

Tencent has also forged a partnership with Payments Network Malaysia (PayNet) to support visitors utilizing local e-wallets, enabling seamless payment transactions by leveraging PayNet’s cross-border QR payment interoperability. For instance, users of e-wallets in PayNet’s ecosystem such as GrabPay and Shopee Pay will soon be able to scan WeChat Pay QR codes for payment processing. Tencent has yet to announce when this feature would be made available to users.

Alipay also accommodates foreign users

Similarly, Alipay has also rolled out its “Alipay+-in-China” (A+China) program, facilitating interoperability with ten Asian e-wallets to date, including AlipayHK, mPay, Touch ‘n Go, HiPay, Changi Pay, OCBC, Kakao Pay, Naver Pay, Toss Pay, and TrueMoney.

Moreover, Alipay users can also link international cards to their Alipay account, including Visa, Mastercard, JCB, Discover, and Diner’s Club. However, unlike WeChat Pay, Alipay currently does not support American Express cards.

Verified Alipay users enjoy comparable transaction limits to WeChat Pay, with annual caps of USD 50,000 and single transaction limits of USD 5,000.

Both Alipay and WeChat Pay boast substantial user bases and merchant networks within China. However, they differ in supplementary features beyond mobile payments.

Alipay positions itself as a superapp, offering an open business ecosystem that enables merchants to offer users with a variety of “mini-program” services. These include ticketing, payment portals, and wealth management, along with integration with Taobao and Tmall. In contrast, WeChat Pay is integrated into the WeChat app, China’s foremost social media platform and main mode of messaging. The instant messaging app also includes broadcast messaging and mini games. WeChat is also partnered with e-commerce platform JD.

Ultimately, choosing between WeChat Pay and Alipay depends on individual preferences and needs. While Alipay excels in multi-platform capabilities, WeChat Pay caters more to domestic needs. Nonetheless, leveraging both platforms can provide comprehensive coverage for visitors exploring China’s diverse offerings.

36Kr Global Writers
36Kr Global Writers
The tech ecosystem is roaring. Unicorns valued at billions of dollars have emerged worldwide, while venture capital and strategic investors are constantly on the lookout for the next big thing. 36Kr Global is committed to establishing ties between global stakeholders and providing the most vital information about China’s tech scene and capital markets.
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