Travelled to 11 countries / regions

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Asia > China > Useful Info
Updated on Nov 14, 2019 Useful Info

Best way for travelers to pay for things in China

  • For non-Chinese travelers, cash is king in China. However, as of November 2019, travelers can now use AliPay and WeChat Pay mobile payments like locals, though I think the interface and user experience of the mobile apps are a little clunky for non-Chinese users, so I don't know if mobile payments are better than cash just yet for visitors

  • Mobile payments situation in China:
  • Locals nowadays use AliPay or WeChat Pay for pretty much all of their day-to-day transactions as these are the 2 dominant mobile payment platforms in China accepted by everybody from big brands to street vendors
  • It used to be that the only way to use these apps for payment is to have a Chinese bank account, but as of November 5, 2019, both AliPay and WeChat Pay have started to allow foreigners without a Chinese bank account to use their apps in China
  • AliPay lets tourists create a prepaid account and fund it with Visa, MasterCard, JCB or MasterCard. You can load up to ¥2,000RMB ($285USD) at a time, which is more than enough for your everyday purchases for 2-3 weeks
  • WeChat Pay works slightly differently. You just have to link a credit card, no need to fund it. All payments will be charged to your credit card as they happen. WeChat Pay supports Visa, MasterCard, AMEX, Discover, JCB, and Diners Club
  • I was able to successfully load ¥1,000RMB into AliPay app, and here's the step-by-step guide on how to set up AliPayUser submitted photo of China
  • I was also able to set up WeChat Pay with Visa and AMEX. But it seems a little finicky because the app would randomly stop allowing me to use the cards. I think there are still some bugs in the app so for the time being I don't recommend WeChat Pay. Here's my step-by-step guide on how to set up WeChat PayUser submitted photo of China

  • Credit card situation in China:
  • International credit card acceptance is fairly low generally but still accepted in many places in tier 1 cities like Shanghai. It's limited to airlines, major hotels (all international brands and big domestic brands), and semi upscale chain restaurants in malls in the major cities (mainly Shanghai and Shenzhen, and to a lesser degree Beijing and Guangzhou)
  • By credit cards I mean Visa and MasterCard. AMEX has almost 0 acceptance outside of international hotel chains
  • Discover, Diners Club, JCB, and other cards I think most likely has 0 acceptance rate
  • UnionPay is more widely accepted, but it's the Chinese domestic credit card brand and I doubt you'll be carrying one of these

  • Cash situation in China: despite what you may have read about the death of cash in China, it's still accepted everywhere and the government recently made another announcement reinforcing businesses to accept cash.

  • My overall recommendation is: carry enough cash with you when you're in China as it is accepted everywhere (and carry lots of small bills like 5RMB, 10RMB, and 20RMB for public transit). But bring a Visa or MasterCard and use it wherever you possible can (like hotels) to save cash. Finally, load 300RMB into AliPay to test drive it or set up WeChat Pay (see my guide for AliPay, and for WeChat Pay), and as you get more comfortable using the app progressively add more money to it until it becomes your primary form of payment


David Bambridge

Travelled to 0 country / region

2 Months Ago

Agree that the simplest way is certainly cash as we have been travelling in various parts of China for 5 months and unable to link cards to Wepay or AliPay . Mainland Chinese bank account required .


Travelled to 0 country / region

1 Month Ago

Where are you? As a U.S. resident, I can apply for an ECARD prepaid card by UnionPay. (deposit USD and spend worldwide, no credit check, no monthly fee, real time exchange rate) they have this "refer a friend earn 10$, your friend also get $10" promotion if you want to use my referal code: RF008646

Bear KLee

Travelled to 0 country / region

2 Months Ago

Try tie your wepay with debit visa/mastercard. I am from Malaysia, and I successfully get it linked a week ago.

Irene Poon

Travelled to 5 countries / regions

3 Days Ago

wechatpay china and wechatpay malaysia is totally 2 different entity. they do not link to each other. malaysian who use wechatpay malaysia can add debit or credit card into their acc and can use as payment like touch n go ewallet. malaysian who use wechatpay china can not tie any account open outsite of china. wechatpay china only accepted china bank acc with china ID and acc is in RMB. the only way to add money in china wechatpay for non china ID person is give cash to those who own a china bank account and ask them to send red packet to us. once we receive the red packet, we can use it as payment in china but can never cash out. (unless you send red packet to the friend and ask the friend to give you cash). i have been to ICBC bank and bank of china (both bank are branches of bank in china) asking to open bank acc but they say china bank in malaysia has no link with bank in china, they are using different system so still can not link. i can only use the bank card for payment but still can link to wechatpay china. however not every shop in china got machine so swipe the bank card as most use wechatpay for payment. the same goes for PBB union pay debit card, so far i have been surveying all bank that got RMB currency account and all give the same reply. so kindly do your research before you reply. i was force to do the research this whole week as im going to china end of this month & so far the best way is still bringing cash at the moment.

Kai Chu

Travelled to 0 country / region

3 Weeks Ago

Linking CC to WeChat Pay is the easy part. You need a Chinese bank account to spend money from your WeChat wallet now.