How to Use Alipay Without a Chinese Bank
The News Every Foreigner Wants to Hear
AliPay is one of China’s biggest and most used apps and we recently received some very useful news as foreigners about using Alipay which we want to share with you right away.
Before getting into that though, just in case you are unaware of what AliPay is, let’s give you an introduction to one of China’s biggest apps on the scene.
#1 – What is AliPay?
What is AliPay?
AliPay is an app widely used throughout China.
In fact, it is one of China’s biggest apps.
Within the app, the main feature is quite simply, paying for things.
Going to the shops and want some water and bread? Use AliPay.
Want to book some train tickets through the App itself? Use AliPay.
Want to pay your gas and electric bills? Use AliPay.
Starting to see a theme here?
You can also send friends money, via “red packets”, and even chat.
Most Chinese nationals who have a phone will have the app.
Although WeChat is probably regarded as the most commonly used app to pay for things, AliPay will not be far behind.
Using AliPay in China
WeChat and AliPay have always had one shortcoming for foreigners and it’s actually incredibly relevant to a lot of our students here at LTL Mandarin School.
To be able to pay for things using these two apps, you need a Chinese bank account, and that is becoming increasingly troublesome (麻烦 máfan – useful word alert), especially if you are coming to China short-term.
If you are a student for let’s say less than 6 weeks, do you really want to go through the hassle of opening a bank account?
Probably not given the fact it’s not that easy in China!
Therefore, using these apps to pay for things is not possible.
Not ideal, especially given some places in China you cannot actually use cash to pay for things, they genuinely only accept mobile payments! The world we live in…!
An example, Luckin’ Coffee, a hugely popular discount coffee shop which our staff in Beijing particularly enjoy, on a daily basis!This coffee shop is solely driven by online payments so no bank account, no Luckin’ Coffee for you!
Anyway, for these reasons, this news is all the more significant because the above scenario is now solvable for those of you coming to China and not opening a bank account.
How to use Alipay in China as a foreigner?
So according to the below release from AliPay, a foreigner can now attach their foreign bank card to AliPay and use this to make purchases in China.
This is a huge breakthrough in China and will make a big difference for foreigners coming to China and not having to bring cash.
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AliPay opens up a large number of possibilities for a foreigner which include:
- Bike Sharing
- Paying for goods at Supermarkets/Restaurants etc.
- Sending other contacts money (perhaps a split bill at a restaurant)
- Paying for utilities (like electric, if you are in China for a longer amount of time and not based at a hotel)
- Buying train/plane tickets
The list goes on, and it’s all very convenient stuff.
It opens up a large number of doors and it’s something you perhaps don’t realise until you are in China yourself.
The official release from Alipay is shown here below:
Seems easy enough and clear right?
Well, we just wanted to make sure so I have given this a test run and I must admit, to my pleasant surprise it really is quite simple.
NOTE – the maximum top-up each time is 2,000CNY which comes to roughly 285USD, 260 EUR, 220GBP and 410AUDPlease be aware these rates are rough and at the time of writing in November 2019.
AliPay has not stated if there is a limit on top-ups per day or week or even account so assume you get 2000CNY each time you need it. That can last you more than enough time with life in China being pretty cheap by all accounts.
The only negative we noticed? The last sentence of the above release “They can then enjoy the seamless Alipay mobile payment experience in China for up to three months”.
A great shame there is a time cap on this, but still, for many short term visitors, a problem has been resolved. Anyone staying for longer than three months, maybe a bank account is the best solution anyway
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Using Alipay in China – How to top-up my AliPay?
So the process is pretty simple for using AliPay in China and topping up with a foreign bank card.
Upon opening the AliPay app you need to navigate to TourPass which is one of the many options available. You may need to click on MORE to find it.
You can add this one to your favourites so it shows on your homepage every time!
After this you will be faced with your Tourpass account (the 2nd/3rd screenshots below)
Simply select the amount you wish to top up and enter your card details from your foreign bank.
Once entered, hit top-up and you are there.
It’s that simple!
We love it because formal things like this in China can sometimes be time-consuming and the running joke with foreigners is that dealing with banks in China, let’s just say, takes patience!
The process took me all of a few minutes.
Just for extra clarity below is the bottom half of the AliPay Press Release which shows the process of topping up all the way from downloading from your App Store.
Paying for things in China just got easier and more accessible for foreigners thanks to using Alipay in China.
Let’s hope it stays this way and, hey, if we are lucky perhaps WeChat might follow suit…
But before you leave us we wanted to show you some more really cool features about Alipay with our video about How to use AliPay, check it out!
Alipay in China – FAQ’s
AliPay is a Chinese app used for a number of things, but primarily, paying for goods and services. AliPay is mainly used by Chinese nationals in shops/restaurants and convenience stores to buy goods.
It can also be used to pay for utilities, buy movie tickets and even purchase flight tickets.
Yes, AliPay is available for everyone to use in China, you can use it in English or Chinese meaning it is also convenient for most to use.
You simply download AliPay from your App Store on your device and you will need to register a mobile number and set up your account.
Once this is complete just link your bank card (Chinese account) and you are good to go.
Foreigners can now also use their bank cards and link these to AliPay using the TourPass mini-app inside Alipay. Read this article to discover how.
If you linked your Chinese bank account to AliPay there is no need to top-up your account. It is simply linked to your bank account.
If you linked your foreign bank account to AliPay you will need to visit the TourPass mini-app in AliPay and hit top-up. Select or enter the amount and confirm. Job done.
No, WeChat is the primary payment app in China and these two dominate the market.
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