China is relentlessly heading towards a cashless society, a reality made possible by Alipay and WeChat Pay.

These are the main smart payment systems in China and have introduced payments based on QR and NFC codes in the daily habits of consumers.

If you have been to Cona in recent years, you will certainly have noticed that almost all payments are made via mobile, and proximity payment is omnipresent for purchases in stores in the country, not only for online purchases, but also and above all in all stores. , even the little ones.

Smart payment is used for all types of cash transactions in China, including for the purchase of luxury products.

According to a Statista report, the payment method preferred by millionaires in China in 2018 were WeChat Pay and Alipay.

Smart payments users in China grew 10.0% in 2019 to reach 577.4 million (by far the largest market in the world), with 81.1% of smartphone users using payments mobile.

The reasons for this explosive spread of payments via smartphone are mainly two:

1) Internet users in China are connected almost exclusively via smartphone or tablet.

2) The spread of credit cards was quite low when Alipay and WeChat Pay were introduced.

Let’s see what exactly these two payment platforms are:


Alipay is Alibaba’s smart payment method and is also the most popular in China, with a market share of over 50%.

As of 2014, Alibaba has become China’s largest e-commerce site, dominating B2B, B2C and C2C online shopping. The e-commerce giant is also one of the country’s most advanced tech companies.

Alipay’s success lies in the users’ trust in this payment platform, as well as in the numerous collaborations that Alibaba has entered into with various banks. Thanks to its link with Alibaba, Alipay is the main payment platform used for online shopping. In addition to e-commerce, customers use Alipay to make purchases in physical stores, make payments that require an invoice and transfer money.

WeChat Pay

WeChat is the most popular social network in China and has exceeded 1.15 billion active users in 2019.

WeChat Pay is the payment system integrated into the platform and which users can easily access by connecting their credit card.

79.4% of small and medium-sized merchants in China are WeChat Pay users, for a total of over 50 million customers.

Together with direct payments, WeChat pay can be used to send money to friends, send “red envelopes” of greetings with money on holidays, play the lottery, divide common accounts.

In 2019, the daily average of WeChat payments increased by 76% and the average daily number of users increased by 70%. In the same year, WeChat Pay integrated the payment functions through facial recognition, connecting it to communities and mini-programs, and making smart payment an ever easier solution for retail.

Both payment systems are very easy to use in China, in fact the merchant only needs to scan the buyer’s QR code to receive the money, or bring the phone closer to an NFC reader.

Alipay and WeChat pay can be used by the Chinese to make purchases abroad.

Alipay and WeChat Pay allow Chinese tourists traveling on the straight to make purchases in their own currency, and the seller to receive them in the local currency directly to the current account.

It is extremely easy for the merchant to receive payments with AliPay or WeChat Pay. The implementation of these payment systems does not require changes to your cash register as they function as an autonomous terminal.

To receive the payment, the shopkeeper will only have to display the payment QR code or – alternatively – scan the barcode generated by the customer with the App.

After receiving the payment, a digital receipt will be issued. This receipt will also be sent to the customer via the App. WeChat Pay and Alipay simplify the payments of Chinese tourists traveling abroad, facilitating the decision-making process of spending and solving various problems, including that of changing the currency.

Can non-Chinese users use Alipay and WeChat pay without having a Chinese credit card?

The answer is yes, within certain limits.

In 2019 Alipay announced the possibility for non-Chinese tourists traveling to mainland China to use the payment system for up to 90 days. The service is available thanks to Alipay’s “Tour Pass” program, which is basically a digital prepaid card service issued by the Shanghai Bank.

Following Alipay’s move, WeChat Pay has announced that the platform is capable of supporting international credit cards for direct payments.

How to use Alipay

First of all, you need to download the Alipay APP (available on both IOS and Android). After entering and verifying your phone number with an SMS code, the app will ask you to choose the international version, since you are using a number placed abroad. The app is partially translated into English, in any case you can find English in the sections dedicated to foreigners.

(Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan phone numbers must register on Alipay’s Hong Kong app instead.)

Once you have entered the Alipay app, you can access the “Tour pass” by clicking on the icon at the top left, if you cannot find it you can look for it in the search bar.


A questo punto potete effettuare una ricarica, da un minimo di 100 yuan (13 euro) a un massimo di 2.000 yuan (265 euro) per ricarica. Potete trasferire il denaro più volte fino a un massimo di 5.000 yuan (665 euro) e il credito può essere utilizzato entro 90 giorni dall’attivazione. Scaduti i 90 giorni, il denaro residuo sarà mandato indietro alla vostra carta, ma saranno dedotte le spese di gestione applicate dalla Shanghai Bank (il 5% del totale). 


On your first top-up you will be asked to authenticate by entering some personal data, a credit card photo and a photo of you.

As for privacy, the company said it had “extremely effective privacy and security measures”. You can still read Alipay’s privacy policy to find out more about where the data is stored and when it could be shared with the Chinese authorities.

Alipay can be used with international cards only to make direct purchases (by scanning your payment code) or to shop online on the Alibaba platforms.

For now, the app does not support peer-to-peer money transfer, so it is not possible to transfer money between accounts or make investments using Alipay.

How to use Wechat Pay

In the case of WeChat Pay, however, it is possible to connect – and keep connected – your credit card.

Obviously, to access you need to download WeChat and register on the platform. Once your identity is authenticated, you can associate your credit card with the app and you are ready to make payments in China.


As with Alipay, WeChat Pay does not yet support peer-to-peer payments for international cards, so you can only use it to make direct purchases, and not to send money to your contacts.

WeChat Pay and Alipay are constantly evolving and further opening towards international cards cannot be excluded.

In any case, it is clear that full compatibility with Chinese mobile payment systems and the e-commerce ecosystem in China has become vital for those who decide to do business with this country.

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