International travelers visiting China will find their experience significantly more convenient as of Friday, with the option to link their Visa and Mastercard accounts to China’s leading mobile payment platforms. Alipay and WeChat Pay, aiming to attract foreign investment and bolster the economy, have announced that users can now link foreign credit cards to their digital wallets for various transactions, such as booking taxis, riding the subway, and making purchases at millions of establishments across the predominantly cashless country.
Alipay, operated by Ant Group, has made this feature immediately available for cards issued by Visa, Mastercard, Diners Club, and Discover. The move comes ahead of major events like the Chengdu World University Games and the Hangzhou Asian Games, anticipating an influx of foreign tourists seeking seamless mobile payment experiences.
Tencent, the owner of WeChat Pay, has also followed suit, allowing WeChat users to link credit or debit cards issued by Visa, Mastercard, JCB, or Discover for payments at tens of millions of merchants in China.
While China conducts over $434 trillion in electronic transactions annually and predominantly relies on mobile platforms for daily consumption transactions, foreign visitors faced limitations in accessing Alipay and WeChat Pay services. Previous requirements included having a mainland Chinese bank account and a local mobile phone number. The recent shift, initiated in 2019 when Alipay and WeChat allowed the use of foreign credit cards, has expanded to include more merchants, marking a significant step as the country emerges from stringent Covid restrictions.
Mastercard had already announced last month that its cardholders could link their cards to the Alipay app for cashless payments at millions of merchants in China. Dennis Chang, Executive Vice President and Division President for Greater China at Mastercard, expressed enthusiasm about the partnership with Alipay, stating that it enhances payments security, convenience, and peace of mind for cardholders during their journeys to China.
Tencent, in line with broader international exchanges and events, is working under the guidance of the People’s Bank of China to improve the mobile payment experience for foreign users in China. Chen Qiru, Vice President of Tencent Financial Technology, announced at the World Economic Forum’s “Summer Davos” meeting that WeChat Pay would open its system to international card organizations, starting in July.