Up until now, the ubiquitous QR codes used to pay for anything and everything in China was only open to those with a Chinese bank account. This is no longer the case, with Alipay and WeChat Pay opening up their systems to foreign credit cards.
According to data released by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, in 2018, the number of inbound tourists reached 141.2 million, including more than 30 million foreign tourists, a year-on-year increase of 4.7 percent. There is a huge demand for mobile payments among tourists. At the same time, many people working in the tourism industry pointed out that to further improve the potential inbound tourism market, China needed to improve all the experience for travellers, including forms of payment.
Alipay's overseas edition recently opened up to international travellers who can register with their overseas mobile phone number on the app, through the in-app "Tour Pass," and apply for a prepaid card service provided by the Bank of Shanghai. The prepaid paid will be bound with their international credit cards to be recharged. This prepaid card has a single recharge validity of 90 days and can be recharged multiple times. After 90 days, the balance will be returned to the user's overseas bank card.
Tencent's WeChat Pay intends to allow international users to connect their existing cards to its app more directly. The company said it is cooperating with Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover Global Network as well as Japan's JCB to support the linking of overseas credit cards to WeChat Pay.
Some overseas tourists may have noticed that mobile payments can also be used to receive their tax refund at the airport.
On October 1, Tencent's team launched the "We Tax-free Pass" Wechat app for overseas tourists at Beijing Capital International Airport. After returning the tax refund application form at the departure tax refund counter, foreign tourists can receive a real-time tax refund to their WeChat wallet.