The big news for foreign travelers to China is that they can now use Alipay without a Chinese bank account.
Until very recently - early November 2019 in fact - visitors to China have had limited payment options. Without a Chinese bank account and local mobile phone number, it’s been challenging to make straightforward purchases. Even buying a serve of those dumplings you just have to try or that curio for a favourite family member has been problematic.
The only options available were cash, now used less and less in China, or credit and debit cards, a number of which can’t be used in the country.
This has left many travelers feeling frustrated and restricted, particularly now China is close to becoming a cashless society.
Did you know that a staggering 90 percent of the population uses one of the two main e-payment platforms? Even the most rustic street vendors accepts payment via WeChat or Alipay.
This makes things hard for foreign visitors who simply haven’t been able to operate like locals while on tour. Whether you’re in China for business, holidays, or seeing family, simple transactions you’d expect - like paying for meals, accommodation, taxis, and travel mementos - can be a big challenge when they really shouldn’t be.
Thankfully, Alipay has stepped in to change all that with its Alipay Tour Pass, an e-payment platform especially for foreigners.
How does Alipay Tour Pass work?
Alipay Tour Pass works by giving foreign visitors much needed access to a mobile payment platform. If you own a smartphone, you can use the Alipay Tour Pass. The best news is you can use it without a Chinese bank account or local mobile number.
In the back end, it functions as a prepaid card from the Bank of Shanghai. Once installed on your phone as an app, you have 90 days access.
The next step is as simple as loading funds from an international credit or debit card - then it’s just pay as you go.
Alipay has established a minimum top up amount of 100 yuan (around USD14 at today’s exchange rates), while the maximum amount is 2000 yuan (about USD285 currently). According to Alipay, users have the flexibility to top up multiple times, although there is a limit to the number of times this can be done.
And the bonus? Any funds remaining on the pass at the end of the 90 days are refunded immediately into the same account from which you transferred the money.
Ready to load funds and pay like a local on your China tour? Let’s walk you through the steps.
Step 1: Search and install Alipay from your App store
Here’s what it looks like in the App Store or Google Play.
Step 2: Register an account with an email address or foreign phone number
Step 3: Search for Tour Pass in Alipay
Step 4: Complete your details + load your funds
Now it’s time to get dollars into your Alipay Tour Pass. Complete the information fields and then top up the digital prepaid Bank of Shanghai card via your own credit or debit card, for example, from Visa or MasterCard.
Once you’ve completed this step, you’re ready to go.
How to use Alipay: It’s easier than you think
Now that you’ve loaded funds onto your Alipay, it’s time to put it into action.
#1 - Use Alipay when you purchase anything (up to the value of the pass limit)
Alipay works using a QR code so when you go to pay for an item, you simply present your Alipay QR code to be scanned
The other option is to use your phone to scan the merchant’s payment QR code. The funds for the item you’re buying are automatically deducted from your Alipay account.
#2 - Use Alipay to catch the public transpotation
Getting around on bus is easy with Alipay. Here’s what you do.
Find the traffic travel QR code following these directions within the app.
Then scan the traffic travel QR code.
If you are traveling by subway, the easiest way is to buy tickets at the ticket machine in the station. You can pay by Alipay or WeChat.
If you are traveling between cities by train, be aware that you will need to purchase a ticket previously online. Also you can buy the ticket on Alipay.
#3 - Book a driver with Alipay
Booking a driver with Alipay is easy too. Simply follow these instructions.
First, make sure the location function in your phone is switched on. Then look for the booking page in the app, as shown in the image below. Enter your destination and wait for the car. You’re on your way!
#4 - Purchase almost anything with Alipay
Alipay has been developed to integrate seamlessly with other apps to make it easier for people, including foreign travelers, to do what they need to while on tour or doing business in China.
Check out apps like Ele, Meituan, and Damai. These offer different functionality, but allow you to order takeaway foods, and even book tickets to shows.
The Wrap up on Alipay
The overall purpose of Alipay is to make life simpler for travelers. And it really does fulfil that objective.
If you’re planning a China tour soon, be sure to research the benefits of this app designed to give you a new level of payment flexibility on your adventure to experience real China.
Although ChinaTours.com is not affiliated with Alipay in anyway, we are always looking for opportunities to enhance the travel experience of our customers. We’re excited that Alipay has the potential to make life easier while you’re on tour. If you’d like to understand more about how to pay with confidence while on tour, check out our frequently asked questions page or send us an enquiry directly . We’d love to help you.