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Alipay and WeChat Pay expand service to tourists visiting China

By Ramla Soni

Alipay will let foreign visitors to China use its app via a prepaid card service

Chinese payments giants Alipay and WeChat Pay plan to make their platforms available to foreigners visiting the mainland.

Overseas tourists will be able to get a taste of China’s cashless society by downloading a version of the Alipay app to pay for things using QR codes.

China’s central bank recently told a number of payments firms they will soon be allowed to plug foreign cards into their apps for use in China, according to two people with knowledge of the situation, Bloomberg reported.

In its announcement, Ant Financial’s Alipay laid out a system that will work around current regulations and can start immediately. The ability to work with credit cards is still pending.

In the meantime, travellers will be able to use a prepaid card service provided by the Bank of Shanghai, meaning customers will have to periodically top up that account.

Digital payments in China are dominated by the Alipay and WeChat Pay mobile wallets and until now, visitors were unable to use these systems, which typically require a local phone number and Chinese bank account.

With Alipay and Tencent accounting for 94 per cent of China's mobile-payment market, the new move will benefit more than 30 million people who visit China annually.

Alipay and WeChat Pay’s logos are visible in stores and taxis in major cities around the world as the firms focus on helping Chinese travellers abroad.

Alipay handled around $3.8 trillion of transactions in the fourth quarter of 2018 compared with $2.7 trillion for Tencent’s WeChat Pay.

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