How to Pay for Things in China

How to Pay for Things in China

Payment Methods in China

In China, there are three basic payment methods: digital payments, credit card payment, and cash payment. Nowadays, the concept "go cashless" has gradually become the social mainstream and digital payments are taking place of credit card and cash payments.  

Digital Payment Technologies in China

Why are Digital Payments so Popular in China

Firstly, convenience is a key reason for the popularity of digital payments. People do not have to worry about not carrying enough cash with them when shopping; and will not miss buses just because they lack of coins or changes.

Secondly, every transaction of digital payment has a detailed record, including time, amount, and places of consumption. Therefore, people do not have to extra keep accounts and calculate their own expenses. 

Thirdly, security is another important factor. For one thing, people have no worry about losing their cash or being stolen. For another, people are spared the trouble of checking the authenticity of banknotes.

digital payments
(Photo from Bing)

Digital Payment Security Concerns

Digital payment is surely far from perfection. While being convenient, it also has security concerns:

Firstly, the leakage of payment password. Once the attacker obtains the payment password in some way, he can easily pretend to be the cardholder and consume without restraint, which will bring incalculable losses to the cardholder.

Secondly, the falsification of payment data. In the absence of necessary security precautions, the attacker can tamper with payment data transmitted over the Internet. For example, the attacker can falsify bank card number used for payment, amount, and beneficiary account number to achieve profit-making purposes.

Thirdly, the use of multiple software. Some people who are still using old versions of IOS and Android may have security problems when using digital payments. The old systems cannot well support the latest mobile security technologies. The hacker may make use of it and attack these old systems.

Two Commonly Used Digital Payment Methods in China


AliPay, launched by Alibaba Group, is a popular third-party payment in China. You can see the AliPay sign in the various shops, hotels, restaurants, and hospitals in China. AliPay allows users to save their bank cards' details into the e-wallet and then directly pay with mobile phones.

How to make an AliPay account

  1. Download AliPay from AliPay's website or application store, and register with your phone number. Then AliPay will send you a text message with an activation code, which you need to enter. You next follow AliPay's instructions to set the password and verify your identities. 
  1. Apply for Chinese bank cards. International credit or debit cards supported by AliPay include Visa, MasterCard, Western Union, Boleto, JCB, and so on. However, these cards sometimes fail to pay for things. So it would be better for ex-pats, who will work and live in China for a long time, to apply for Chinese bank cards. You are advised to apply cards of major banks in China, such as the Bank of China, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, and China Construction Bank. Remember to take your passports with you.
  1. Add your bank cards. Tap "Me" on the bottom right corner, choose "Bank Cards", and then you can add your Chinese bank cards.
add bank cards

Now, you can smoothly use AliPay!

How to Pay with AliPay

Users can open AliPay to scan merchants' QR code, and then enter the transaction amount and payment password. Payment is finished and the confirmation will send to users and merchants. If it is involved in web payment, the operation is similar. Users scan payment code on web pages to make payments.

In supermarkets or shopping malls, users can also use quick pay. Specifically, users show merchants their AliPay payment code, and merchants scan the code to make the payment.

pay with AliPay

WeChat Pay

WeChat Pay, developed by Tencent in 2013, is also a high-frequency payment method in China. WeChat Pay includes quick pay, QR code payment, mini program payment, in-app payment, official account payment, and web payment, which can fulfill users' different needs.

How to use WeChat Pay

As an ex-pat, you have to open up a Chinese bank account before successfully using WeChat Pay. You would better go with your passports to major banks in China, such as the Bank of China and Agricultural Bank of China. Then you tap "Me", choose WeChat Pay, and tap wallet to add your Chinese bank card. That's it!

use WeChat pay

The use of WeChat Pay is similar to that of AliPay. Users scan merchants' QR code or present merchants their WeChat Pay code to make payment.

Credit Card Payment in China

International credit cards, such as Discover, Visa, MasterCard, American Express, JCM, and Diners Club, are available in some cities in China. Some of them, such as American Express, do not charge foreign transaction fees. 

Cash Payment in China

Cash payment is gradually replaced because of its inconvenience. However, you also need to prepare some cash at all when living in China. There are special occasions where cash is necessary. For example, in the remote areas of China, some small towns are not densely populated and digital payment is not popular. So when you pass by these towns, you need to buy things through cash. Besides, when you shop, the network of the supermarket is broken, so you cannot successfully pay. Take another example. Considering the security, cities like Nanjing and Luoyang have banned mobile phones from paying at petrol stations.

In addition to exchanging your home currencies for Chinese yuan in advance in your countries, you can also exchange it in counters in Chinese airports. Besides, you can withdraw money from ATMs by using your debit cards. But it is worth mentioning that some bank cards cannot work on ATMs. You would better check supported cards before using ATMs. There are signs on the machine showing which cards are available. Moreover, you could exchange currency in the Bank of China, China Construction Bank, HSBC, and other major banks.

Related articles from TTJ introduce all the needs for  returning to China safely, as well as the latest relevant policies of the Chinese government. If you need to find a job opportunity in China, please visit the job Board of TTJ.