How can foreigners use mobile payments, Alipay, in China in 2024

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From Alipay Tour Pass to Alipay TourCard, and now Alipay’s access to international bank cards, we’ve seen China’s mobile payment system become more and more friendly to foreign tourists. We have updated the article to reflect the latest status of current Alipay for foreigners based on our practices. Here is everything that can help you visit China using just your phone in 2024.

In China, the proportion of mobile payments has exceeded 80%. People use mobile phones to complete nearly all daily consumption activities, such as shopping, dining, using public transportation, taking taxis, seeking medical treatment in hospitals and so on. Many merchants no longer even keep cash on hand for providing change, let alone offer POS machines that accept international bank cards. Consequently, for foreigners, using international credit cards or cash in China is neither safe nor convenient and could potentially lead to various complications.

Fortunately, China’s two main mobile payment platforms, Alipay and WeChat Pay, began accepting international credit cards at the end of July 2023. This post explains how to use Alipay. If you are interested in learning about WeChat Pay, please refer to the article ‘WeChat Pay for Foreigners in China 2024‘.

#1  About Alipay registration

Download the ‘Alipay’ app and register with your mobile number. You can register using an overseas mobile phone number or a Chinese mobile phone number. (To find out how to buy a Chinese mobile phone SIM card and use cheap data packages in China, please read the article: Guide about access internet and must-use apps in China in 2024

#2  About identity verification

Before using Alipay, you need to complete identity verification. You can complete identity verification through the following three methods:

  1. Use your passport to complete face verification.
  2. Use a Chinese mainland bank card to verify their identity.
  3. Use your passport NFC chip and face verification (if available with your passport and supported by device)

The steps for the verification are as follows:


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#3  Adding and removing Bank Cards

For foreign tourists, there are two ways to pay with Alipay. The first method is by binding an international card, and the second way is by topping up Alipay through the mini-app called TourCard. We have personally tested the first method and found it to be both feasible and convenient. Therefore, we recommend binding an international card to Alipay. Alipay now supports cards issued by Visa, Mastercard, JCB, Discover, Diners Club and UnionPay cards.

Add your first bank card at the home page or by going to “Me” > “Bank Cards”.


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To add more than one bank card, go to “Me” > “Bank Cards” -> “+”(up right corner)


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To remove bank card, go to “Me” > “Bank Cards” > the bank card you want to remove –>“More services” – “Remove Card”.

#4  How does Alipay work?

. Paying with Alipay

Method 1:

Activate the payment QR code, show the payment QR code to the cashier, and the cashier scans your Alipay payment QR code.


Method 2:

Scan the Alipay QR code provided by the merchant, enter the amount, and click to confirm the payment.

alipay tour pass

Important reminder: If you have more than one card bound in Alipay, you need to select the card you need to use when this payment is made before. At the same time, the three CVV2 digits on the back of the credit card should be filled in when scanning the QR code to pay.

. Taking public transport with Alipay

Choose the location firstly. Find all the service channels, such as Bus, Metro, Taxi, Train, Plane and Bike in the ‘Transport’ button. Note that ‘12306’ here refers to the train.

Before taking the subway or bus for the first time, you need to obtain Bus/Metro Card.


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#5  Shopping online by Alipay

China is a famous manufacturing country with abundant and high quality goods. Alipay supports payment on all online platforms in China. What’s more, China’s delivery speed is amazing.

#6  Is there a transaction limit? How is the exchange rate calculated?

There is a limit of 6,000 RMB for single transactions, a cumulative monthly limit of 50,000 RMB, and a cumulative yearly limit of 60,000 RMB for transactions. The exchange rate will be calculated based on the exchange rate provided by the card organization and the issuing bank of your international card.

#7  Are there any transaction fees?

Yes, there are transaction fees. However, transaction fees are waived for single transactions under 200 RMB. A 3% transaction fee will be applied for single transactions above 200 RMB. If you request a refund for a transaction, the transaction fee will be reimbursed in proportion to the refunded amount.

#8  Is Alipay safe?

Alipay was founded in 2004 and has become an essential tool for more than 80% of Chinese people. For details of Alipay’s security, please visit their website at here.

#9 Alipay customer service

If you encounter problems with identity real-name authentication, adding a bank card or topping up your account, ask a Chinese-speaking friend to call the Alipay service hotline at 95188. human customer service will help you with these problems.

Also, you can visit the official support page for help if you encounter technical problems while using Alipay.