Making Payments in China Just Got Easier for Foreign Visitors

The payments landscape in China continues to loosen up, with news that foreign visitors can now spend up to $2,000 a year on the Alipay app without the need to register their ID.

This represents a significant increase from the previous limit of $500 and underscores Alipay’s ongoing expansion efforts as one of China’s leading mobile payment platforms, per CNBC.

Foreign visitors who register their ID now have an increased annual transaction limit of $50,000, marking a fivefold increase from the  previous cumulative amount of $10,000. Alipay has also raised its single-transaction limit for foreign travelers from $1,000 to $5,000.

This development comes as China’s General Office of the State Council released new guidelines, allowing Alipay and its rival WeChat Pay to raise these limits. The office published new rules towards “providing higher-quality, more effective and more convenient payment services” for foreign visitors, as China continues to encourage more foreign tourism.

A Cashless Society

Contactless payments have become the standard in China. As of June 2023, roughly 943 million people in mainland China used mobile payments, totaling $434 trillion in electronic transactions annually.

China is generally considered the world’s largest cashless society. However, the government imposes strict financial and data control laws, including real-name verification policies for foreigners. Chinese citizens have national ID cards integrated into Alipay and WeChat Pay apps since 2018. Without those IDs, foreign tourists have encountered difficulties in making transactions in China, further dampening tourism in the country.

A Boost for Tourism

The number of foreign travelers to China has dropped due to the temporarily imposition of strict border controls during the pandemic. In response, the nation’s officials have been seeking ways to encourage tourism.

As a result, ways of making payments easier for foreign nationals have been trickling out in China over the past year. In June 2023, Mastercard launched a partnership with Alipay to let travelers pay for goods and services digitally by linking their debit or credit card to their Alipay digital wallet. In November 2023, Mastercard announced that it had received permission from the People’s Bank of China and other authorities to start issuing Chinese yuan-denominated bank cards under its own brand.

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