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Yes, Foreigners And Tourists Can Use Alipay — This Is How

The easiest way to order McDonald's delivery. And transfer money and everything else. Updated for 2020!
Last updated: 2023-11-09
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Traveling in China recently got much easier for foreigners when Alipay a.k.a. Zhi Fu Bao 支付宝 -- one of the two major payment providers in China -- announced that it's now possible to connect a foreign credit card to your Alipay account.

The all-encompassing mobile payment service lets you pay for airline tickets instantly, transfer money to your landlord without leaving your couch, pay for cabs, Didi and utility bills, or buy a street beer at Family Mart with just a quick scan of your phone.

SmartShanghai worked directly with the Alipay team to bring this guide and FAQ to setting up Alipay to join the magical wonderland of mobile payments.

Download Alipay and Sign Up with Your Phone Number

Get the latest version of the app from your app store or download at Alipay's website

There's just one Alipay app, but inside the app you can switch between an English "International Version" and a Chinese local version. Both versions have slightly different features.

Once you've installed the app, follow the registration steps with either a local Chinese or foreign phone number. Using a foreign phone number will automatically register you for the International Version.


Add Your Bank Card

Tap "Me" in the bottom-right corner, then tap "Bank Cards".

These foreign cards are currently accepted:

  • Visa Card
  • Master Cards
  • Diners Club
  • Discover
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A few Tips on Adding Your Cart

When adding a local Chinese UnionPay card, you need to make sure that your personal information matches exactly the way it is registered at the bank, in the name order and with the same middle names as on your bank account (note that some banks switch first name and last name). If you run into any errors after completing the information, it means that your bank records are somehow different from what you have entered.


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Make Payments!

Your bank card will now appear in the "Bank Cards" section. With that, you can make purchases with your phone just about anywhere in China.

There are two common ways of paying with Alipay:

If are you are presented with a QR code, tap the Scan button to scan and pay. That's more common in smaller shops.

In most restaurants and supermarkets, they will scan your QR code. Just tap the Pay/Collect Icon and present the QR code that shows.

Alipay will also now be an automatic option for payments within mobile apps like Didi, Meituan, and of course, Taobao. Here's all the other things you can do.

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Limitations with Foreign Credit Cards

As an overseas tourist, you can use Alipay to pay for daily consumption in various scenarios, including dining, transportation, shopping, tourist attractions, etc. after binding your international band card. But financial services like wealth management is not supported at the moment.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to add my foreign credit card?

There's no further approval process, you can use your card right away after adding it as outlined above.

What are the transaction fees ?

No fee for transactions under RMB 200.

3% transaction fee for each transaction above RMB 200.

Will it charge my credit card every time buy something?


Can i have both my international credit card and my local Chinese card set up?

Yes you can add multiple cards.

Can I use the other services inside Alipay, like buying train tickets, movie tickets, ordering cars and food ?


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This How-To guide is work in progress, we are constantly updating it as we receive new information. We rely on readers like you (yes YOU). If you find this guide useful please help us improve it by adding comments in each step or by clicking the "Verify" link if you find the information provided to be correct.