AliPay is now available to foreigners inside China without the need to open a local bank account.

China has far outpaced the world in digital payments.  Once a primarily cash-based society, they have skipped the plastic cards used elsewhere and led the way with mobile payments.

Two of the most popular and highly accepted forms of payment are Alipay and WeChat Pay.  From online purchases to street vendors, both can be used to make payments almost anywhere.  Sometimes, they are the only payment alternative to a cash payment so you can leave home without your credit cards.

The dominance of mobile payments inside China has caused challenges for short-term assignees and business travelers as the number of shops and restaurants that accept cash continues to shrink dramatically.   Without a local Chinese bank account, the option to use either payment service was simply not available.

Alipay’s announcement that foreigners can now use the “Tour Pass” with the app that permits adding funds via Visa and MasterCard logo bank cards.  Unfortunately, the option is not available for those with phone numbers from Hong Kong, Macau or Taiwan.

Alipay and WeChat Pay have been vying to service this market and likely WeChat Pay will come to market with an option of its own for foreigners.

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