Best way to pay Alibaba suppliers

Remay Villaester (May)
22.03.21
4 minute read

Alibaba is a global marketplace, based in China but with buyers and sellers from all over the world. You’ll find an enormous selection of products on Alibaba, from fashion and electronics to packaging, tools, home and garden supplies and much more. And the prices can be seriously low when you place bulk orders.

But when buying any supplies for your business, it’s really important to choose the safest and cheapest payments methods. After all, you don’t want to get ripped off.

In this guide, we’ll look at the best ways to pay Alibaba suppliers like Wise multi-currency account - which lets you pay suppliers all over the world in their own currency for tiny fees and the mid-market exchange rate.

We’ll talk more about using your Wise account with Alibaba shortly. Let’s start by looking at the most common payment methods on the platform.

Popular payment methods on Alibaba

Alibaba offers buyers a few different ways to pay. Let’s run through a few of the pros and cons of each, including processing times, fees and security considerations.

PayPal

PayPal is considered one of the safest ways to pay on Alibaba, because it offers a level of buyer protection. It’s also quick, convenient and secure.

Important to note - you can’t use PayPal with Alibaba’s Trade Assurance escrow scheme, which we’ll look at in just a moment. Alibaba doesn’t promote PayPal as one of its major payment methods, but many buyers will accept it.

You won’t usually pay a fee to buy products on Alibaba using PayPal, but the platform will charge as much as 3% above the base exchange rate¹ for purchases in other currencies.

Debit or credit card

A common way to pay for purchases on Alibaba is through your credit or debit card. It’s easy and quick, with most payments clearing in around 1-2 hours². Alibaba accepts all major cards, including Visa, MasterCard and American Express.

However, this isn’t the cheapest option. Pay using your debit or credit card and you’ll pay a 2.95% transaction fee², and then there are potential foreign transaction or currency conversion fees charged by your bank. There’s also the exchange rate to consider. It’s likely that an unfavourable rate will be applied by your bank, which means your purchase will end up costing you more.

Wire transfer (Telegraphic Transfer or TT)

Wire transfers, also known as Telegraphic Transfers (TTs), are also accepted by Alibaba and many of its sellers. This used to be considered quite a risky way to pay for overseas purchases, but this is less of an issue if you buy through Alibaba’s Trade Assurance scheme.

Unfortunately though, wire transfers are a super expensive way to pay on Alibaba. The site itself will charge you around $40 (£28.80)² per international transfer. For transfers in GBP, you’ll pay around 1 unit of local currency². Your bank may also charge you additional fees.

Some wire transfers can also be quite slow. For local currency transfers, it takes around 1-2 business days for funds to clear. But for international transfers, your seller could be waiting between 3 and 7 business days to receive the payment².

Use Alibaba Trade Assurance² for safer escrow payments

If you’re buying from Alibaba and want to make extra sure your transaction is safe and secure, go through Alibaba Trade Assurance. It’s an escrow service, which holds your money securely until the order is delivered and you’re happy with the quality. Only then are the funds released to the seller. You can also open disputes and get extended customer support, up to 30 days after delivery.

Many of Alibaba’s sellers are now signed up to accept payments through Trade Assurance. As it uses the latest technology to protect your payments, the service really does offer some extra peace of mind.

However, you can only pay by credit/debit card or wire transfer using Trade Assurance. It doesn’t currently accept PayPal or other payment methods.

Wise - a cheaper way to pay Alibaba suppliers

If you’re looking for a cheap, convenient and secure way to pay your Alibaba suppliers, use Wise.

You can pay suppliers all over the world in their own currency, for tiny fees and the mid-market exchange rate. You won’t get stung by foreign transaction charges, and you’ll be confident you’re getting the fairest rate.

Here’s how to do it. One of the easiest ways to pay on Alibaba using Wise is with your Wise debit Mastercard or through international bank transfer.

Simply pay on Alibaba just like you would with any ordinary debit or credit card. The site may still charge a fee, but you’ll avoid foreign transaction fees from your bank. You’ll only pay a tiny fee to convert the currency (at the mid-market rate), or no fee at all if you already have the currency in your account.

Alternatively, you can save even more if you simply send the payment to your trusted seller (if they’ll accept it), using your Wise account or the handy Wise app. You’ll see any transfer fees upfront, and be able to check out the exchange rate too. This way, you know exactly how much the payment will cost you, before hitting ‘send’.

Wise is fast, secure and could save you a small fortune, especially if you regularly source supplies from overseas.

Start saving today with Wise


So, that’s pretty much it - all you need to know about paying for purchases on Alibaba. It’s up to you to choose the best way to pay your Alibaba suppliers, but remember to compare payment processing times and security as well as just costs.


Sources used for this article:

  1. PayPal Consumer Fees
  2. Alibaba Trade Assurance

Sources checked on 23-March-2021.


This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from TransferWise Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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