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Alipay and WeChat Pay are both digital payment platforms which allow customers to make secure online and in-app payments, as well as mobile payments in person in stores and restaurants.¹ ²
Both Alipay and WeChat Pay originated in China, but can be used internationally. However there are some eligibility requirements you’ll need to know about depending on when, where and how you set up your accounts.
This guide will walk through how to use Alipay and WeChat Pay in Singapore.
We’ll also cover another great way to spend online and in person when you travel or shop internationally, with the Wise multi-currency account and linked card. You can use your Wise account to spend in foreign currencies using the mid-market exchange rate, which could save you a lot of money when travelling abroad or shopping online. More on that later.
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This is really two questions rolled into one. Firstly - do merchants in Singapore accept Alipay or WeChat Pay. And secondly, can Singaporean citizens and residents get an Alipay or WeChat Pay account. Let’s look at each point in turn.
Singapore is moving towards a cash free future, with digital payments offered now in many stores, restaurants and even hawker centres. If mobile payments are available you’ll see the QR code displayed by the merchant, alongside a list of the payment platforms which can be used. There’s then just a simple, single QR code to scan in most cases - no matter which payment platform you want to use.³
Alipay and WeChat Pay are offered by some merchants in Singapore - especially in areas where Chinese residents and tourists may visit⁴. You’ll be able to see the logos of the payment platforms available alongside the QR code when you’re in a store, restaurant or food centre.
Singapore citizens and residents can set up an Alipay account if they fulfil the eligibility requirements. All you’ll need to do is download the app, and set up an account. Link your preferred eligible card or bank account, including Visa, Mastercard and Diners Club cards, to start spending.
WeChat Pay can not be opened easily by Singaporeans. This feature is only available for WeChat customers in mainland China, Hong Kong and Malaysia.
You can top up your Alipay account by linking an eligible bank card or account, and then transferring funds over to your Alipay wallet. Here’s what you’ll need to do:
- Open the Alipay app
- Tap Bank cards, and then the + symbol
- Follow the prompts to add the card of your choice
- Complete the verification step
You’ll now be able to top up your Alipay account from the linked card, simply by following the prompts on screen and entering the amount you want to add to your Alipay balance. Once funds are in your account you’re free to spend and send however you want.
If you have a WeChat Pay account registered with an eligible phone number, you can top up in Singapore from your linked local bank account or card in the country your WeChat account is registered in. You could also have friends who have WeChat accounts send you funds, which will be added to your balance for your spending.
Save money on CNY conversion rates - Use the Wise card to easily spend SGD to CNY from Singapore
If you’re going to China or shopping in Chinese e-commerce stores, you’re going to need a good way to make payments without getting ripped off by bad exchange rates. If Alipay or WeChat aren't available for you, Wise account and card can be a great alternative for spending CNY with no hidden costs or sneaky rate markups. With Wise, you can just add SGD to your account and spend in CNY using the Google exchange rate.
Also, you can use Wise to send Chinese Yuan instantly to Weixin users in China!
Looking for more? You can hold over 40+ currencies with your Wise account and spend with your linked Wise card here at home, or abroad wherever you’re travelling.
Here’s how to get your Wise international debit card in just a few simple steps:
- Open a Wise account online or the Wise app in just a few minutes
- Top up your Wise account in the currency of your choice
- Order your Wise card for a low one time fee
- Start spending with your digital card right away
- Your physical card will arrive in the post, and you can start spending with your virtual card right away
To pay anywhere in China WeChat Pay and Alipay are often the preferred method. That means that life may be easier when you visit China if you can get set up on one - or both - platforms.
Whether or not you’re able to use WeChat Pay and Alipay will depend on your personal circumstances.
It’s also worth noting that the functionality of platforms like Alipay and WeChat Pay is being developed constantly. Future updates may mean it’s much easier to create an account as a non-Chinese citizen.
Keep an eye on some of the many helpful local review sites which provide helpful summaries of the latest developments to make sure you’re up to date.⁵ ⁶
At the time of writing it’s theoretically possible for Singaporeans to open both WeChat Pay and Alipay accounts. However, WeChat Pay can only be used by customers who register their account in Mainland China, Hong Kong or Malaysia - so you’re out of luck if your WeChat was set up here in Singapore.
Take a look at the most up to date eligibility requirements online if you’re not sure whether or not you can get an Alipay or WeChat Pay account. We’ll also walk through the step by step instructions in a moment so you can see how to get started.
The first step to get started with either WeChat Pay or Alipay is to download the latest version of the app. You’ll then find it’s relatively simple to follow the onscreen instructions to create your account. Here’s a runthrough of the basic steps required:
- Once you have the app you’ll be prompted to enter your phone number.
- You’ll receive a confirmation code which you enter into the app, and then be asked to either set up a passcode or fingerprint for security
- Look for the Me button on the bottom right corner - this gives you access to your account information which you can edit and review.
- Tap Me and choose the option Add cards to add a linked bank card
- It’s useful to know that you’ll need to enter all your information in the exact same way it’s registered with your bank. That means using the same ID document you used when you opened your account, and spelling your name in the same way. If you run into problems you can ask your bank to help you get set up directly.
- Once your account and card are linked, you’re ready to start spending.
- If you don’t see the WeChat Pay option within your WeChat app then it’s probably because the phone number you’ve used to set up your WeChat account is not from a supported country.
- That said, if you do happen to have a Mainland China bank account, you may still be able to use WeChat Pay, but you’ll need to have a friend who already has WeChat Pay send you a transfer to get started. Once you have the transfer you will see the option to set up WeChat Pay, so the money can be added to your account.⁷ ⁸
- When you can see the WeChat Pay wallet icon, you’ll need to click through and link your mainland China bank account or debit card. This step is necessary because it’s a form of ID check. The account must be linked to your passport to allow for identity checking.
- Follow the prompts to add your bank details and eligible phone number. You’ll have to also get and enter a confirmation code which is sent to your phone.
- You should be good to go now - as with Alipay, if there are errors when you’re getting set up, it may mean that the name you’re entering is not exactly the same as the name the bank has in their records. Even small details like using capital letters or lower case can mean your account isn’t accepted. Visit your bank in person if you run into problems.
Both WeChat Pay and Alipay offer overlapping functionality, and where you find one platform accepted - you’ll often find the other is, too. That means that which one you choose is largely down to personal preference. WeChat Pay has the advantage of being embedded in WeChat, making it a social way to send and receive payments, shop in apps, or buy within WeChat. As an alternative, Alipay offers some buyer protections, which can be useful, depending on how you use your account.⁹
WeChat Pay isn’t usually available to Singapore based customers. Alipay on the other hand is available, and you can always get the Wise multi-currency account and linked card as an alternative to make SGD to CNY transfers with the mid-market exchange rate.
With huge numbers of active accounts already, and growing influence in the world of digital payments, both Alipay and WeChat Pay are here to stay. Do a little research into which might work for your needs, and keep an eye on developments as increased functionality is rolled out to a wider audience over time.
No longer need your WeChat account? Here’s how to close and delete a WeChat account.
- Log into your WeChat account and tap Me, then Settings
- Tap Account Security and navigate to WeChat Security Center
- Select Account Cancellation and complete the details required to close your WeChat account
You can use a foreign debit card with Alipay International. However, WeChat Pay is not available to Singapore based customers. To register with WeChat Pay you’ll usually need to be in one of the supported countries, with a local bank account or card from that location.
- WeChat Pay Open Platform
- Channel News Asia - Singapore rolls out unified payment QR code SGQR in latest cashless push
- Straits times - 600 retail outlets islandwide in Singapore to accept China's WeChat Pay from Nov 1
- Smart Shanghai - Yes, foreigners can use AliPay - this is how
- Smart Shanghai - How to use WeChat Pay wallet and link a bank card
- WeChat Pay support - Why I don't have the WeChat Pay feature?
- WeChat Pay support - How do I activate the China's Mainland Wallet？
- Alipay - Member Protection
All sources checked on 20/01/2023
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 Wise Payments 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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