How to use Alipay as a foreigner (Both in & outside China)

Adam Rozsa

If you love the convenience of digital wallets and cashless payments, you’ll be interested in Alipay.

It’s an eWallet mobile app used by Chinese nationals, both inside and outside of China. But the big question is - can foreigners sign up for Alipay?

Read on to find out how to use Alipay as a foreigner, both inside and outside of China.

We’ll also show you a low-cost way to make payments and manage your money in Chinese Yuan, using Wise.


Why use Alipay?

Customers in the US have access to lots of digital wallets, from Venmo to PayPal. They can make life easier, as you don’t need to carry lots of different debit cards around with you.

So with lots of different digital wallets to choose from, why use Alipay? Ultimately, it’s one of the easiest options to spend and make purchases if you’re traveling to China. It’s accepted everywhere, and users can send Chinese yuan to other Alipay users.

However, Alipay was originally designed for Chinese nationals with a Chinese bank account. They can use it worldwide, but foreign users aren’t able to access the standard app.

There is a way around it though, which we’ll look at in a moment.

Use Wise to manage your money in Chinese yuan

Moving or traveling to China, or have friends and family there? Wise can be a great option for managing your money in both USD and CNY.

You can send money to and from China with low and transparent fees, all for great exchange rates. You can even send CNY instantly to Alipay users, thanks to a recent linkup between Wise and Alipay. Find out more about how it works here.

Wise also offers:

  • A multi-currency account where you can hold 50+ currencies at once
  • Bank details in 10 currencies
  • Mid-market exchange rates on all transactions.
  • Order a Wise card for a one time fee of just $9 - for use in 174 countries

With the Wise card, you can pay everywhere and use ATMs while visiting China. This clever contactless card automatically converts your USD to CNY or whatever the local currency is, whenever you spend. This means you don’t have to worry about converting money or carrying cash around.

Get a Wise Account today

Please see Terms of Use for your region or visit Wise Fees & Pricing: Only Pay for What You Use for the most up-to-date pricing and fee information.

How to use Alipay in China

A recent change by Alipay has made the app available to foreigners when visiting China.

You’d normally need a Chinese bank account and local mobile phone number to use the Alipay app.

But with Alipay’s relatively new 90-day ‘tour pass’ program, you can use the app without these things. All you’ll need to do is link your US bank card and you can spend in CNY while in China.

Here’s a quick look at how to set up Alipay for foreigners:¹

  1. Download the Alipay app - it’s available for Android and Apple devices.
  2. Sign up with your US phone number
  3. Choose the Alipay International Version
  4. Select ‘Tour Pass’
  5. Enter load amount - this is the amount you’d initially like to load the app with
  6. Add your bank card
  7. Enter your ID information if asked. An important thing to remember here is that you’ll need to enter your ID details in exactly the same way that they’re registered at the bank.
  8. Complete the load money process.
  9. Once you’re all set up, you’ll be able to make Alipay payments in China wherever it’s accepted. Simply scan or show your QR code to pay at the checkout.

How to use Alipay outside of China

Unfortunately, as a foreigner, you can’t use Alipay without a Chinese bank account outside of China. This may change in the future, but for now the 90-day ‘tour pass’ is restricted to use within China.

This means that unless you’re a Chinese national with a Chinese bank account, you won’t be able to use Alipay in the US or elsewhere on your travels.

And that’s pretty much it - everything you need to know about using Alipay as a non-Chinese citizen. We’ve looked at how to verify an AliPay account for foreigners and the handy 90-day ‘tour pass’ option for traveling inside China.

Unfortunately though, you won’t be able to use Alipay in the US or anywhere else outside of China, unless you can link it to a Chinese bank account in your name.

The good news though is that there are plenty of alternatives available. You can use digital wallets such as Venmo or PayPal to pay for everyday purchases using your smartphone.

Or if you need to send money to China or anywhere else in the world, Wise offers a convenient, secure and low-cost solution.

Learn more about Wise

Sources used for this article:
  1. LTL Beijing - Alipay for foreigners

Sources checked on 07-May-2023.

*Please see terms of use and product availability for your region or visit Wise fees and pricing for the most up to date pricing and fee information.

This publication is provided for general information purposes and does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its subsidiaries and its affiliates, and it is not intended as a substitute for obtaining advice from a financial advisor or any other professional.

We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether expressed or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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