Alipay open to foreign visitors for first time

Previously available only to consumers with a Chinese bank account and local mobile number, Alibaba's e-wallet now can be used by short-term visitors to mainland China over a period of 90 days.
Written by Eileen Yu, Senior Contributing Editor

Foreign visitors in China finally will be able to use Alipay to pay for goods and services, marking the first time that Alibaba has opened up access to its e-wallet outside of its user population. Previously available only to consumers with a Chinese bank account and local mobile number, an international version of Alipay can be downloaded and used in mainland China over a 90-day period. 

This variation was designed specifically for international travellers, who would have to register with their overseas mobile number to access the Tour Pass function on the e-wallet, said Alibaba's fintech unit Ant Financial in a statement Tuesday. They then will be able to use their credit or debit cards to load funds, in Chinese yuan, onto a prepaid card service provided by the Bank of Shanghai, according to the Chinese e-commerce giant. 

The minimum amount Tour Pass users would have to top up is 100 yuan, with the balance amount limited to 2,000 yuan. Any remaining funds left at the end of the 90 days will be refunded. 

Foreign visitors can download Alipay on Google Android and Apple iOS devices. 

The e-wallet currently supports more than 1.2 billion users and can be used to pay for a range of services in-app, including taxi rides, hotel room bookings, and movie tickets, said Alibaba.

The move to open up access to Alipay will enable the Chinese vendor to tap a market potential of 30.5 million international visitors who travelled to China last year. This figure was 4.7% higher than 2018, according to Ant Financial, citing government stats. It added that tourists also were spending more across various sectors such as hospitality, shopping, and food, forking out 5.1% more last year to hit $73.1 billion. 

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