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China further streamlines mobile payments for foreigners

BY :Xinhua

UPDATED :2024-03-04

A consumer scans an Alipay QR code to pay for the order at a self-service restaurant in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province. (Photo/Xinhua)

China has reiterated its commitment to facilitating mobile payment for foreigners, a move that indicates its resolve to enhance high-level openness.

Zhang Qingsong, deputy governor of the People's Bank of China, said the central bank will guide payment platforms such as Alipay and Tenpay to raise the single transaction limit for overseas travelers using mobile payments from US$ 1,000 to US$ 5,000, and the annual cumulative transaction cap will be raised from US$ 10,000 to US$ 50,000.

Efforts will also be made to simplify identity verification and provide easier access for foreign visitors to manage various processes, such as card binding, according to Zhang.

Zhang said the central bank will also guide payment institutions to introduce a slew of convenient measures to "make mobile payments products satisfactory and pleasing for foreign friends to use."

After years of rapid growth, China has emerged as a front-runner in mobile payment. The penetration rate for mobile payments in the country reached 86 percent, the highest in the world, by the end of 2023.

However, the widespread use of mobile payment also poses hurdles for first-time visitors to China. Foreign visitors relying on bank cards and cash may encounter difficulties during payment processes, as street vendors or small-scale service providers often prefer mobile payment to cash or international credit cards.

The inconvenience experienced by some foreign visitors can mainly be attributed to the differences in payment practices between China and other countries, said Xu Hong, dean of the College of Tourism and Service Management, Nankai University.

"It is imperative to develop diversified means of payment and provide convenient and tailored services for foreign visitors to meet their payment demand," Xu added.

The Chinese government has already rolled out multiple measures to help foreigners enjoy a hassle-free payment environment in China, akin to that enjoyed by locals.

Meanwhile, Chinese banks are actively working to broaden the acceptance of overseas bank cards and facilitate cash usage within the country. Major payment institutions are encouraged to diversify the range of mobile payment products and develop digital yuan solutions to cater to the mobile payment requirements of foreigners.

Alipay and WeChat Pay, China's two major payment apps, now allow foreign users to link their international credit cards, including Visa and Mastercard, to their platforms, greatly streamlining the payment processes.

Efforts are also afoot to strengthen regulations concerning mobile payments. China has issued rules on the supervision and administration of nonbank payment institutions to address concerns over privacy protection.

Zhu Keli, a researcher at the China Institute of New Economy, said that enhancing payment services can stimulate consumption among foreigners in China and consequently spur the development of related industries.

Meanwhile, the payment environment also plays an important role in enhancing the country's image in the global arena, Zhu added. 

Editor: Pauline