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How does WeChat Pay work

The company gradually makes this wallet available for foreign customers

WeChat Pay

How does WeChat Pay work. Source: shutterstock.com

Tencent stated that the number of active WeChat Pay (mobile payments) users increased to more than 600M in 2017. Alipay by Alibaba, which is their main competitor, by comparison, had only 450M clients in the same year. However, WeChat Pay transaction volumes are not so impressive. Less than 20% of WeChat Pay transactions exceeded the amount of RMB 1000 (roughly $150).

Nonetheless, WeChat Pay has become part of everyday life for the Chinese. They use it to pay whenever and wherever they want because it is a widely accepted payment system (from taxis and subways to markets and hospitals).

Today we’ll try to find out what WeChat Pay is and how it works.

So, what exactly is WeChat Pay?

WeChat Pay is a payment solution integrated into the popular Chinese WeChat messenger, owned by Tencent. A user can access it through the “Wallet” tab in the messenger app. With its help, users can send money to their friends, pay for goods and services online, top up mobile accounts, pay bills, call and pay for a cab, buy tickets, book hotels, and much more.

How does WeChat Pay work?

Since WeChat Pay is integrated into the WeChat multi-featured app, the payment service is compatible with any smartphone. An interesting fact is that 90% of smartphones in China come with the WeChat app pre-installed which makes it even more convenient to use this payment service.

So, what do you need to become a WeChat Pay user? You’ll need a WeChat account, ID, and a bank card with a linked mobile number.

However, the «Wallet» tab may not be displayed in the app menu. It happens if a user downloads the international version of the app. A user will have to change the language to Chinese in the app settings in order to enable the “Wallet” tab. The “Wallet” button will not disappear if a user switches languages back.


You can register a wallet account only if you have a Chinese bank card, or if you are in China at the moment when you try to implement this.

If the registration process is successful, WeChat will charge your bank card with a small amount of money, and then recredit the funds.

Types of payments:

Quick Pay — a user scans his/her unique QR code, after which the system charges the required amount.
QR-Code Payment — a user scans the seller’s QR code, enters the required amount of money, and confirms payment with their password.
In-App Web-based Payment — this option is best for making payments for goods and services on a commercial WeChat account. For example, this is the way you could purchase goods at JD.com.
In-App Payment — it is used for third-party app payments. However, it works only with those apps that have integrated WeChat Pay SDK.

WeChat Pay is almost a fee-free system, like the Alipay one. The only fee a user pays is 0.1% in the case of cashing more than RMB 10,000, or in the case of cross-border transfers.

Moreover, WeChat Pay is open to corporate accounts. Usually, customers use such accounts to link them to a company website or integrate them in the app or WeChat store. There are two ways to link your firm to WeChat Pay:

  1. You can implement it if your company is registered in mainland China;
  2. Another way is to create a cross-border payment WeChat account and link it to your foreign bank account.

The most common ways to use WeChat Pay:

  • To pay a subway fare — it works for both tokens and subway passes.
  • To call and pay for a cab — if you use Didi Chuxing, the system will charge your wallet account automatically. If you use any other cab service, you’ll have to scan the driver’s QR code, which you’d find on the front panel of the vehicle.
    For shopping — scan the seller’s QR code. Usually, you can find it at the cash register or near a payment terminal.
  • To pay in cafes and restaurants — normally a waiter brings the QR code at the request of the consumer. By the way, you can also split the bill in WeChat Pay.
  • To perform payments in mini-apps — in particular, customers use it to pay for hotels, tickets, bicycle rental, etc.
  • Markets and street vendors — even street-food vendors accept mobile wallet payments in China.

Foreigners should remember one word — «Weixin». That is how WeChat is called in Chinese.

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