How Do Foreigners Pay In China?

When you decided to travel to China, you will have to make payments for various services. For example, you may need to make payments on small issues like when you use public transit systems. Also, when you want to enjoy the local markets’ cuisines. However, many places in China will not be accepting your normal Master or Visa cards directly.

Therefore, in most cases, you will find the visitors and tourists will generally use cash. Over the years, making cash payments has been an easier path in China for foreigners. Besides, you could not use most of the giant cashless platforms to make payments as a visitor due to the lack of a local bank account.

This position has since changed over time and has allowed visitors to explore some of the cashless options. Plus, with the current Covid-19 pandemic, you may want to go cashless and promote safety measures for everyone.

Foreigners visiting China usually pay for services using either cash or cashless apps (rather than credit cars). Non-residents usually use the WeChat Pay and Alipay platforms while in China. Alipay has a version that supports various international credit and debit cards.

You can download one of these applications on the google play store for android devices. On the other hand, there is another version on the Apple store for IOS users.

Previous Payment Issues for Foreigners

The Chinese had not put in place a payment system that could accommodate foreigners in their country. Therefore, in almost all the situations, you had to make cash payments that most service providers did not want. Also, they would ask the foreigners to make payments using their cashless systems. However, it was redundant to open a bank account in China for such a short stay as a tourist.

Remember that you had to have a local bank account to access some of the cashless payment methods like Alipay and WeChat. Plus, in most smaller cities, you will likely have to use cash to get any services. If you could use your credit cards, you could incur hefty banking fees from your home bank and the Chinese one. In most cases, foreigners would only use debit and credit cards for significant payments.

Cash Payments in China

Despite the raging Covid-19 situation worldwide, the Central Bank of China has been urging its locals to accept cash. Plus, they promised to punish anyone who will not be taking money and practicing discriminatory acts. However, the locals there are still reluctant and seem to be migrating to digital payment methods. All I can say is that the cash payment methods in China are dying out. Plus, the government has been urging people to use more innovations and creativity.


As for the foreigners, you can now also open a bank account, but they will advise you to link it to Alipay. However, if you go to China for a short stay, you may not need to open an account. The new version of Alipay will allow you as a foreigner to attach your home banking card to the app.

You can use your credit card or a debit card to make a transaction through the app. This is one of the most remarkable reliefs for most foreigners in China. Plus, it means you will not have to touch money due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Remember that you can use the app to pay for anything, including paying your utility bills, bread, transport, and sending money to others.

WeChat Pay

WeChat Pay is a part of Tencent that allows you to enjoy various services similar to Facebook and Instagram. On the other hand, it is a payment platform that will enable you to make payments and send money to others. It has two versions within the same app that support the locals and one for foreigners. It will give you an easy time to make transactions anywhere all over China by scanning bar codes.

You can use it to make payments for everything like Alipay. So, you can use it to pay for your transport, food, and utility, among others. All you need to enjoy this app is an active contact number anywhere in the world. Additionally, it really works well on both IOS and android phones. Remember that you will have to attach your credit or debit card to make transactions as a foreigner.

Pay Tips for Foreigners in China

Paying tips in China’s mainland is not an ideal concept that is acceptable among the locals. Most people even frown on the idea. However, some hotels that cater to tourists seem not to mind the concept of tipping for good services. It is ideal for tipping the service providers in cash or gifts brought from your home country. It is also reasonable to tip in the local currency as other currencies may not be acceptable.

The local Chinese use yuan (¥). You can convert some of your currency to theirs. Tipping is good etiquette to show appreciation to an individual who may help you with bags at a hotel. Moreover, it is an ideology that you should insist on in case you get these extra services. Usually, you should tip at least 5 to 30 yuan, depending on your generosity.

Final Thoughts

Touring China is one of the most exciting things that one can do in one’s lifetime. They have rich traditional and cultural values that will wow anyone.

However, they have had a difficult period transitioning to accommodate payment methods for their visitors. More recently, they have been able to make changes and accommodate everyone through innovative cashless ways. Besides, during the covid-19 pandemic, it is wise to promote cashless methods to help end the virus’s spread.

Gui Hadlich

Hey there, I'm Gui! I was born in Brazil, and I got to travel the world playing tennis. In 2014 I moved to the US to study, and ended up staying here. I've been a student, got married, got a green card, bought a home, and started a business - all without being a citizen. I know how difficult it can be to find answers when you are living in a foreign place, and this is why I started Foreigner Living - to help you with any questions you may have!

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