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Everything You Wanted to Know About Alipay

Everything You Wanted to Know About Alipay

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Visitors to China often have trouble paying for goods and services since China is over 90% cashless. Most people pay for goods and services in China via mobile payments, but if you’re a visitor or Chinese National, you may not have a Chinese bank account or local phone number to use mobile payments.

Enter Alipay, the solution for visitors to make mobile payments in China.

What is Alipay and How Does it Work?

Alipay is an e-wallet service like Apple Pay or Google Pay but in China. You store your debit or credit card information in the app and use it to make purchases with your phone both in-person or online.

You can use it anywhere it says ‘Alipay accepted.’ As a visitor, you can get up to a 90-day pass to use Alipay while visiting China.

What is the Difference between PayPal and Alipay?

PayPal and Alipay seem similar because they are both peer-to-peer payment platforms. PayPal is accepted almost worldwide but is most popular in the United States and Asia.

Alipay is used in China only. It’s for Chinese residents, but visitors can get a 90-day Tour Pass to use it while in China.

How do I Pay with Alipay?

To pay with Alipay, you must first download the Alipay app and sign up for an account. It’s free. Here are the steps.

1. Open the App and Enter Your Phone Number

Alipay will verify the phone number by sending you a text. Put in the confirmation number texted to you and it will prompt you to set up a password. You can also set up Touch ID for easier use.

2. Add Your Bank Cards

Once you have an account, click on ‘me’ at the bottom of the screen. From there, you’ll see a section to add your bank cards. Click on ‘bank cards’ and enter the information for one or more cards.

3. Buy Prepaid Chinese Bank Cards

If you are a foreigner, you can buy prepaid Chinese bank cards to add funds to your Alipay account for easier payment.

4. Confirm Your Bank Information

You must enter all your information just as the bank has it. Alipay will confirm with your bank and if you don’t input identical information, it won’t get approved. Think of middle initials or any nicknames you may have used when you signed up for your account.

5. Make Payments

Once you get approved, you can use Alipay to make payments. If you’re paying in person, click the ‘pay’ button on your app and give the QR code to the retailer. If you’re shopping online, choose Alipay as your form of payment and follow the prompts. It works just like if you chose PayPal or any other mobile payment option.

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Is Alipay Similar to Affirm?

Alipay and Affirm are two different payment services. Alipay works more like PayPal or Apple Pay, giving you the option to make mobile payments. In other words, you don’t need your wallet or cards present to pay for purchases.

Affirm is an installment loan that makes purchases easier to afford. With Affirm, you can spread your payments out over 4 installments with the first payment made at checkout. The remaining payments are made every two weeks.

Can I use Alipay in the USA?

Alipay was banned for use in the United States at the tail end of President Trump’s time in office. The ban was put in place to protect American’s information from the Chinese, who the office at the time claimed collected the data for other purposes.

Even though Alipay isn’t available in the United States, Americans can use it to pay for goods and services in China if they have an international bank account.

Is Alipay in English?

When Alipay started, it was not in English but used the basic Chinese language. Today, it is available in English making it easier for American travelers to use it in China.

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What Retailers Accept Alipay?

There are many retailers that accept Alipay, and the list grows daily. There are both online and brick-and-mortar stores that accept it. Here are a few online stores that accept it:

There are also several brick-and-mortar stores that accept Alipay including:

  • Guess
  • Lacoste
  • Neiman Marcus
  • Saks 5th Avenue
  • Macy’s
  • Walgreens

Do you Need a Chinese Bank Account to use Alipay?

Alipay was originally created for Chinese citizens and was only available to them. Today, though, visitors can get a short-term pass called the Tour Pass that allows them to use Alipay for up to 90 days.

As long as you load your account with enough funds to cover your time in China, you can use Alipay for 90 days. If you plan to use the service for longer than 90 days, though, you will need a Chinese bank account.

Foreign nationals or visitors can top up their account with up to 2,000 yuan and the minimum is 100 yuan at a time.

Pros and Cons of Alipay


  • You don’t have to carry cash, which lowers your risk since you don’t have to worry about losing it or it getting stolen
  • Digital payments are much more convenient. It takes only seconds to pay for your goods and services.
  • The cost is low.


  • You can only use it for 90 days without a Chinese bank account. If you stay longer than 90 days, you can’t use it without one.
  • The money isn’t insured. Be careful with how much money you put in your Alipay account. If it’s hacked, it’s not insured.

Final Thoughts

If you’re visiting China, you’ll want to get to know Alipay. It’s the easiest way to pay for goods and services while there and you don’t need a Chinese bank account.

Load your account and know that you have 90 days to use it. If your stay is longer, you will need to look into getting a Chinese bank account.

If you are in the US, the best alternative is to use the Apple Pay Wallet and shop stores that accept Apple Pay. 

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