A foreigner’s life in Beijing without access to Alipay or Wechat Pay is like a fish out of water
“You might not have to make that trip to the bank after all,” Rob, a friend, messaged me over WeChat the other day. He attached a press release saying Alipay had launched an international version of its mobile payments platform for visitors to China.
Named “Tour Pass”, the app can be used for up to 90 days and could prove handy for me – I had moved from Hong Kong to Beijing for three months just over a month ago.
The last time I lived in Beijing, five years ago while studying at Peking University, cash was still currency, shared bikes did not exist and people did not have their morning Starbucks delivered via an app.
Since then China has transformed into an almost cashless society at an exceptionally fast pace. According to China’s central bank, People’s Bank of China, the volume of domestic mobile payment transactions reached 277.4 trillion yuan (US$41.51 trillion) in 2018, up more than 28 times compared with five years earlier.