If you haven't discovered by now, WeChat dominates China. While WeChat is essentially THE "social media" in China and is possibly the most popular way for people to communicate with each other in China, the app has evolved to become more of an all-in-one solution for basically everything in your life in China.
Beyond communicating, there are many life functions such as ordering a taxi, renting a bike, getting movie tickets, topping up your mobile phone account, sending money to friends...and paying for purchases. To do all of this, you need to know how to set up your WeChat wallet and connect it to your bank account.
It's easier than you think - so let's get started.
It used to be that you were required to have a Chinese bank card to use WeChat pay. However, this has just recently changed. Now you can use international credit cards with WeChat Pay!
This is an exciting option for many travelers to China, or expats who prefer to use an overseas card. However, there are a few limitations to what you can do with the international bank card. For example, currently you cannot transfer money to other people via WeChat with an international card, nor can you send around those fun little "red packets" of money. Primarily, international cards are just for consuming / purchasing items.
If you are living and working in China, then you will be getting a Chinese bank account anyway. So connecting your Chinese bank card to your WeChat is one of the most ideal ways to set it up - because you will be able to use more of the payment features (at least for now).
It's quite easy to get a bank account in China, you can read our post here about how to set up your Chinese bank account. Most expats who are working in China can get some help from their co-workers too.
Once you have your Chinese bank account set up, follow these steps on your WeChat app to set up the wallet feature and connect with your bank account.
If you are using a Chinese bank card, you need to verify your information and ensure that it matches identically with what your Chinese bank has on file. This can be challenging for some expats due to the fact that in China the family name typically comes before the given name of a person. So sometimes there can be mix ups - example, your bank account may create your account "Smith John" instead of "John Smith" -- so check carefully when you set up your account. Also, you will need to add your phone number - so be sure you have your new Chinese SIM card phone number on your bank account.
Expats will also need to change the ID Type to "Passport" so you can enter your passport number.
NOTE: Not all banks support using a passport as a form of ID. If you find you can’t change the ID type to passport, you may have to change a bank account. Here a recent list of banks that support using passport as an ID:
If you use an international bank card, you will be asked to enter you billing information. You will also be required to verify the card number and the security code on the card.
* Lastly, be sure you have contacted your bank to let them know you will be using the card in China. Some banks will reject overseas charges due to suspicions of fraud unless you tell them.
** Also, check to see if you will get charged fees for using your card overseas!
At this point, you should receive a text message to your phone that has a confirmation code that you will need to input.
Similar to a pin number on an ATM, you will need to create a Payment Password on your WeChat to confirm transactions. Since Chinese bank ATM PIN numbers are 6 digits as well, some people find it's easier to use the same PIN for their WeChat Pay Password. But it's important to still be discreet when you input it at payment.
Now that you are all set up with WeChat Wallet on your phone, you can easily pay for things in China without cash. Not just ordering things through the app or topping up your phone, but you can also send money to other people as well as getting the barcode scanned at stores, like 7-11.