How to use WeChat Pay as a foreigner: Step-by-step guide

WeChat is a super popular social media site, with over a billion users globally. It originated in China, but is now pretty well known around the world. As well as allowing people to connect socially, it also offers payment services through WeChat Pay – known as Weixin Pay in China.

If you’re visiting China, having WeChat Pay could be handy for mobile and QR payments – this guide walks through the options you have to use WeChat Pay as a foreigner. And because WeChat doesn’t offer its full range of services for people based outside of Mainland China, we’ll also touch on a couple of alternatives – Wise and Revolut.

Key points: WeChat Pay for foreigners

  • WeChat Pay can be used with a US bank card for mobile payments in China and other countries which support WeChat Pay for merchants
  • Not all WeChat Pay serv
  • ices are available for people who live outside of Mainland China
  • The features of your WeChat Pay can vary depending on where you live, and where your bank card was issued
  • Multi-currency accounts with debit cards you can use in China from providers like Wise and Revolut are good alternatives to WeChat Pay

Go to WiseGo to Revolut

Can I use WeChat Pay as a foreigner?

When WeChat Pay was first launched it was not possible to use it without a Chinese bank account and card. However, WeChat Pay now offers some features to international users. As a foreigner you can open a WeChat Pay account and add an international bank card, to make payments in stores and online. However, not all features are available to all international users – you’re unlikely to be able to send money to others, or receive gifts of money, for example.

What is WeChat Pay?

Paying with a mobile wallet is extremely common in China – and WeChat Pay is one of the most popular services to make mobile payments in stores and online. With WeChat Pay, users can:

  • Pay with the Quick Pay service
  • Scan for a QR Code payment
  • Make an in-app payment, either directly on a phone or on a desktop site
  • Make a Mini Program payment

Some WeChat Pay customers can also send and receive transfers or Red Packets – gifts of money. However, this service isn’t usually offered to users with an international phone number and bank card.

WeChat Pay prosWeChat Pay cons
✅ Huge user base, very popular in China and Southeast Asia

✅ Make mobile payments in person

✅ Pay online and in apps

✅ Link a foreign bank card to pay from your US account

❌ Not all services available to foreign users

❌ Verification processes required to access an account

❌ Charges may apply, either from your bank or direct from WeChat Pay

While WeChat Pay can be helpful for making payments when you’re in China, it’s not universally accepted, and as a foreign user you’re unlikely to get full feature access. Having additional options to send and spend CNY when you’re in China is essential. One good solution is to get a multi-currency account from a provider like Wise or Revolut, which comes with a card you can use to make payments and withdrawals in China and around the world. We’ll touch on these alternatives in more detail, next.

Go to WiseGo to Revolut

Alternatives to WeChat Pay

WeChat Pay can be used for mobile payments in China and in some other countries, with particular acceptance in Asia and places where Chinese visitors are frequent. However, as an international user you can’t access all of the services available from WeChat Pay – plus it doesn’t have a physical card you can use for chip and PIN payments or withdrawals. Here are a couple of alternatives which may be worth considering instead of – or as well as WeChat Pay:

Wise – Open a Wise account to hold and exchange 40+ currencies including CNY. You’ll also get a physical debit card and may be able to open a virtual card for mobile payments around the world, too. Learn more: Wise card review

Go to Wise

Revolut – Choose from different tiers of Revolut account depending on the features you need. You may not be able to hold a balance in CNY, but you can hold and exchange 25+ currencies, and spend in CNY easily when you’re in China.

Go to Revolut

How to use WeChat Pay

As a foreign user, the main features you’ll get with WeChat Pay are designed to make it easy to pay for things in person, in apps and online. Depending on where you are, and which card you link to your WeChat account, you may be able to:

  • Pay with the Quick Pay service by showing your WeChat code to a cashier, who can scan it to withdraw payment from your WeChat account or linked card
  • Scan a merchant’s QR code to make a direct QR Code payment in a store
  • Make an in-app payment, either directly on a phone or on a desktop site by selecting WeChat Pay at the checkout

How to pay with WeChat Pay

To pay with WeChat Pay you’ll need to bind a debit or credit card from an eligible network and institution. Then when you make a payment, funds are simply debited from your card’s account. Some WeChat Pay users may also be able to hold a WeChat Pay balance and pay from this. Here’s how to add a bank card to WeChat Pay to start paying:

1. Download the WeChat app

WeChat is available for Apple and Android phones – make sure you’ve got the most up to date version of the app installed on your phone for security reasons.

2. Register an account and add WeChat Pay

To use WeChat Pay you’ll need to register a WeChat account first, and can then add the payment feature once you’re all set up. This is all done from your phone and has on screen prompts in English to guide you.

3. Follow the prompts to add an eligible bank card

Within your WeChat app, go to Me, then Services, then Wallet. You’ll see the option to link a card and can follow the prompts to enter your card details for future payments.

4. Complete the verification checks

You’ll be asked to verify your identity – as an international customer this will require you to upload an image of your passport. You’ll also need to upload a selfie, as well as confirming some personal information such as your full name and your occupation.

5. You’re ready to pay in stores and online

Once your card is linked to WeChat Pay you can start to make payments.

Can I use WeChat Pay without a Chinese bank account?

Yes. You can link your WeChat Pay account to an international bank card issued on a major network like Visa or Mastercard.

Can you send money with WeChat in the US?

WeChat Pay users with a Mainland China account can send and receive payments. However, this service isn’t usually available to customers who have linked a foreign bank card. If you have opened your WeChat Pay account using Chinese details, look out for the send function within your app.

How to top-up WeChat Pay account

Not all WeChat Pay customers can add a balance to their account – it depends somewhat on where in the world you are. If you can’t, you can still use your account by linking a card. If your account offers the option to add a balance you can do so by taking the following steps:

  1. Open up the WeChat app and tap on “Me”
  2. Choose “Services” and tap “Balance”
  3. Tap “Top Up” and enter the value you want to add to your account

WeChat Pay fees

There’s no fee to create a WeChat account, or to activate WeChat Pay. However, fees might still apply when you use WeChat Pay to transact. Costs can vary based on where you are, the currency you’re spending and the currency of your card. For example, if you link a USD bank card, and use WeChat to make a payment in China in CNY, you may pay a foreign transaction fee to your card provider. Check the terms and conditions of your specific card, or reach out to the bank which issued it, if you’re unsure of the fees associated.

WeChat Pay transaction limits

WeChat Pay is likely to have transaction limits, including limits per transaction, per month and per year. You’ll be able to see the transaction limits which apply to your account in the weChat Pay app.

Is WeChat Pay free to use?

WeChat is free to download, and there’s no fee to add your payment card. Once you start to transact overseas you may find you pay fees, such as a foreign transaction fee. This is paid to your card issuer, rather than WeChat Pay – double check your card’s terms and conditions to see if any costs are likely to apply here.

How to send money with WeChat Pay

WeChat Pay offers a couple of options for sending money – Red Packets, and transfers. You may find these options aren’t available to you if you’re using WeChat Pay as a foreign user. If you’ve got the functionality to send a transfer you’ll need to take the following steps:

  1. Open a chat with the person you want to send money to
  2. Tap transfer
  3. Enter the amount to send
  4. Confirm the transfer

How to receive money on WeChat Pay as a foreigner

If you’re able to receive transfers to WeChat Pay you’ll see the money deposited in your account without needing to take any specific action. Red Packets are usually used for gifting money. Users in the US don’t have this feature, but if someone sends you a Red Packet first you may find the feature is then available within your WeChat Pay account.

What details do I need to give to the sender

If you’re eligible to receive payments on WeChat Pay, the sender should simply be able to tap on your name in their contacts to open a chat, and make the payment that way.

How to withdraw money from WeChat Pay

If someone has sent you money on WeChat Pay you can withdraw it to your linked bank card:

  1. Log into WeChat and tap “Me”
  2. Tap “Service”, then “Balance”
  3. Follow the prompts to set up your withdrawal

WeChat Pay mobile app

You can get WeChat Pay for Apple and WeChat Pay for Android phones. The app has had hundreds of millions of downloads, and is pretty well rated by users.

Is WeChat Pay safe?

WeChat Pay is a huge and trusted payment platform across China and in many other countries globally. It uses encryption and industry level security measures to keep accounts safe. It’s important to take common sense precautions when using WeChat, to keep your own account secure – but in general, it’s considered a safe platform to use when making payments.

Conclusion: Using WeChat Pay as a foreigner

WeChat Pay can be used with a foreign bank card, which means you may be able to download WeChat and add your US card for payments in China and elsewhere. WeChat app payments are super popular in China which makes this a good option for travel there. However, it’s helpful to know that foreign users may not be able to activate all the features of WeChat Pay, such as sending and receiving payments.

As well as WeChat Pay, consider getting an international debit card from a provider like Wise or Revolut for your trip to China. Both allow you to hold a multi-currency balance and spend easily with your linked debit card – plus you could cut down on the overall costs of foreign currency spending by avoiding international transaction fees.

Go to WiseGo to Revolut

How does WeChat Pay work FAQs

How to activate WeChat Pay?

To Get WeChat Pay you’ll need to download the WeChat app, register, and then add the wallet feature. You’ll have to add a bank card, and get verified by uploading an image of your ID and a selfie.

Can foreigners use WeChat Pay in China?

Yes. You can download WeChat and add your foreign bank card to it to make payments when you’re in China. Bear in mind that spending with a US issued bank card in China may mean you pay a foreign transaction fee – double check your card’s fee schedule before you travel.

Which is better for foreigners – WeChat Pay or Alipay?

Both WeChat Pay and Alipay are very popular means of payment in China. Neither is better – both can be used with a foreign bank card, with similar features and functions. If you’re about to travel to China it’s a smart idea to add one of these services to your phone, and to take a long a low cost international debit card from a provider like Wise or Revolut as well, for cash withdrawals and chip and PIN payments where they’re needed.

Go to WiseGo to Revolut

Claire Millard
Fintech Content Writer
Claire Millard is a content and copywriter with a specialty in international finance. Her work has featured in The Times and The Telegraph, as well as industry magazines and leading personal finance blogs.
Read more
Seyma Mektepli
Seyma is an experienced content writer and editor-in-chief at Exiap, delivering informative articles on personal finance, and money transfers.
Read more
Last updated
June 19th, 2024