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Yes, Foreigners Can Use Alipay — This Is How

The easiest way to order McDonald's delivery. And transfer money and everything else. Now updated!
By May 16, 2019 Shopping

TELL EVERYONE

This article was originally published in 2015, when Alipay first became all the rage. Since then, it's changed our lives (better? worse?) and become second nature for those of us living in China. We went back to review the article in May 2019 and found that while there have been a few changes — which we have added in below — the general process remains the same. Welcome to the future!

Updated on May 15, 2019 for Version 10.1.62

Alipay, a.k.a. Zhi Fu Bao 支付宝 has been around for a while, but regular app tweaking means that the set up sometimes changes. The all-encompassing mobile payment service lets you pay for airline tickets instantly, transfer money to your landlord without leaving your couch, pay for cabs, Didi and utility bills, or buy a street beer at Family Mart with just a quick scan of your phone. To join the magical wonderland of mobile payments, check the in-depth guide below on setting up Alipay and connecting a Chinese bank account. (For WeChat Pay, click here.)

Step 1: Download Alipay and Sign Up with Your Phone Number



Shanghai"

Get the latest version of the app from your app store or download at Alipay's website, then sign up with a valid mobile phone number. Alipay will send a text message with a confirmation code to the number, which you will have to input. Set a password on the next screen or enable touch ID if your phone supports it, and the app will log you in automatically.

Next, let's add a bank card.


Step 2: Add Your Bank Card



Shanghai"

Tap "Me" on the bottom right corner, then tap "Bank Cards". If you haven't added a card before, it'll say "Add Card" which you should proceed to tap. You can also hit the plus sign in the top right-hand corner for the same function. If you already have cards added, this page will display the number of cards you have.


Step 3: Enter Your Bank Card Info



Shanghai"

Here is where you enter your Chinese bank card number. You can add foreign debit and credit cards here too, but to add funds into your Alipay balance you’ll need to add the Chinese one first. Hit next, and Alipay will display the name of your bank beside "Card Type". Fill in your name and other information.


Step 4: Confirm Your Phone Number and Other Info Registered With Your Bank



Shanghai"

Be sure to select the type of ID you have and enter in your personal information exactly the way it is registered at the bank. This is super important. If you run into any errors after completing the information, it means that your bank records are somehow different from what you have entered.

Try spelling your name in all caps and make sure that you are using the same special characters and phone number that your bank has on file. If none of this works, you can try going to your bank and setting up your Alipay account with the assistance of the bank's staff.

Alipay will send a text message containing a confirmation code to the phone number you've entered for your bank account. Enter this code to finish linking your bank card to Alipay. The next page you see should have a little Alipay logo with the Chinese characters “添加成功” underneath.


Step 5: Make Payments!



Shanghai"

Your bank card will now appear in the "Bank Cards" section. With that, you can make purchases with your phone just about anywhere in China. For on location payments, just tap the "Pay" button to load your personal QR code that can be scanned by friends and retailers.

Tap the scan button to make payments online at sites like, oh, let's say SmartTicket.cn. Alipay will also now be an automatic option for payments within mobile apps like Didi, Meituan, and of course, Taobao.

Here’s all the other things you can do.

TELL EVERYONE


68 comments.

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  • 4 years ago theannoyingtick

    You suggest using Safari however not every one uses Apple products ;)...just saying :P

  • 4 years ago handoogies

    This is making it more difficult and confusing than it needs to be. Don't click on the button that says you are a foreigner, just enter your card number and cellphone and you receive an activation code, set your password and you have zhifubao. I figured it out with mediocre Chinese reading skills while on scotch.

  • 4 years ago kelgia

    Handoogies, does that automatically link your card to your zhifubao (meaning whenever you purchase sthg, the amount is deducted directly from your card) or does it require you to have to top off your zhifubao account via your bank's e-banking platform before you can pay with zhifubao? Just wondering cuz I was never to pay directly bc everytime I got to the enter card number area, they would ask for an ID number and had no passport option.

  • 4 years ago SmartShanghai

    @handoogies: No. Creating a Zhifubao account is simple -- linking it to your bank account and going through the verification process is not.

    You'll automatically get a Zhifubao account when you sign up for Taobao, but you won't be able to do anything with it until you're verified. You can't even accept money transfers from friends.

  • 4 years ago leisa

    I'm at Part 3 and I'm having trouble linking my card. The app only allows for cards with 14-16 numerals while mine has 17 (it's a china construction card). Any solutions for this?

  • 4 years ago mikele84

    Yes, that is exactly what I had to do!

  • 4 years ago Duce

    Rad, nice one guys. Really useful.

  • 4 years ago smoteshanghai

    So you have to use a credit card for this method? There's an option to add a regular bank card on the user profile page of the app (lower right), but even copying and pasting my passport info (has letters but no letter input in app) I can't get it to behave.

  • 4 years ago Hakala.K

    I still say that this is incorrect for all the nationalities. If your country is not on the list of countries that you can choose from the registering list. You cannot register alipay account. I called last month to their customer service and they told me that. Unfortunately I am one of those ppl who cannot.

  • 4 years ago Woaizhongguo

    Actually Safari isn't specifically for Apple products, it works on Windows. Just saying :p

  • 4 years ago Owen89

    First Thanks for your effort, Second when you click on the blue one you don't get that page, i cannot find a registration page when you can put you Passport number as ID number, I am stuck at the Chinese ID number which I don't have :S

  • 4 years ago GanMa

    I completely agree with @handoogies, I've been using Alipay for over 2 or 3 years and quickly figured out not to do the "foreigner" option.

    All you need to know is the ID number you signed up to the bank with, and yes yes for us foreigners this will be your passport number but when i opened my account they added zero's to pad it out, so when i signed up to Alipay and thought the foreigner thing was way too long and ridiculous, i just entered my ID number exactly as my bank had it, with all the zeros added on and hey presto it worked. It didn't work just on it's own, as my passport number.

    Then when i pay for stuff it directly comes off my card not my alipay balance. As it stands, i can't use my card for online shopping on it's own as it's one of the crappy ones you get.

    Unless it's changed, which it doesn't look like it has, it's by far the quickest way to sign up. Technically, alipay doesn't know i'm a foreigner.

  • 4 years ago GanMa

    Also you can pay for things in convenience stores, buy movie tickets (including selecting seats) etc and of course lets not forget the hongbao games at Chinese New Year!

  • 4 years ago *Audrey*

    Very useful article, thanks a lot! I had an issue with completing the step 1, when I input my bank card number, it is said that this card number is already used (no idea why as I've never had an alipay account before), and apparently, the only way is to use another bank card, if your don't have another bank card, then you will have to go to the bank and ask for one or replace the previous one.

  • 4 years ago GanMa

    Me again! @Audrey, that sounds super dodgy, i'd get on to your bank about that one! If you defo didn't sign up before, it could be the card they gave you had a previous owner and after a period was reactivated and given back out.

    Also worth mentioning, El Fresh online now accepts Alipay as payment. Just have to navigate their terrible new site layout. #justsaying

  • 4 years ago kelgia

    @ you beat the system ;)

  • 4 years ago kelgia

    btw.. having the same issue as @leisa. the field only allows for up to 16 digits and mine has 19 (icbc).... does anyone have a solution for this?

  • 4 years ago GanMa

    @kelgia Trying linking the bank card on the web version - there is no limit there to how many digits the card has. My ICBC card also has more numbers than the app would allow nowadays, when i signed up the app wasn't around so it must be possible how - definitely log into alipay on the desktop, it's this link when you sign in:

    https://zht.alipay.com/asset/bankList.htm

    Google Chrome is easy enough to follow, but it's on the right hand side of the first menu bar, under "其他账户" you should see a little card sign, and then hover over the end part and the link for "management" comes up then go from there with adding a card.

  • 4 years ago Outofstep

    Another option is not to link your bank card but just top up your account through e-banking. Not as convenient but infinitely safer as they don't have your bank account on file. Worst case if your account gets hacked is that you lose your unused balance only.

  • 4 years ago calatrava

    @smartshanghai
    I've had an unverified alipay account for several years and have been able to make purchases just fine. When checking out, I just do the thing where I select my bank, enter the login info I set at my bank, then a PIN is sent to my phone. I enter the PIN online to complete the payment. This works just fine unless you want to make purchases over 1,000rmb per day.

    I've also had friends transfer me money just fine. There's a cap on incoming transfers for unverified users and I guess I haven't reached it yet.

  • 4 years ago cindylyq

    Thanks @SmartShanghai! I have the same problem as @Owen89. Any way around this?

  • 4 years ago kelgia

    it worked!!!! after alipay staff verifies your account, you can enter as many digits as you please in alipay's mobile app @ganma :) icbc, merchants, you name it, they all work. I got a linked card lalalala oh happiness!

    i know it is easy to top up the account through e-banking, but for me that required a web browser.. now i do not need to keep a balance in my alipay and can very easily purchase a movie ticket when i am away from a web browser.

    obs: remember to upload the pic of your visa + the customs stamp or else they write you back saying it is missing the official stamp...

  • 4 years ago calatrava

    Very odd. My partner had no difficulty in getting his Alipay account real-name verified using his China Merchants Bank account, but after his account was verified he was unable to link the same CMB account to Alipay wallet. He has his name and card # correct. He went to CMB to ask if they might know what the problem is and the response was that foreigners can't use CMB with Alipay. Man, sometimes bank employees are so misinformed and unhelpful.

  • 4 years ago abrdenim

    Just got it guys!!!
    forget about linking your card through the app. you have to do it on the web. it works.

  • 4 years ago Ewen

    @Calatrava
    Ive got the same problem! registered on the alipay website.. but in the app I cannot seem to link my card with the same info..

  • 4 years ago chris**

    Ok, bit of a catch 22 here.....cannot link a card with more than 16 digits using the phone app, but when you use the website it wants an ID card number with 18 digits. My passport doesn't have this many, and as I'm not Chinese I obviously don't have a local ID card.

    @kelgia, how did you get "Alipay staff to verify your account" to allow more digits on the phone app?

  • 4 years ago woofdine

    Part 3: Link a card only seems to be relevant for people with Merchant's bank credit cards. These are difficult to get for those not on residence permits. Has anyone had any luck linking a debit card as a foreigner?

  • 4 years ago kayybeeee

    What kind of China Merchants Bank account are you using? I went to go get one specially for this but it's saying it doesn't accept cards with the first four digits of what this is. . . it's just a standard debit card you walk out of the bank with. Is this wrong?

  • 4 years ago slouch

    I can set up an Alipay account verify the account successfully using my China Merchants Bank (CMB) account. However, when I try to top up the account using the Alipay app (US English version), it requires I input a "Chinese ID" - no other choice. Since I'm not a Chinese citizen, there's no way to link my CMB account with my Alipay account, and I can't add money. Any help?

  • 4 years ago Heaton

    Hi,
    everything went fine
    now when i try to enter my name (same as on my bank account )while recharging alipay account
    it says max 32 characters are allowed
    so is there any options to change that ?
    Thnx & Regards in advance :)

  • 4 years ago Consilium

    Are foreigners still unable to invest in the Alibaba money market through alipay?

  • 4 years ago Gougou Unverified User

    Does it apply to foreigners living outside China or only apply to foreigners living in China?

  • 4 years ago projectasia

    this is great. i feel so secure with the high technology of chinese banking. chinese are smart. amazon could learn something about the 87 step process above. thanks.

  • 4 years ago flocire Unverified User

    This article really helped me, its clear and easy to understand. I have limited ability reading chinese characters, this really saved me a lot of time (and stress). Thanks a lot.

  • 4 years ago Gredhine

    I was able to create an account, following these article
    The problem is, I cannot use it to pay for international transactions. I asked a friend; the reason was- I did not register a Chinese ID. Inputs to solve these are appreciated.
    Cheers!

  • 3 years ago DebinBJ Unverified User

    Alipay has told me to add a second bankcard to my existing/verified Alipay account in order to continue using the service... (I've triggered a check because of regular use)...

    How do I add another bankcard and get it verified using a passport number?
    It does not give me the option to nominate an ID type when adding a second bankcard and says the ID must be 15-18 characters...

    Any help would be appreciated.

  • 3 years ago ARK1975

    "GanMa" user i want to ask you some thing. Please forward me your e-mail address.

  • 3 years ago Benjamec

    Same as DebinBJ, it's now asking to add another bank card.
    What's the workaround here? Is it expected to have more than one bank card?

  • 3 years ago HazelH* Unverified User

    hi there may i know do we need to have china bank account for this?

  • 3 years ago Alex2334 Unverified User

    It seems you need to be a foreigner who lives in China. Is it possible to use Alipay if you do not live in China, you do not have Chinese bank account and you do not have Chinese bank/credit card?
    If I live in USA, can I use my card issued by US bank, or link my US bank account to Alipay? So far I did not have any success.

  • 3 years ago tochukwu Unverified User

    I am in Africa , Nigeria . Left China last year , i want o know if it’s possible to link my Nigerian bank account card ( visa / master card ) to my WeChat ? . How to do it ?

  • 3 years ago Jcak4878 Unverified User

    What if I dont own a China Bank Account, can I get one while residing in the United States?

  • 3 years ago jest Unverified User

    Tap "Bank Card Add" and you'll be prompted to enter in your bank card number. credit card icbc number or icbc bank account number?

  • 3 years ago adrlljh Unverified User

    i can't seem to verify my alipay account. there's no foreign nationality option anymore :(

  • 3 years ago JELMy

    I have started by installing the latest app version 10.0.0 from 22nd Dec 2016. It is all in Chinese only. Will try to go through as the field information should be more or less the same.

  • 3 years ago Houten Unverified User

    I no longer see the option to register as someone from out of China

  • 3 years ago Greebbean Unverified User

    If I from overseas and don't have any China bank account, how do I receive payment?

  • 2 years ago Derek6666666666 Unverified User

    I don't have a Chinese bank account or Chinese ID. How can I at least verify myself so that a friend can send me money?

  • 2 years ago FTP Unverified User

    Be careful, if your phone number is not Chinese.
    In the "Mobil" field type your country code + "-" + your phone number.
    Like for a French mobile number: 33-612345678
    It's not said anywhere but if you don't do so, it doesn't work.

  • 2 years ago isabellab

    But can I use an international credit card or do I have to have a chinese bank account?

  • 2 years ago sunsetlover

    Are there any limits to the amount you can transfer/withdraw to your linked bank debit card? Like Wechat has?

    For the people overseas, who don't have a Chinese bank account, who don't have a Chinese phone number, have very little to do with China other than sending/receiving payments from merchants, keep in mind two things: a) A Chinese who says can pay you only on Alipay is simply lying (it's very easy for them to do wire transfers ONLINE, with the cheapest transfer fees globally, plus Paypal is available in China), b) the fewer Chinese apps you use, the better (especially true for payment apps).

  • 1 year ago Wasiu Jimoh Unverified User

    Please, is alipay only available for Chinese banks or foreign banks with master card holders can also use it?

  • 12 months ago Upadhyay Unverified User

    Sir/ma'am... Can I use alipay if I don't have account in any Chinese Bank.. I'm going their soon..

  • 12 months ago El Unverified User

    This actually isnt possible in Italy

  • 11 months ago mew Unverified User

    what is i dont have a chinese bank card then what?

  • 9 months ago FrankWu Unverified User

    There is a hidden restriction in side the Alipay and Wechat pay App . which is if You a Foreigners Account user (Non China Mainland resident ) who use Alipay or Wechat . Your Foreigners Alipay or Wechat verified account is Hundred percent works But there is a Regional restriction imposed you can only use exclusively to China Mainland Merchant Business Like supermarket . Using Oversea merchant Alipay or Wechat pay requirement of Chinese ID verified account .

  • 8 months ago Kafui Unverified User

    How do I recharge/top up my bus card using Alipay? Can I do that actually?

  • 7 months ago Shalom57 Unverified User

    How to register international credit card? None of my cards are accepted.

  • 6 months ago RP Unverified User

    I can’t read Chinese. I see the posts saying I should use the website (and not the app) to register my account and add my American credit card ... but how do I access the taobao website in English?

  • 6 months ago RGP Unverified User

    Has any foreigner has paid using Credit Card through Alipay? The credit card has been issued in home country not in China.

  • 6 months ago asdfwww Unverified User

    Your title is misleading. It is only possible with a chinese bank card. And most tourist won't be able to get one.

  • 6 months ago Evdm Unverified User

    I am using it with a MasterCard linked. I went to the metro station trying to buy a ¥2 bottle of water. It failed. Got an error message. I could choose 2 options. First was to link a Chinese bank card. Skipped that option. Second was a different option wiht a logo and Chinese characters. Clicked and immediately I had the MasterCard option. Filled it all in and now my MasterCard is linked. Had a Chinese friend already deposit money in my account earlier that day. So that was already possible before the card was linked. Later for lunch I payed from the balance already in the account. So it is not deducted from the card. You can select the order of payment in the settings menu. So first 'balance' and then credit card or other way around. To be save I set it to balance first. Even got change in shop where I payed cash and the difference was put in my account.

    Still have to try if it works when I put MasterCard first and then balance.

    BTW, before I went to buy my water I first uploaded my passport details through the account verification page.

  • 6 months ago Evdm Unverified User

    Update on my previous comment:
    Even with the order of payment changed into: credit card first it still deducts all payments from my balance.

  • 6 months ago PuniPuni Unverified User

    Thank you for the nice article.
    Can foreigners own a Chinese bank card? I tried my credit card (VISA) but it wasn't accepted.

  • 3 months ago Mrs Arichan Unverified User

    It is not available for Spain !

  • 2 months ago Sisca Unverified User

    What if I don’t have chinese bank card

  • 8 days ago catsrule Unverified User

    Alipay can now be used without a Chinese bank card. Search "tour pass" in the alipay app. It lets you create a temporary (3 month) virtual bank card and top up using mastercard or visa. Seems to have a 2000 rmb limit, but I'm not sure if that is a total amount for the duration of the temporary card or not. I am in China right now and was planning to make time to open a bank account when I found this info. Just tried paying with it at a vending machine- it worked perfectly. It asks for your passport number, name, birthday, and a photo of your Chinese visa.

  • 7 days ago catsrule Unverified User

    Update: it looks like you can top the 'TourPass' up to 2000 RMB whenever, that is just the max you are allowed to have on the virtual card at any time. Hm... This solution for Alipay came out just in time for double 11. Coincidence?

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