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Chinese payment giant Alipay has opened up to foreigners for the first time – here's how to get access

Jack Derwin
  • Alipay, one of just two dominant Chinese payment providers, has opened up its services to foreigners for the first time.
  • Short-term visitors will be able to access the app for 90 days without a Chinese bank account or phone number.
  • They'll be able to use the app as normal but will be restricted to holding a maximum of about $400 in their account at any one time.

It's one of the largest payment providers in the world, and chances are you haven't even been able to access it.

That's until now, with Alipay – sporting some 1.2 billion Chinese users both home and abroad – opening up its platform for the first time. Previously, foreigners found it almost impossible to do so without a local bank account and mobile number.

Ant Financial Services Group, owned by Alibaba and operator of Alipay, announced on Wednesday that an international version of the app will be set up and made available to both Android and Apple users. By selecting that option, foreigners will be granted 90 days access without meeting Chinese conditions.

Instead, non-Chinese users will need to hand over their passport information to load up a prepaid Bank of Shanghai card with a debit or credit card of their own. They'll be able to spend that money immediately although will be limited to holding between 100 and 2,000 Chinese Yuan ($20 - $414) on it. After the 90 day period, all extra funds on the card will be refunded.

Besides facilitating transactions, foreigners will also be able to book hotels, taxis, and train tickets through Alipay.

It's the latest move by Alipay to expand internationally, by onboarding short-term visitors to its system. That could add many of the 734,000 Australians who visit China every year to its customer base.

It comes after Alipay began pushing into the Australian market more aggressively, with the Commonwealth Bank bringing the platform to Australia late last year. It's since partnered with individual Australian cities like Sydney and Melbourne to push Chinese shoppers to shops that accept the payment service.

As Australians dip their toes with the app on their next visit, expect to start seeing more and more of Alipay here.