According to data published on the Internet, Alipay is now the biggest mobile payment platform having over 1.2 billion active users.

With mobile payments like Alipay, China has entered into a cashless society. You can pay for everything in every aspect of your daily life without carrying any cash in your pocket.

However, to many people in other countries, this kind of cashless lifestyle still remains a curiosity. For those who are not quite familiar with Alipay, this complete guide will help you to learn to use it like the Chinese locals.

How to open an Alipay account?

To apply for an Alipay account, you need to prepare

But no worry if you don’t have a Chinese bank card, you can still use Alipay through Tour Pass – a mini-app of Alipay we’ll get to know in the following text.

The application process itself is simple enough for everyone:

1. The first step is to download the Alipay app in an app store, which is available on both iOS (App Store) and Android (Google Play).

alipay google

2. Click the “Sign up” button and input a phone number that you can receive short message with.

Alipay Sign up Button
alipay sign up

3. After you finish the sign-up process, enter the “Me” page of Alipay, tap on the “Bank Cards” button, and submit your bank account information.

Me page
add bank card

4. Till this step you should’ve got yourself a fully functional Alipay account already, if not, you may need to carry on an additional verification process to verify your account.

How to make a payment with Alipay?

The most frequently used way of making payments is by scanning QR codes.

Generally, there are two types of QR codes: scan – to – pay and scan – to – collect, so there are two ways of making payments by scanning: either you scan someone else’s code, or someone else scans yours.

If you are making a payment when shopping, normally the merchant will display a code for you to scan.


After the scan, you have to type in the amount payable in the blank and click the “pay” button to finish the transaction.

If it is the other way around, you can show your pay code to the merchant, the payable amount will be automatically deducted from your account after the merchant scans your code.

Though this “pay vendors” code will be refreshed into a different one every minute, you still have to take enough precautions when showing your code in public places because anyone with an Alipay app can scan your code and transfer money out of your account.

If you are to receive money from someone else, like a friend of yours, you can use your collect code by tapping the “Collect” button right down below the “pay vendors” code.

 collect code

Besides scanning QR codes, if you have the receiver’s Alipay account, you can also use the “Transfer” feature, which normally can be found on the homepage of the Alipay app.

What Can I do with Alipay?

Alipay is known as a super app integrated with all kinds of mini-programs that cover almost all the demands you can possibly have during your everyday life.

The list goes on with more commercial and municipal features covering every aspect of your life, and most of these functions are used through the mini-apps installed on Alipay.

These mini-apps are extremely powerful in making your life more convenient. For demonstration, we’ll list a few of the useful mini-apps here:

1. Tour Pass

This mini-app was launched by Alipay in 2019, which is aimed at helping foreign tourists in China to solve the payment barriers. With this mini-app, you can access all those super-convenient features of Alipay even without a Chinese bank account.

The first step to use Alipay with your non-Chinese bank cards is to open this mini-app, which can be easily found in the “all” list of apps on the home page, or you can search for it directly in the search bar.

alipay tour pass

Then you have to upload your personal information such as your name, passport number, and visa photo to verify your identity. After that, you can top up your balance of the prepaid card provided by Bank of Shanghai by using your own bank cards.

alipay tour pass 2

Two tips to be noted when using this app:

the balance cap is RMB2, 000

the prepaid card will expire after 90 days from the application.

2. Utilities

This is a great app to pay all your housing bills such as water bill or electric bill at home without doing any paperwork.


And after paying your hosing bills, you can also ask your roommates, if any, to split the bills with you using the Collect function of Alipay.

3.  Top Up Center

One of the most used features by Chinese users. People use it to top up their phones and all kinds of things.


You just have to type in the phone number you intend to top up for, and choose the amount and pay – just as easy as that, you don’t need to go to any service provider or even open any website.

4. Card Repay

This is a rather convenient mini-app for repaying all your credit cards.

You can add your credit cards here and set a reminder for the repaying date, then you can repay your cards using any funds available in your Alipay account.

 alipay card repay

Of course, features like transactions checking and repaying history are also available too. 

5. Didi Taxi

It is probably the most important transportation app when you are traveling in China. Basically, it’s the Chinese version of Uber despite that it actually bought out Uber’s business in China a few years ago.


When you open this mini-app, you should see a UI showing your current location and a blank to fill in the destination you’d like to go to.

6. Air & Rail

This is another super useful app for traveling in China.

alipay air&rail

In this mini-app of Alipay, you can not only buy bus tickets, train tickets, and flight tickets but also book hotels.

7. Movies

Anytime you feel like going to a movie, an exhibition,or a concert, all you have to do is to open this mini-app on Alipay and see if there is anything you are interested in.


Choose a movie and this app will show you all the available cinemas near you.

You can easily locate the nearest cinema, pick a time, book a movie that you want to see, go out, use the Didi taxi mini-app, and go straight to your destination. 

8. Traffic

If you are going to stay in China for a while, this Alipay mini-app will certainly be of great use to you, especially when you live in big cities like Shanghai or Beijing.

 Alipay traffic

With this app, you can easily check the real-time traffic situation on Alipay.

Same as Didi Taxi, when you open this app you’ll face a UI showing your current location and a blank to input your intended destination.

When you type in your destination, it’ll show you 3 options to get there: the greenest option, the fastest option, and the cheapest option. You can choose your way of traveling based on your actual needs.

9. Exchange Rate

This is a very self-explanatory and easy-to-use Alipay mini-app.


With this app, you can check the real-time exchange rate between two currencies at any time.

You just have to choose the targeted currencies and edit the amount in one of them, and you will see the amount in the other currency.

All the above mini-apps can be found in the Alipay app list, while some of them are still in Chinese for now even if you set your language in English.

So, you might need to download a dictionary or a translate app on your phone to fully utilize these mini-apps on Alipay. Hopefully, Alipay will release an updated version to fix this issue in the future.


Answers for Commonly Asked Questions about Alipay

Further information about how Alipay works is included in this Q&A section, try and find if there is anything you need.

That depends on factors including your transaction type and payment channel, but the answer is a Yes under most of the circumstances.

As a verified Alipay user, you have a basic accumulated free quota of 20,000 yuan, after you exceed that threshold, you will bear certain service fees for the transactions you make on Alipay.

If the money is transferred through a mobile app, no service fee will be charged, if it is transferred through a PC terminal, a 0.1% service fee will kick in, starting from 0.5 yuan, capped at 10 yuan.

Normally, Alipay will charge the payable service fee from the transaction creator: for payment transactions, the service fee will be charged in addition to the transaction amount, for collection transactions, the service fee will be deducted from the transaction amount.

As far as we can tell, carry on your transactions through an Alipay mobile app as much as possible would save you from most of the service fees charged directly by Alipay.

Alipay does not involve itself directly in transaction disputes between buyers and sellers while it does offer an Alipay Member Protection program in relation to the compensation for unauthorized transactions.

That is to say, under most of the circumstances, if you have any quality issue with the products you buy, you’d have to solve it with your seller directly.

If you think your Alipay account has been involved in any unauthorized transaction, you should notify Alipay immediately, and they will conduct an investigation within 5 workdays (but it takes longer for newly created accounts).

If the investigation result is positive, Alipay will fully credit the transaction amount back to your account.

As for chargebacks and refunds, they are not under the Alipay Member Protection program, which means Alipay does not offer any internal dispute solution, and that buyers have to submit their disputes with the issuing bank of their credit card, if applicable.

Yes, even without a Chinese bank account, you can still access almost all the main Alipay features through a mini-app called the “Tour Pass” just like we’ve talked about in this article.

Yes, Alipay, with over 300 million overseas users, has successfully expanded its business all over the world.

Now its services are available in many countries, not only just in China towns or other China-related stores and shops, but also in the most original and local marketplaces.

Sure thing, dozens of currencies including U.S. Dollar, Euro, Japanese Yen, Great Britain Pound, Canada Dollar, and Australian Dollar are supported on Alipay.

There is an international payment service, known as the Cross-border Website Payment Solution, provided by Alipay.

By using this service, buyers can pay directly with RMB for things they buy from international merchants, while such merchants will be able to receive the money in their preferred currency through Alipay.

If any refund should occur after the transaction, the money will be returned to the payer at the original exchange rate.


The exchange rate is determined on a real-time basis.

When a buyer makes a payment on international websites, the settlement bank will provide the exchange rate at the time point of the transaction, which will be used to convert the payable foreign currency into an RMB amount that is to be deducted from the buyer’s account.

Start from 3 January 2020, all top-up will be charged a 5% service fee. The actual deduction amount will be subject to your bank statement.

When your Tour Pass expired, your unused balance will be funded back through the original top-up channel, no fees will be charged for that.

In that case, there is no known way of prolonging the validity period of the Tour Pass, but you could still try reapplying for a new Tour Pass, which shouldn’t take more than a few minutes.

The End

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