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Oh dear, cash in China!

Trips to China are routine to me, but this hot August of 2018 was something special. Never before did I have such a feeling of hopelessness and despair, as when I found myself without money, transport and ability to order food.

My first encounter with cruel WeChat Pay antifraud system happened in the very first day when using Didi from WeChat went somehow wrong. My WeChat Pay got blocked. And there was a handsome sum there. Of course, I didn’t have any cash, who needs that, right? Of course, Visa and MasterCard are not accepted. The nearest proper bank ATM where I could withdraw cash was several km away. Even if you can get a taxi, you can’t pay for it. Same goes for public transport. So here you go.

When we got to ATM and finally withdraw yuans, our difficult times were not yet over. Actually, far from it. When sitting down in the nearby cafe, there was no paper menu, only a QR-code sticker on the table. You are supposed to scan it with either WeChat or Alipay, that opens menu web-page, you make up the order and pay for it within before it places the order to kitchen online. Oh that fright and confusion when I asked to order by voice, and pay with cash.

Taxi trips usually finished with scared driver: “Oh, but i cannot give you change, I have no cash!” At some point to our disbelief Didi allowed to link a Russian-issued card to it, and actually got to withdraw from it. This saved us in the trips to come. Not always though. Some cars can't support such payment, and require either WeChat or Alipay. You can’t pay for them, but you can call for them. :)

There were times when Chinese taxi drivers were making a fool of me. Now it was the time I was making a fool of them, when they rushed away saying "The payment will go through, that’s okay”, while I was trying to give them cash. Interesting fact, when you message taxi driver using word "cash", trying to get them paid, the message does not go through. At all. I tried multiple phrasing until found out, it is this word that is not allowed in conversation. Cash — a word flagged by the censorship.

In the Shanghai international airport that thousands of foreigners pass through every day there were at least two places (to much of my luck) where neither Visa, MasterCard, nor ApplePay, SamsungPay worked. Contrary to logos displayed in front of you, and visible modern POS with support for all. It seems cashiers just don’t know how to operate card payment anymore.

Surely enough, you may get by in this country without WeChat Pay or Alipay. It’s going to be a bit painful, you are going to use a few foreigner tricks here and there. But honestly, the only way to feel yourself in touch with this reality in China, you HAVE to use them. Welcome to the new age.

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Comments: (6)

Ketharaman Swaminathan
Ketharaman Swaminathan - GTM360 Marketing Solutions - Pune 12 October, 2018, 09:36Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Nice post, albeit a bit scary! 

I have one question about funding sources supported by Alipay / WeChat Pay. I'm sure they include Chinese bank accounts. But what about Chinese and foreign credit / debit cards - are they also supported?

Anna Kuzmina
Anna Kuzmina - Yandex.Money - Moscow 12 October, 2018, 16:26Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Thank you! You're right - Alipay and WeChat Pay requires Chinese bank cards. Both Alipay (Chinese app) and WeChat users are able to add foreign cards in the app, but can't transact from them.

Alexander Peschkoff
Alexander Peschkoff - Trusted - London 16 October, 2018, 10:55Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Thank you for sharing, Anna. An interesting perspective indeed! I wonder why CUP, V & MC are not upping the ante?..

Ketharaman Swaminathan
Ketharaman Swaminathan - GTM360 Marketing Solutions - Pune 16 October, 2018, 15:18Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

@Alexander Peschkoff: 

AFAIK, CUP is the world's largest credit card network (14 bn cards). According to a comment I read on another post (that I can't locate readily), V & MC have supposedly vacated the China market.

Alexander Peschkoff
Alexander Peschkoff - Trusted - London 16 October, 2018, 15:27Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

@KS - Hm... I've read that the barriers for foreign card networks have been mostly lifted, and Visa in particular is looking to enter the market. The question is: will almost one billion users be interested in switching from familiar QRs to a new payment method?..

Ketharaman Swaminathan
Ketharaman Swaminathan - GTM360 Marketing Solutions - Pune 16 October, 2018, 19:58Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

@Alexander Peschkoff:

I don't think it's a question of QR or Visa. From @Anna Kuzmina's reply to my question above, I understand that Alipay / WeChat Pay (i.e. QR) can and do use a credit / debit card as funding source and that card can be Visa.

 

 

Anna Kuzmina

Anna Kuzmina

Deputy Chief Commercial Officer

Yandex.Money

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08 Oct

Location

Moscow

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This post is from a series of posts in the group:

Asia Financial Services

Covering all aspects of financial services in Asia from banking in China to algo trading in Japan.


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