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Going cashless and cardless in China

An interesting story from our China based resultant Ralph Qiu about how he could live a day paying for things just with his mobile phone. It’s to show you how mobile payment is developing fast in China thanks to the new financial giants WeChat and Alipay.

An average cash-less and card-less day in China – by Ralph Qiu

I have not been to a bank to withdraw cash for quite some time, which I needed to do every few weeks before. I used to swipe cards in supermarkets and restaurants and paid cash in markets and other small retail formats. But this has all changed by WeChat pay and Alipay.

WeChat QR code

In the morning, I go out to a breakfast stand for some fried dough. The vendor has a small printed WeChat QR code on his stand which I simply scan and enter the amount I need to pay. After breakfast, I do my grocery shopping at various stands in a wet market for vegetables, fruit, household products, seafood etc. All vendors have a printed QR card at their stands, which costs them only 1 Euro, by the way. Shoppers can help themselves scanning the code and pay while the vendor is busy helping other customers. A voice message is used with the amount paid so that the vendor does not need to check his or his customers’ phone.

For meals, I can scan the code on the table with WeChat and browse the e-menu and place orders and pay when I am finished. Even in restaurants in a small villages, I can still pay with WeChat as long as the owner has a WeChat account of his own.

8 seconds to process

In the afternoon, I visit a hypermarket for my weekly supplies. At the checkout, I tell the cashier I would like to pay with WeChat and I find my “pay code” with a few touches while the cashier scans my code. I do not even have to sign because I have agreed with the “fast pay” terms on WeChat. This only takes 8 seconds to process.

I stop for a coffee and again pay with WeChat. After paying, WeChat suggested I might want to follow the coffee shop on WeChat so the coffee shop can send me coupons or other useful info later. Walking in the shopping mall, I find a small Karaoke box where I can enjoy myself for a few minutes by again using WeChat to register and pay.

Shopper advertising

So you can see, I do not need any cash or cards for a normal weekend any longer. Everything can be solved by WeChat or Alipay. It is also a lot easier for retailers and vendors for a fast checkout. For those who have built their official WeChat accounts, there is also the opportunity to advertise to shoppers. In the near future, we expect e-financial companies to add voice and face recognition so I don’t need to take out my phone anymore but just enter the numbers and smile!

You can imagine conventional banks suffer the most because they are losing cash flow to these new Internet companies. They have now all filed complaints to the government and are asking for help.

For now, I’ve finished my cash-less and card-less day. But oops, not completely! I still need to catch a bus home and I do not have a nickel in my pocket!





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