With Alipay’s parent Ant Group poised to raise US$34 billion in the world’s biggest IPO yet, the stage is set for mobile payment and fintech apps to take the world by storm, with Google Pay trailing far behind. Consumers within China use both Alipay and WeChat for everyday functions from buying groceries to purchasing financial products like insurance and investments. Outside of China, people across Southeast Asia have started Alipay and WeChat in order to facilitate commercial transactions with Chinese customers, including Singaporeans.
Here’s what you need to know about Alipay and WeChat in Singapore.
Same Same But Different: Alipay Is The Chinese PayLah! While WeChat Pay Is The Chinese Apple Pay
Although it is common to see both Alipay and WeChat being offered together as mobile payment platforms at restaurants, retail outlets and tourist destinations, they are quite different in terms of the services they offer and how people actually use them. For the purpose of this article, we are talking about the International versions of both apps rather than the local Chinese version.
Alipay is essentially an e-wallet, similar to Singapore’s PayLah!. You will need to reload the e-wallet before transferring money to merchants or friends via their mobile phone number or personalised QR code. This allows you to pay and receive funds into your Alipay account, without the need to link a China bank account to the e-wallet. Singaporeans can now load and reload the e-wallet with an approved credit card such as VISA, MasterCard, JCB, Diners Club International and American Express (AMEX). Unfortunately, you cannot link the app up with a Singapore bank account, such as DBS, although it could happen in the future.
WeChat Pay, however, is a mobile payment service that allows you to make payments charged directly to your credit card via your mobile phone, similar to Apple Pay and Google Pay. This also means that WeChat Pay users without a China bank account linked will not be able to receive funds into their WeChat Pay account because you need an active bank account in order for your funds to be properly credited.
Supported Credit Cards
Internationally, the credit card schemes supported by both apps include VISA, MasterCard, JCB, Diners Club International, and American Express (AMEX), so you can now link your credit cards with these apps, which will come in handy especially if you do not have a Chinese bank account.
The service charge on Alipay is higher than WeChat Pay. Alipay charges a 5% service fee with every recharged amount, and users can load amounts from 500 CNY to 2000 CNY (~S$100–S$400). WeChat Pay, on the other hand, charges a 0.35 CNY (that’s ~S$0.07) service fee with every credit card linked onto its platform. There are no additional transaction fees.
Both Alipay’s eWallet and WeChat Pay do not have in-app currency exchange rates. Instead, the exchange rate is determined by the credit cards linked on the apps.
Alipay’s eWallet has a validity period of 90 days as it’s a prepaid wallet meant for tourists. Any unused funds left in the e-wallet will be automatically refunded to your linked credit card after 90 days (subjected to your credit cards’ exchange rates). WeChat Pay has no expiration.
Usage Of Alipay and WeChat Outside China Is Increasing
As Alipay and WeChat become more accessible to users outside of China and more institutions and vendors start offering it as a payment solution, we may see more widespread adoption of Alipay and WeChat. Singaporeans who frequently travel around Asia may wish to use them as more Asian countries are now offering robust payment integrations with Alipay and WeChat. Compared to newcomers to the space like Google Pay, Alipay and WeChat are more integrated with the Asian economic infrastructure, with countries like Thailand readily adopting the super apps to cater to the growing number of Chinese tourists. Chain restaurants with a strong China presence and outlets all across Asia, like Din Tai Fung or Hai Di Lao, are also likely to offer mobile payment capabilities with these apps in order to streamline their order flow.
With more financial integration taking place between China and the rest of the world, both of these Chinese super-apps will continue to increase in usage and demand by many countries in Asia. Singaporeans using Alipay or WeChat can continue to enjoy greater access and convenience when using contactless payment systems.