Wednesday , 22 November 2017
Breaking News

Your Mobile Money: Surviving A Day In China Without Cash Or Cards

An employee scans a quick response (QR) code displayed on the Ant Financial Services Group's Alipay app.(Photo by Anthony Kwan/Bloomberg)

An employee scans a quick response (QR) code displayed on the Ant Financial Services

No cash? Your smartphone will do nicely. Chinese consumers used to spending their hard-earned cash on technology are increasingly relying on a tech solution to pay for just about anything, from breakfast to booking a vacation.

And the volume of smartphone payments has exploded, reaching a staggering $1.85 trillion last year, says Beijing-based Analysys International. Payment apps from Alibaba affiliate Ant Financial and Tencent’s Tenpay are leading the charge.

To see how far I could go in Beijing without a wallet, I spent a day armed only with my smartphone.

A Jianbing bought by swiping the QR code on the left.

A Jianbing bought by swiping the QR code on the left.

A beautiful day started with a great breakfast. I paid for a local delicacy called Jianbing, which is China’s version of a crêpe, at a food stall with my phone. By swiping a QR code that looked like a lop-sided checkerboard, I transferred 6 yuan ($0.87) to the shop’s owner.

I then passed a small supermarket — each checkout counter carried a sign that proclaimed: “Welcome to use Alipay!”

The Didi Chuxing app (Photo by Qilai Shen/Bloomberg)

The Didi Chuxing app (Photo by Qilai Shen/Bloomberg)

When it comes to transportation around the capital, you can order a cab or a private car through Didi Chuxing, the Chinese ride-hailing service that recently raised $5 billion at a whopping $50 billion valuation. Alipay, Tenpay and credit cards are all accepted.

By swiping the QR code on the bike, users can rent it and pay 0.5 yuan($0.07) for every 30 minutes.

By swiping the QR code on the bike, users can rent it and pay 0.5 yuan($0.07) for every 30 minutes.

If you don’t fancy waiting in traffic, there are also bikes for rent. You can unlock these bikes by swiping a QR code. It costs 0.5 yuan ($0.07) for every 30 minutes.

A sign of a WeChat reward program is displayed on a local restaurant.

A sign of a WeChat reward program is displayed on a local restaurant.

Many shops have incentives to use mobile payment services because they allow them to engage customers better, said Zennon Kapron of research firm Kapronasia. After paying for a sandwich at a restaurant with Tenpay through WeChat, the waitress asked me to “follow” their public account so they can send me coupons and virtual membership cards.

On the door of a nearby fashion boutique, a sign reads: “Please use WeChat for payment.” It also accepts credit cards but not using mobile payment is increasingly considered backwards. One user on Twitter-equivalent Sina Weibo recently posted that swiping a card to make purchases is just “provincial” in the age of digital wallets.

A screenshot of the Alipay app.

A screenshot of the Alipay app.

Mobile payment goes beyond daily purchases. Through both Alipay and Tenpay, you can pay utility bills, get a loan or invest in money-market funds.

Last year, Apple entered China’s mobile payment market in partnership with Union Pay. While Apple Pay was accepted at the McDonald’s I visited, 12 months on and the U.S. giant has less than 1.8% of the market — compared to Alipay’s 54%. “I wouldn’t back its chances,” said Mark Tanner of China Skinny. “The others are so well entrenched.”

Photo by Qilai Shen/Bloomberg

Photo by Qilai Shen/Bloomberg

From food stalls to shopping malls, almost every place I stopped by in this corner of Beijing accepted mobile payment. Cash really is becoming a thing of the past.

[“Source-forbes”]