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Alipay(ZhiFuBao) – China’s Favorite Way to Pay!

Ever run out of cash at the worst possible time, and run into a business that won’t take your credit card? Want to buy things on Taobao (China’s excellent answer to Amazon Prime – no membership required) but aren’t sure where to begin? You’re in the right place!

Alipay(zhi fu bao) is one of the most widely accepted forms of payment here in China. Even taxi drivers typically accept Alipay, including ones who won’t take bank cards! It can be used both in person at a vast majority of establishments (any place that shows it’s blue and orange logo, labeled “Alipay” or in Chinese below), as well as online – either to pay for food at sites like or waimaichaoren, to pay for your recent TaoBao adventures (see above), or simply to send money to friends. Furthermore, once you have an account, you can set up Alipay’s mobile app to do all of this on the go, by just showing your phone! It’s essentially China’s Paypal, and can make life in China a lot more convenient, but setting it up as a foreigner can be a little tricky. We’ll show you how.

Step 1: Gather all the information you need

  • Have pitcures of your passport and your current visa page ready
  • Have all your bank account information ready, and your bank card info
  • Make sure your bank has been enabled for online payments (at ICBC, for instance, they will give you a little USB dongle to validate your online payments)
  • Have up-to-date text updates from your bank.
  • IMPORTANT: Know the exact spelling of your name on your bank account. Failure to input this exactly will likely result in you being unable to verify your identity with Alipay, which will limit your Alipay account’s functionality.
  • Also, to be safe, turn your VPN off before continuing.

Step 2: Register an Account

  • If you already have an Alipay account, log in with the blue button on the photo below, and skip to step 3. If not, read on.1
  • Unless you have a Chinese phone (and even if you do), we recommend you sign up with an email address instead of a phone number. It’s less confusing overall, and prevents the possibility of your international phone number not being able to receive the text with the verification PIN code. Use the link in blue at the bottom to do this.2
  • Finally, fill out your information according to the below photograph.  Use your individual nationality, not the nationality of your phone.  We’d recommend NOT using a @gmail account, as it will be difficult for you to log on to Gmail without your VPN on.3
  • Use of an Alipay account (even one through your email) still requires you to have an active phone.  To associate a phone number with your new account, click the tab circled in red to use one from China’s mainland.4
  • Type in your phone number, and then click the tab as shown.  5
  • You’ll receive a text from 95188.  Input that code in the “PIN Code” section below, and push the orange button to continue in the progress.6
  • Finally, you’ll receive an email from Alipay with a confirmation link.  Push the orange button in the link they sent you, and you’ll be on to the last step to complete your account!7

Step 3: Complete Your Account Details

  • Don’t get too excited yet! Alipay still needs to know a bit more about you before you can start using it. Log in to your new account, or simply click the orange button in the email they sent you at the end of Step 2 above.
  • You’ll end up on the following page.   Click on the right-most tab shown in the photo below (unless you have a Chinese ID number, in which case, use the page that opened up initially).8
  • You’ll end up at the next page.  Fill it out according to the below photograph.  A couple reminders:  Be sure to use your REAL name when setting this up, listed exactly as it is on your passport and bank account!  Select “passport” for ID type, and enter your Sex.  For occupation, just choose “Other” in the menu.  Finally, don’t forget your 6 digit payment pin!  This is what you’ll use every time you check out on Alipay.
  • Once you have it all listed, along with your Chinese address, push the orange button to finish creating your new Alipay account!9
  • If you see the below screen, congrats!  You now have an Alipay account.10

Step 4: Verify Your Alipay Account

  • Though creating your account is now ready to use for TaoBao and some other online endeavors, to take full advantage of Alipay’s functionality (like sending money to other people, and using your phone to use Alipay at businesses), you’ll need to verify your Alipay account. This part is a little tricky, but we’ll make it as easy as possible for you!
  • Start by logging into your Alipay account with your email and password. Once logged in, click the links shown in the following two photos:11 12
  • Directly under the Orange/Yellow button that comes up, click on the third small link closest to the center to access the “Foreigner” verification portal.  You can see it below.  (If you have a Chinese ID, you can simply use the big orange button). 13
  • On the following page, be VERY careful!  Fill it out, once again using the name listed on your bank account EXACTLY.  This includes any spaces and is case sensitive.  Banks love using all capital letters, and if you don’t, you’ll have to wait a couple days and start over.
  • Upload your photos of passport and VISA. They don’t have to be scanned (phone photos are OK), but they should be clear enough to read everything. Finally, the phone number you use must also be the one linked to your bank account (and set up for text message alerts, as said in Step 1).14
  • On the next page, choose the name of your bank from the drop down list, and then the city where the account was OPENED. Not necessarily the city you currently live! After entering your card number in the final box, click the orange button to continue. You’ll see the following confirmation page:15
  • Check one more time that everything is correct, and push the orange button!
  • If a page comes up with a red x, something went wrong. It might have been an issue with the name (in wrong order, or CAPS wasn’t on, etc. Click on the blue link to restart the process. 7 days later, you will be able to try the process once again.
  • If a page comes up with a green check mark, congrats! Alipay will transfer to your bank card some amount under 1 RMB to make sure your bank account exists, and all you have to do is return to the page once you receive text confirmation with the amount of the transfer, input the amount, and you’ll be verified! You can see the details of what this looks like below. (If you don’t see this page, but received the transfer amount, wait a couple minutes and try again. This page won’t appear until the transfer has gone through – it might take a day or two).16
  • One random tip: make sure you input a “0” in front of the decimal when inputting the amount. E.g. if they sent you .23 Yuan, be sure to input “0.23” Yuan into the box! Push the orange button once you’ve finished this. When the following page comes up, congratulations – you’re verified!17

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Benjamin is a language and culture enthusiast. He has been learning Mandarin Chinese more than 6 years. He lived in Shanghai, HongKong and Singapore.

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