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I've always been interested in cashless payments. In Japan, I use a variety of them to keep my wallet as slim as possible. While traveling, there is nothing more convenient than using Uber or Grab, where the transaction, end-to-end, is completely handled in-app. The feeling of not having to fumble through change is one that I cherish. For China, however, it is a whole different ball game. While out of the two options, the other being AliPay, WeChat Wallet is the more foreigner-friendly of the two, getting it working prior to your trip took a bit of effort.
Hurdle 1: Getting the function
First off, while WeChat Wallet is available to foreigners, it is technically not available to foreigners out of China. This means you don't even get to access the Wallet feature. It simply doesn't appear on your app. After reading online, it seems like there were a few ways to get it to appear.
First and the most obvious thought I had, was to download or sign up to the app in one of the supported countries, China or Taiwan. So, I used my favorite VPN and set the location as Taiwan. This did not work. I believe that if the number you used was not a local one or if you did not download it from the local app store, this would not work. Some also said that if you changed the language to Chinese and back, the function would appear. After countless tries in vain, I can say this also does not work.
The next method many have said worked was to get money sent to your WeChat in the form of red packets. The challenge here was getting someone in China to send you money. I knew people, but I didn't want to request money out of the blue.
This was when I found about VPayFast. I thought my worries would be solved with this discovery, so I eagerly went ahead and tried to get $5 transferred to my account. It failed with an error saying that it was a suspicious transaction and I had to verify my account before I could get it to work. I believe that if they had sent a “red packet”, the function would not be locked, but VPayFast would send money. However, the fact is that a transaction was attempted, so the feature should show in theory. For a while, the wallet function did not appear and I thought I was stuck. But logging in and out, the wallet feature finally appeared!
Hurdle 2: Getting money in the wallet
The first hurdle has cleared with much difficulty, so now with the second issue; actually getting money in the account that could be used. At first, I was stumbled by the “risky transaction” error and the error message in English did not show in full as you can see below.
So, I had to use every ounce of Chinese skills I had to look for a solution. It was only after I asked VPayFast to try again and it gave an error again, this time in Chinese since I happened to switch to Chinese language, that I could figure out what it was. Apparently, you had to get your identity verified before any transactions were available. To do so, simply add a credit card to WeChat. They accept foreign credit cards now.
Looking for a way bypass the pesky China firewall and access sites like Google and Netflix? ExpressVPN is the best VPN in my experience to do this.
Before getting the Chinese error, I was figuring out how to get rid of this transaction lock but I now know that the lock would be automatically released after a week. A week later, I messaged VPayFast to try to transfer again. And alas, the sweet taste of success.
This whole process took me a whole week! But I have managed to get it working for now and I will update this post if I run into a problem using the balance in China.
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I have to say that throughout this whole process, VPayFast was very helpful and responsive and guided me throughout the way. But, they did not provide support in English. Thankfully, I had a miserable amount of Chinese language skills that barely got me through. I hope you would have less difficulty figuring this out than I did and please leave a comment below have more to add to this guide.
Tagged cashless china minimalism travel wechat
VPayFast, the whole service is a big SCAM!!!!!
they are asking you to provide a copy of your ID after the payment went through with two-way credit card authentification (i.e. MasterCard 3-D Secure). Don’t use them if you are worry about some scammers collecting more information then a simple online transaction needs!
I was not asked for my ID although I was aware that they said it was required on their site. As with any foreign service, I did my homework on them and they seem as legit as they can get. Even if your personal information is required, it’s not unlike any money transfer service, like Paypal.
I have recharged on Vpayfast, but ID verification was smooth, also there was no any problems of the orders. Don’t worry, that is a security verification when you make the order at the first time.
Hi! I was wondering if you figured out how to transfer money to friends? I have an international version of Wechat (Dutch phone number) and I got my wallet activated by receiving a red packet from a friend. I even verified my ID and linked it to a chinese bank account. So far so good… But the money transfer/red packet option is still not available for me 🙁 Do you have similar experiences with this?
Not yet, but I will be sure to update when I have a chance to try next week.
Thanks for the tips. Kindly share with us if you could use your wechat credit for indoor transactions such as shops or restaurants. Thanks.
This is gonna be so helpful! For some odd reason, mine (Singapore) is showing in RMB and they ask for China credit card… >.<
HI Alex, Are you able to use the wechat wallet successfully. I was told that because we do not have a Chinese bank account, even if we get money transfer to us , there is a limit of 1000CNY and after that we can no longer use the payment function of wechat wallet.
I was able to use it but I haven’t had more than 1000 transferred to me yet so I haven’t met with that problem.
I will update this article if I hit the limit.
Alex is true about the ID, I made a payment I send my ID and copy of the Credit Card and copy of my statements. now they told me that can’t process the process the transaction because my bank will take more than 7 business day for them to collect the money. I asked a Friend to send me a red packet but can’t use it until I can provide Chine ID which I don’t have, nevertheless I have the money that my friend sent to me but can’t use it. He told me things change with Wechat not matter you add you credit as I did can use the money unless you provide the chines bank account and the ID.
I had the wallet turned on after a recent personal visit to China. Tried getting friends to transfer money to me via WeChat but it didn’t work. Tried opening a local bank account in China but they said I needed to enter the country on a Business Visa (I don’t need a visa to enter China).
Was pretty frustrated. Then I came across vPayFast yesterday and managed to load 100 Yuan! Going to China this week on business…will try if the wallet works fine before I top-up more.
The vPayFast transaction was pretty smooth and the Visa payment involved redirecting to the bank site to enter the one-time security code. Seems legit. No other weird credit card transactions have appeared since then but I’ll monitor as I always do.
Not sure why China doesn’t make this a little easier for foreigners?! Without WeChat Pay or AliPay it’s pretty difficult to get around Tier-1 cities in China!
Btw, vPayFast doesn’t top-up Didi Pay….but I’ve added my foreign credit card to Didi successfully just now. Let’s hope during the upcoming trip!
Tried already, get my money in about 2 minutes!
Did u wait 1 week, after u key in your foreign credit card? Or u put foreign card details as a verification, then got your vpayfast transaction sorted out in 2 mins… ?
It would likely take time after you enter your card details for verification. For me, it was a week before I could try again.
thanks alex. i took your advice, log off, reinstall the wechat app, then the WeChat Pay option that shows the balance really did appear! luckily i found your page, otherwise wont know how to use in China