Visitors to benefit from payments revamp

China Daily
China is making efforts to facilitate a seamless payment mechanism for foreigners and the elderly, and create a more friendly, inclusive and multichannel payment environment.
China Daily
Visitors to benefit from payments revamp

Visitors purchase cashmere products through mobile payment methods during the 20th China-ASEAN Expo in Nanning, Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, in September.

China is expected to intensify efforts to facilitate a seamless payment mechanism for foreigners and the elderly, and create a more friendly, inclusive and multichannel payment environment, said experts and business leaders.

This is not only part of the country's continued opening-up endeavor, but is also conducive to improving the payment infrastructure so as to accelerate the building of a unified domestic market, as well as boosting consumption and people's livelihoods, they said.

The People's Bank of China, the country's central bank, and the Beijing municipal government jointly held a meeting on March 28 to enhance payment services, as part of the country's strong push to simplify the payment process for foreign visitors and improve the business climate.

This came after the State Council, China's Cabinet, released a guideline that coordinated the efforts of various authorities on improving payment services and enhancing payment convenience on March 7, in order to better meet the diversified payment needs of the elderly and foreign visitors.

The guideline, approved by the State Council executive meeting on Feb 23, called for coordinated efforts among authorities to promote the acceptance of foreign bank cards, guarantee the use of cash, improve mobile payment convenience, and further protect consumer rights while choosing payment methods and optimizing account services.

The PBOC has outlined a timetable and roadmap for putting in place the relevant measures since then.

On March 14, the PBOC released a payment guide, which provides foreigners with text and graphic instructions on using bank cards, cash, mobile payment and e-CNY in China.

No identification is required for transactions below a certain amount when foreigners use mobile payments such as Alipay, Weixin Pay and UnionPay. Some international e-wallets, such as Thailand's True-Money, and Naver Pay, which are used frequently in South Korea, will be directly accepted by many merchants in China. Foreigners can also open bank accounts with passports or other valid IDs at major banks such as Industrial and Commercial Bank of China.

During a meeting on March 15, the PBOC also called on financial institutions in Shanghai to accelerate efforts and amplify resources to achieve more progress in facilitating foreign bank card acceptance, cash usage, mobile payments and bank account services.

Visitors to benefit from payments revamp

A foreign buyer (right) places orders at the Yiwu International Trade Market in Yiwu, Zhejiang province, in February 2023.

Competitive market

Liu Chunsheng, an associate professor at the Central University of Finance and Economics' School of International Trade and Economics, said the issue of payments is closely related to China's image and competitiveness in the international financial market.

Recent efforts by the authorities and financial institutions will help remove various inconveniences and confusion encountered by foreigners staying in China. This is increasingly important as more foreigners will work or live in China amid the country's rapid economic development and deepened internationalization, he said.

This is also a sign that China is devoted to promoting high-level opening up after the COVID-19 pandemic. The country is providing the world with more business opportunities and is ready to further open its market, Liu said.

China Construction Bank said it has always adhered to the principle of "payment for the people "and attaches great importance to the construction of a payment infrastructure. The bank said it has been customizing services for the elderly, bridging the digital divide, and it also supports various valid identification documents for card issuance and usage by foreigners in China. Its ATMs accept foreign cards for cash withdrawals, and branches offer cash exchange services.

The bank said it will continue to enhance foreign currency exchange capabilities, strengthen the acceptance environment for foreign card payments, and collaborate with UnionPay and international card organizations to set up innovative payment solutions and provide a more convenient consumer experience for foreigners in China.

The State-owned lender said it aims to promote the development and complementary use of various payment methods, including mobile payments, bank cards, and cash, to build a compatible and synergistic payment service system.

Dong Ximiao, chief researcher at Merchants Union Consumer Finance, said financial institutions and local governments are expected to further raise awareness on the issue and create a more open, inclusive, and diverse payment system and environment for all groups of people.

"The choice of payment methods and the development of payment tools should fully consider the differences between urban and rural areas and among different groups. It should not only be measured by quantity or speed, but also should respect the usage habits and rights of different groups of people," Dong said.

The inconvenience experienced by some foreign visitors can be mainly attributed to the differences in payment habits between China and other countries, he added.

Dong called for China to further optimize the acceptance environment for foreign bank cards, and gradually increase the number of point-of-sale terminals accepting foreign cards in key cities and important business districts.

International card organizations should reduce foreign card transaction fees and leave appropriate room for profitability for merchants, he said.

Expanding foreign investors' access to domestic payment institutions and bank card clearing markets steadily will further enhance the competitive landscape in China's payment sector and help provide better payment experiences for both Chinese people and foreign visitors, he added.

Ling Hai, president for the Asia-Pacific region, Europe, the Middle East and Africa at Mastercard, also emphasized the importance of improving multiple payment channels to enhance payment convenience for inbound travelers.

"The ecosystem in China has evolved into more digital wallet and QR-based, but that's not how the rest of the world works. For any inbound traveler, behaviors are very difficult to change, and that's a huge area still worth investment and development," Ling said.

"We are getting a lot of support from the Chinese government and will work with other private players as well as banks in China to foster an ecosystem that's really friendly to inbound travelers."

The service provider has enabled inbound acceptance via Alipay and Tencent wallets earlier this year, allowing international cardholders to pay like local people at QR code payment points while traveling across China.

Mastercard NUCC Information Technology (Beijing) Co Ltd, a joint venture between Mastercard and NetsUnion Clearing Corp, also received formal approval from the PBOC late last year for domestic bank card clearing activity in the country, and launched the business recently.

The development allows Mastercard cardholders in China to enjoy payment services provided by the company both at home and abroad.

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