Shanghai takes big steps on payment convenience for foreign visitors

Shen Mengdan
Making it easier for foreign tourists to pay for goods and services while in the city has been a priority for Shanghai officials.
Shen Mengdan

Shanghai completed more than 22 million transactions for foreign tourists in the first half of 2024, representing an astonishing seven-times increase, according to the Shanghai headquarters of the People's Bank of China on Wednesday.

These transactions valued 7.8 billion yuan (US$1 billion), also 1.2 times higher than a year before.

"Shanghai has achieved remarkable results in improving payment services for tourists, with the rollout of several measures including the facilitation of withdrawing cash, increasing the supply of change notes, and the binding of foreign cards to the Alipay app," the PBOC said at the press conference to summarize the progress and efforts on easier payment for visitors to China.

A series of measures have been introduced for two groups – the elderly and foreign tourists – since the Shanghai government officially issued an action program in April.

Shanghai takes big steps on payment convenience for foreign visitors
Shen Mengdan / SHINE

Many Shanghai taxis have payment information posted in both Chinese and English to help foreign tourists understand how to pay.

China is far ahead of the world in terms of mobile payment penetration, and Shanghai, as the country's financial center, attracts a large number of foreign tourists and expatriates.

So that these groups have a better experience in China, the PBoC has launched several effective measures, including organizing Alipay to allow foreign bank card binding so they can use a local e-wallet to make mobile payments in Shanghai.

In addition, the State Administration of Foreign Exchange (SAFE) approved the launch of a pilot program for licensed institutions to handle foreign currency exchanges in the hotel industry and added the function of withdrawing small sums of cash from ATMs in key areas.

A total of 630,000 change kits were also issued by various banks to small businesses to further optimize the domestic circulation of cash.

Shanghai takes big steps on payment convenience for foreign visitors

Tourists stroll around Yuyuan Garden in Shanghai despite the scorching heat on July 8, 2024.

Numerous small merchants in Yuyuan Garden said that now they don't have to worry about payment difficulties when foreign visitors want to buy something.

"Foreigners can also pay directly with the e-wallets they are accustomed to using in their hometowns, and they also find it very convenient," said one merchant.

Three integrated service centers were built at Pudong International Airport and Hongqiao International Airport to address the needs of tourists arriving in Shanghai as the first point of entry.

English language videos of payment service guides for foreigners were also released on both domestic and international social media networks. The video guide is also available in important port hubs, shopping districts, tourist attractions, and other venues.

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