WeChat Pay goes global in search of Chinese tourist dollars

By C.Custer for TechinAsia,

The battle over the Chinese epayment market is raging fiercely now that Apple Pay and Samsung Pay have taken to the field in China. But WeChat Pay is heading in the opposite direction: the service announced yesterday that it’s launching support for overseas vendors.

The system will allow Chinese users to put money into their WeChat Pay accounts in RMB (as they currently do). But now WeChat Pay can support paying vendors in nine different foreign currencies (USD, GBP, HKD, JPY, CAD, EUR, AUR, NZD, and KRW). That way, everyone involved with the transaction – the Chinese tourist and the foreign vendor – gets to use a currency that they’re comfortable with. Currency conversion rates will be set by WeChat Pay’s Chinese banking partners, and WeChat Pay covers any outgoing international transfer fees (but not any fees from intermediary or recipient banks).

WeChat is also setting foreign vendors up with WeChat accounts. When a tourist makes a payment via WeChat Pay, they’ll automatically follow the vendor’s account and be able to make additional purchases remotely once they’re back in China.

In areas that do see a lot of Chinese tourist traffic, the hassle could be well worth it

Interested international vendors can apply by following the directions on this page, which for now seems to only be available in English. At the moment, the process seems a little clunky: you have to fill out a Microsoft Word document, email it to someone at Tencent, and then wait for their approval before you can sign the final contract and get set up. The site does say “beta,” though, so hopefully Tencent has plans for a smoother process on the horizon.

If you’re a vendor outside of China, setting up WeChat Pay support would be useless for virtually all of your customers except mainland Chinese tourists. But in areas that do see a lot of Chinese tourist traffic, the hassle could be well worth it. Chinese tourists spent almost US$230 billion overseas in 2015, and they tend to spend more per person than virtually anyone else.

Facilitating Chinese tourist purchases with e-payment services they know, like WeChat Pay, could have a significant impact on the revenue of businesses in popular tourist destinations. And it could even potentially help some overseas shops set up a nice WeChat-based ecommerce operation.