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Mobile pay limits raised for visitors

China Daily | March 4, 2024

China announced on Friday that it will quintuple the transaction limit for foreigners' mobile payments as the country enhances efforts to address payment challenges faced by international visitors.

Zhang Qingsong, deputy governor of the People's Bank of China, the country's central bank, said it will guide major payment institutions like Alipay to raise the single transaction limit of mobile payment for foreigners in China from $1,000 to $5,000 and lift the annual cumulative transaction limit from $10,000 to $50,000.

Also to facilitate foreigners' mobile payments in China, Zhang said at a news conference on Friday that the central bank will support payment institutions to enable foreign users to more efficiently link their mobile payment accounts with foreign bank cards and streamline identity authentication procedures.

The move comes as China intensifies efforts to tackle payment difficulties faced by some foreign visitors who rely on bank cards or cash for payment, whereas mobile payment prevails in China.

The central bank has been addressing the issue by facilitating foreign visitors' bank card payments in large transactions, promoting their mobile payment via QR codes in small amounts, and guaranteeing cash payment as the last resort.

Data from the central bank showed that nearly 4 million foreign visitors used mobile payment in China last year and made more than 70 million transactions with a total value of more than 10 billion yuan ($1.38 billion).

Zhang said a guideline, which was approved by the State Council, China's Cabinet, on Feb 23 and will be published soon, promotes the acceptance of foreign bank cards, guarantees the use of cash, improves mobile payment convenience and optimizes account services.

He added that the PBOC, together with the National Development and Reform Commission, the Ministry of Transport, the Ministry of Commerce and the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, will establish a cross-departmental collaboration mechanism to implement the guideline.

Shi Zeyi, head of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism's international exchange and cooperation bureau, said the country will continue to provide offline, manned ticketing services at tourist attractions and optimize foreign tourists' online and offline payment experiences.

China's inbound tourism has recovered as the country saw 3.23 million inbound travelers during this year's Spring Festival holiday, the ministry's data showed.

Liu Chunsheng, an associate professor at the Central University of Finance and Economics, said China's efforts to make mobile payment services more convenient will improve foreigners' experiences here as mobile payment has become a "daily necessity" in many cases.

"This is also a sign that China is devoted to opening its market wider after the COVID-19 pandemic, providing the world with more business opportunities," Liu said.

The tone-setting Central Economic Work Conference, held in December, stressed the need to make it easy for foreigners to do business, study and travel in China.