Money in China

How Add Money to WeChat in 2024 (Domestic & International)

If you didn’t already know, paying by WeChat in China has quickly overtaken cash as the most common method of payment. If you’re traveling to China, it’s still possible to get around using cash (barely), but it’s not always the easiest option. What if there were an easier way to add money to WeChat so you could pay with your phone in China? There is, and you’ve probably never heard of it before.

Using mobile payments as a foreigner in China has been – and in some ways continues to be – very difficult. Once set up, though, it’s extremely convenient and easy to see why everybody uses it. For the past couple years WeChat has become my primary form of payment!

The biggest challenge, however, is figuring out how to add money to WeChat if you’re a tourist or short-term visitor. Is it possible?

The short answer is…maybe.

WeChat has changed its policies so much over the past year that it’s sometimes hard to keep up. Unfortunately, most of these changes don’t benefit foreign tourists.

To begin, you need to make sure you can open a WeChat Wallet. Once that is done, I’ll share with you a step-by-step guide for creatively adding money to your WeChat Wallet.

*Note* Some of the links in this article are affiliate links, which means that at no extra cost to you, I may be compensated if you choose to use some of the services listed below.

Open a WeChat Wallet to Send/Receive Money

The most important thing to understand with WeChat (and Alipay for that matter) is that you can’t add or accept any amount of Chinese currency unless you have a valid WeChat Wallet. You have to activate the Wallet feature; it isn’t open by default.

This is what trips most people up, so pay attention.

Are You Eligible to Open a WeChat Wallet?

It used to be that you could open a WeChat Wallet by having a friend send you a hongbao or “red envelope”. Unfortunately, this is no longer an option.

Now that you can finally add a foreign credit card to WeChat, this has opened up a new way to create a WeChat Wallet.

China government regulations require that an official ID be attached to each WeChat or Alipay Wallet, which means that if you want to send or receive any amount of money, you’ll first need to verify your identity on the app. This can be done in one of two ways:

  • Use a Chinese Bank Account: If you are planning to move to China for 6 months or more, it makes sense to open up a local bank account, and this card can be used as a way to open up a WeChat Wallet.
  • Submit an ID: If you don’t have a Chinese bank account, WeChat will prompt you to supply an official government ID (usually a passport) for identity verification.

How to Open a WeChat Wallet

If you have a Chinese bank account, the process of opening a WeChat Wallet or Alipay Wallet is pretty straight forward.

First, if you’re verifying with a Chinese bank card, make sure you’ve downloaded the WeChat app in China. I know that sounds weird, but it seems there are different functionalities based on where the app is downloaded. The Chinese version of the app (even in English), allows for Wallet functionality with a bank card.

Next, find and click “Me” on the bottom menu. There should be a section called “Wallet” where you can click to add your China bank card. See below for some screenshot.

You can add a foreign credit card here, and while it might connect, it won’t activate your Wallet. In order to add a Chinese bank account you’ll need:

  1. Your Chinese UnionPay Card: This card will have a 19-digit number you’ll input into WeChat.
  2. Connected Chinese Phone Number: In order to open a bank account in China, you’ll need a Chinese phone number associated with the account. You’ll need this same number to authenticate your WeChat Wallet.

Because of the phone number requirement, it’s virtually impossible to open your WeChat Wallet from outside of China using a bank card.

Once the card and phone number have been verified (which is pretty much instantaneous), your WeChat Wallet will be activated.

For those who don’t have a Chinese bank account, the process is very similar, except you will download the international version of WeChat and then add your foreign credit card instead of a Chinese bank card. You will be prompted for identity verification before the Wallet is opened.

How to Add Money to WeChat | Simple Guide

Now that you have your WeChat Wallet activated, there are a number of ways that you can get money in your Wallet.

  1. Make Payments via Foreign Credit Card: While a foreign credit card cannot be used to top up your wallet, send Hongbao or direct payments, you can use the linked credit card to make purchases (there are limits; see below).
  2. Chinese Bank Transfer: If you have money in your Chinese bank account – or you have a friend who does – it is possible to either transfer money into your WeChat Wallet or to use WeChat Pay to debit your Wallet directly. You could even use a Chinese ATM to pull cash from your foreign account and deposit it directly into your Chinese bank account.
  3. WeChat Balance Transfers: Similar to Venmo or Paypal, WeChat allows free transfer of money between users. This can be done as either a direct transfer within the chat function or as a hongbao (red envelope) that is basically a gifting of money. If you’re using a foreign credit card, you cannot initiate these transfer, but you should be able to accept them.

It’s worth noting that there are limits to how much you can spend when you’ve connected a foreign credit card to your WeChat Wallet.

  • For single transactions, the max is RMB 6,000
  • The monthly limit is RMB 50,000
  • The most you can spend in a year is RMB 60,000

These are fairly generous limits for tourists, but it might be difficult to attempt to live in China within these limitations.

Swapsy Review | Currency Exchange Solution for WeChat

I’ve recently tried out a process for exchanging currency to add money to WeChat that has worked well for me. It’s a service called Swapsy and it could be described as the “Uber for currency exchange”.

It goes something like this:

Swapsy acts as the platform where people who need a foreign currency (US Dollars, UK Pound) can connect directly with people who need Chinese yuan. Swapsy facilitates the connection and theoretically takes the risk out of such exchanges.

I’m going to walk you through step-by-step how I was able to turn the US Dollars in my US bank account into Chinese renminbi.

In a matter of less than 24 hours, I was able to add money to WeChat that was available for immediate use.

Step 1: Start ID Verification

To start, Swapsy requires ID verification for security purposes. You’ll have to create a Swapsy account (get a bonus using this link) and then click “ID Verification” on the left.

Verifying your ID can be done in a matter of minutes by uploading a copy of your passport and taking a selfie with your computer camera.

Step 2: Select/Request Desired Swap Amount

After I set up my account and and added my payment methods for both US dollars (via Paypal or Zelle) and Chinese yuan (WeChat), I simply told Swapsy that I wanted Chinese yuan in the equivalent amount of US$100.

Exchange rates are supposed to be based on the daily market rate. So far it seems fair to me, although you can double-check with online currency exchanges.

Swapsy gives you the option to choose from an existing swap request, which is faster (immediate matching) and cheaper (.6% service fee) or you can start your own swap request (1.5% fee)

Users have a monthly exchange limit of US$12,000 – which is way more than I would ever personally want transferred. But hey, maybe that’s your thing.

Step 3: Choose Payment Accounts

Swapsy gives me the option to transfer through either Paypal (USD & GBP) or through direct bank transfer via Zelle (USD). In my case, I chose Paypal and indicated that I would like payment of Chinese yuan to be received via WeChat.

At this point, I make a contractual agreement to pay $100 via Paypal once I’ve been paired with one of the 10,000+ other Swapsy users for the exchange.

Step 3: Await Match & Make Exchange to WeChat

The average time between being matched and receiving Chinese yuan is 5 hours, according to Swapsy. I received an email telling me that a match was found with another user who needs US dollars and was interested in making an exchange.

In my personal experience, each time that I’ve used this service, they’ve paired me in less than an hour.

Since I am initiating the exchange, I will pay the US$100 via Paypal (or whichever payment you choose) and then wait for my exchange partner to receive the money, connect with me on WeChat and then transfer the funds in Chinese yuan to my account.

This is the part that requires a bit of trust. Swapsy provides a full amount guarantee, which means that if your exchange partner defaults, they will cover the exchange amount. Thankfully, I’ve never had to make use of that guarantee, but it’s there if you need it.

Step 4: Confirm Receipt of Payment and Spend Your Money!

My exchange partner confirms receipt of the $100 and then connects with me via WeChat. Once I confirm him as a “friend” he/she then transfers the agreed upon amount to me as a balance transfer.

The funds are then transferred to my WeChat balance and are available for immediate use. You are now able to use WeChat to pay for items as you travel around China.

Does this look like a process you’d like to try? Use the button below to create your own Swapsy account and get a special bonus credit for your first exchange.

Try Swapsy to Exchange Money

Conclusion | Adding Money To WeChat Wallet

Obviously, this isn’t a long-term solution for somebody who is living in China. It can be very helpful, though, when trying to avoid bank fees and terrible exchange rates when trying to move money across the border. It’s similar to the process required to transfer money overseas using Alipay, but it takes care of the currency exchange for you.

This simple process allows you to make the currency conversion using peer-to-peer technology, making it extremely cheap. Give Swapsy a try for yourself and add money to WeChat!

Further Reading & Resources

Josh Summers

Josh is the founder of TravelChinaCheaper.com who has been living in China with his family since 2006. Over that period of time he has traveled by plane, train, car, motorcycle and even camel to explore almost every corner of the country.

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