Are you a traveler or expat wondering how to set up WeChat Wallet? Perhaps you’re frustrated by the process or you haven’t even started, but you know that WeChat is the preferred way to buy things in China. In this guide, I’m going to walk you through the WeChat Wallet set up process and troubleshoot why it may not be working for you.
For folks currently living or planning to move to China, WeChat is a great way to purchase meals, shop online and even send money to friends/family.
In order to use WeChat as a payment platform, though, you first need to set up what’s known as the WeChat Wallet. Opening a wallet allows you to receive money, send money and pay for items.
You would think that setting up the WeChat Wallet would be super-simple and easy to do, right?
It should be…
…but unfortunately that’s not usually the case.
Here’s what we’re going to cover in this WeChat setup tutorial:
- Who Can Open a WeChat Wallet? (warning: not everybody)
- How to Link a Local Bank to WeChat Wallet
- Using WeChat Wallet to Pay in China
Below, I’m going to share everything you need to know to get set up with WeChat Wallet.
Can Anybody Open a WeChat Wallet?
The short answer is “yes, anyone can open a WeChat Wallet”, but…
…as with anything in China, it’s not that simple.
You see, WeChat requires what they call “real-name verification” in order to open a WeChat Wallet to send and receive money.
I figure they do this to prevent any sort of digital money-laundering or to comply with China’s surveillance of foreigners and its own people. Who knows.
This real-name verification can be completed in one of three ways:
- Chinese ID: If you have a Chinese ID card, you’re golden. Of course, if you’re reading this right now, my guess is that you don’t have that.
- Chinese Bank Card: If you’ve already opened a China bank account, the bank has given you a bank card. Entering this card acts as a real-name verification for WeChat.
- International Bank Card: Adding an international bank card is also supposed to act as a way for non-Chinese users to pass the real-name verification test (but, as you can guess, it doesn’t work).
Obviously, the last two options are more likely to be what works for you. I do want to warn you about a few things with using an international bank card, though.
First, based on my own failed experiences adding a foreign credit card to WeChat, it doesn’t always work. It’s not impossible (as the comments section of that article prove), but it doesn’t work for everybody.
Second, even if you are able to successfully add an international credit card to WeChat and open a WeChat Wallet, that doesn’t mean you’ll automatically be able to pay for things. It only means that you have a Wallet.
You can transfer money back and forth between friends and send red packets, but it’s almost impossible to use the international credit card to pay for things.
- If you’re an expat in China, I highly recommend you spend the time opening a China bank account that you can link to WeChat. This is by far the easiest way to set up WeChat Wallet and pay for things in China.
- If you’re a short-term visitor to China, I recommend you try to use an international credit card to open your WeChat Wallet and then use some creative methods to add money to your WeChat account.
The bottom line is that yes, everybody is supposed to be able to open a WeChat Wallet. The unfortunate reality, though, is that many foreigners are finding it extremely difficult, particularly short-term ones.
Questions about money in China?
Download my FREE, 24-page Expat Guide to Banking in China, which goes even more in-depth on money matters in the Middle Kingdom!
How to Link Your Local Bank Card to WeChat Wallet
Ok, now let’s move to some more practical advice. Let’s say that you’re in China and you already have a China bank card.
In this case, in order to open your WeChat Wallet, all you need to do is link your local bank card to your account.
Go ahead and open WeChat on your phone, find the “Me” section on the bottom and then tap “Wallet.”
From here, select “Cards,” which will direct you to the next screen where you can add your local bank card to your WeChat Wallet.
Afterward, enter your card number and general information. This includes your name, passport ID, phone number and other details specific to the card.
A couple things to remember so that your card syncs up correctly with WeChat Wallet are:
- Enter your name as it is listed on your bank account. Chinese always list their surnames first, so if you see any errors, try listing your last name first. I’ve also had the experience where my bank had my name on record in all capital letters, so I was required to enter all capitals in order for the card to be added to WeChat.
- When entering your passport number, tap “ID Type” to change it from ID Card to Passport. More than likely, you don’t have a Chinese ID card, so a passport is what you’ll be using here.
- Make sure you enter your phone number registered with your Chinese bank account and not your home phone number. WeChat will check with your bank to make sure that what you enter is what they have on record.
The last steps are to enter the verification code sent to your phone and set up your personal password to use when making purchases.
Using WeChat to Pay in China
After successfully linking your China bank card, you can start using WeChat Wallet immediately.
If you’ve linked your international banking card, your WeChat Wallet will be opened but you may not be able to immediately pay.
The easiest way to buy lunch or items in shops is to tap the money button within you wallet or on the home screen. In most cases, you’ll scan a vendor’s QR code to pay.
To send money to a friend or contact, you’ll enter into that contact’s chat and under the menu options find “Send Money”.
You’ll be prompted for the amount, you can choose how to pay (with a card or using your balance) and then easily send the money. It has to be accepted within a certain number of days or the money gets returned to you.
It is also possible to use other payment features within the WeChat Wallet including paying your phone bill, taxis and train tickets, as well as movie passes.
Final Thoughts | Setting Up WeChat Wallet
Remember, to set up WeChat Wallet for use, you first need to pass WeChat’s real-name verification.
Without that, you’re stuck.
For this reason, this payment method is often more convenient and useful to expats working in China instead of short-term visitors.
Should you have a Chinese bank account, WeChat Wallet will bring added convenience to your life when buying things as common as takeout, renting a bicycle, or paying your Internet bill.
In addition to WeChat Pay, there are a number of other great payment apps you can check out that give discounts on things like takeout and even help you send money home from China.
What’s been your experience? Please share in the comments below so that future readers can benefit from your knowledge!
I’ve finally got it all set up – It took a trip to my Chinese bank, and it took over an hour, but i can finally link my salary bank account to wepay !
a problem not covered by this article, that i don’t know the answer to, and even my Chinese friends didn’t know how to resolve is: if you try and purchase something from a foreign company (even one with a legit chinese banking partner like ‘epic games’, wechat will refuse to cooperate. It will tell you that this option is only available to people with chinese id cards (!!!)
obviously my passport is already linked to my wechat to enable any wepay activity at all in the first place. so it seems there is no way around this. the actual people most likely to make a foreign (non-chinese) purchase are foreigners, not chinese, so why require a chinese id card ?!
Roland Erismann says
Thanks for these very useful instructions on how to use wechat and wechat pay. I am an expat living in China for many years. Now I have come across a problem with wechat and wechat pay: My old passport is expiring and I got a new passport which has a different passport no. chinese users do not have such problem, since their id no. never changes. so how to update the passport no.? i have already gone to the local bank of china branch to do the update. As for wechat pay i found one comment recommending as a first step to cancel wechat pay and then set it up again. but there is no reference to wechat itself. any input will be highly APPRECIATED.