Alipay is the most popular third-party payment provider in China, with over 900 million users and a market share of almost 55%.
Want to encourage Chinese customers to buy from your business? Offering Alipay payment method will help you do just that.
But what is Alipay, exactly?
And how can international businesses set up Alipay account outside of China?
Let’s break it down.
What is Alipay?
In a nutshell, Alipay is a mobile payment app that allows Chinese nationals and international users in China to make cashless payments. From paying utility bills to buying from an e-commerce website, you can make payments for almost everything by using Alipay.
It works by letting users store debit or credit card details to make online and in-store purchases using their phones.
You can even use the mobile payment app to pay for items in stores and markets that offer in-person Alipay transactions, just as you would a credit or debit card.
It’s super easy to use, too. All customers need is the Alipay app, or a QR code to scan on their phone if they’re paying on a desktop computer.
While the app only had simplified and traditional Chinese language before, it has recently added English as well. This makes the app useful for foreigners visiting China.
How To Pay Through Alipay?
The Alipay App offers both online and in-store purchases to customers, so you can opt for payment option that you prefer.
For online payments, you can simply select Alipay as the preferred payment method at checkout. However, you will only find this option if the online merchant you’re shopping from accepts Alipay payments.
You can also make in-store mobile payments using Alipay. One way is to do this is by scanning merchant’s QR code. After that, you just need to enter the payment amount and complete the payment. Most businesses place their merchant QR code next to their counters or tables.
The other way involves the Alipay users presenting a payment code in the Alipay App. Merchants can scan this code to collect the payment. This method is faster and works well in low network areas as well.
Which businesses should offer Alipay?
If you want to attract Chinese customers (either in or outside of China) — as well as tourists in China — setting up is an absolute must.
- Gives Chinese customers a familiar and trusted way to make digital payments.
- Opens up your international customer base.
- Will help you tap into the Chinese tourist market.
…all of which will help to boost your sales and grow your brand awareness in China.
Which countries support Alipay?
Alipay supported countries include: US, UK, Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Canada, Brazil, Russia, Germany, Spain, Italy, and virtually every other major country in the world.
This means you can offer Alipay no matter where your business is based and where your customers are from — whether that’s in China or out of it.
How to set up Alipay outside China for international businesses — a step-by-step guide
There are two routes foreign businesses can take to register for Alipay.
First, you can form a direct relationship with Alipay.
If your business has a Chinese bank account, you’ll be able to partner directly with Alipay. This means that when a customer pays for a product or service via Alipay, the payment will land directly in your bank account — minus any transaction fees.
This is an easier and quicker way to set up Alipay outside China, as it means you won’t have to work with (or pay) a third-party acquirer.
Here’s how you can initiate a direct relationship with Alipay:
Step 1: Go to Alipay’s global merchant website
Either click here, or visit global.alipay.com. This will direct you to Alipay’s designated platform for international businesses that want to become merchants.
Step 2: Click “Merchant” to choose which product you want to register for
From the menu, pick “Online payments” or “In-store payments,” depending on which payment solution you’re interested in.
Step 3: Start the registration process
You’ll then be taken to a specific page for whatever product you’ve selected. Click
“Get Started” to start the registration process. It’s worth scrolling through this page, too, for a quick breakdown of how the product works.
Step 4: Complete the registration form
Next, you’ll be taken to a registration form that will ask you to confirm the following:
- The product you’re interested in (online payments or in-store payments)
- Your role (which will be “merchant” if you want to accept customer payments)
- Your region (you can pick from a drop-down menu of eligible countries)
- Whether or not you have an acquirer
- Your company’s name
- Business category (which, again, you can pick from a drop-down menu)
- Your web address/app download link
- Contact name
- Your email
- Contact telephone number (don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be Chinese!)
Once you’ve filled out the form, click “Submit.”
Step 5: Start the qualification process
After submitting your application, an Alipay representative will get in touch with you to start the qualification process. This involves verifying your company and confirming that it’s eligible to be an Alipay merchant.
At this stage, you’ll need to provide a wide range of documentation, such as:
- Company registration number
- Copy of your business license
- Personal ID (of management and legal representatives)
- Legal details
- Company bank account
- Contact details
- Company financial records (in terms of turnover and expected transaction volume)
You’ll be able to submit copies of these online.
Step 6: Formally apply for an Alipay product
Once your Alipay representative has verified the above information, they’ll help you apply for an Alipay product. This is the stage where you’ll enter a formal contract with Alipay and become a direct partner.
Step 7: Integrate Alipay into your business
The final step is to set up Alipay in your business. This will require your developers to integrate with Alipay’s API. You might also need to buy specific hardware from Alipay if you want to offer in-store payments.
Your Alipay representative will walk you through each step of this process, so you won’t have to do anything on your own. You can also use Alipay’s website to access a library of step-by-step tutorials for developers and international businesses.
Step 8: Start accepting payments!
Once your developers have got Alipay up and running, you can start using Alipay to accept payments both inside and outside of China.
Setting up Alipay Without A Chinese Bank Account
If you don’t have a Chinese bank account, you’ll need to partner up with an Alipay acquirer. These are financial institutions that accept payments from Alipay on your behalf and then send them to your bank account.
Think of them as the “middle-men” between international merchants and Alipay.
You can search for Alipay acquirers in your country by clicking here. This will take you to Alipay’s verified list of international acquirers, which you can filter by country.
Once you’ve gotten in touch with an Alipay acquirer, you’ll then be able to complete the same steps outlined above. Just make sure to select “yes” to “I have an acquirer partner” on the registration form.
How much does it cost to set up Alipay outside China?
The exact cost will depend on your industry, but you’ll have to pay an account setup fee of $1,000 (USD) and ongoing transaction fees of up to 3%. You’ll also incur additional fees if you partner up with an Alipay acquirer to accept Alipay payments.
Alipay vs WeChat Pay — what’s the difference?
Combined, Alipay and WeChat Pay hold over 90% of the third-party payment provider market in China. They offer very similar features and report similar usage statistics.
That said, there are a few differences that makes Alipay stand out:
- It’s a standalone payment app, unlike WeChat Pay (which is a tab in WeChat).
- Suited more for in-store payments.
- It offers users more promotions and financial services.
Here’s a quick comparison of the two for international businesses:
|WeChat Pay (international)||AliPay(international)|
|Business entity||Overseas business license||Overseas business license|
|Bank requirement||Home country||Home country|
|Account set-up fee||Free||$1000|
|Transaction fee||3%||3% (or less)|
|Access||Via WeChat||Via AliPay app|
|Users||Approx 900 million||Approx 900 million|
|Best for||WeChat users||non-WeChat users|
Check out our guide to setting up WeChat Pay to find out more.
Need help to register on Alipay outside China?
Get in touch with us, and we’ll put you on the right track.
Our Alipay and WeChat Pay service includes:
- Account setup on either (or both) platforms.
- Coupon creation.
- Other promotion services.
Whatever your Alipay needs, we can meet them. Click here to learn more.