Get more with myNEWS
A personalised news feed of stories that matter to you
Learn more
(Picture: Mark Blinch/Reuters)

WeChat rolls out its own credit system nationwide, rivaling Alipay’s Sesame Credit

China’s private credit scoring systems from Alipay and WeChat Pay reward frequent users of the apps

This article originally appeared on ABACUS
Until this week, only one of China’s top two mobile payment apps offered its own user credit scores. That’s now changed as WeChat has officially rolled out its credit scoring system for all WeChat Pay users in China -- as long as you have a Chinese ID number.

Called the WeChat Pay Score in English, the system comes nearly five years after Alipay launched Zhima Credit, aka Sesame Credit. That system from Tencent’s mobile payments rival Ant Financial was launched in 2015.

(Abacus is a unit of the South China Morning Post, which is owned by Alibaba, an affiliate of Ant Financial.)

The two systems work similarly. Users are given a score based on their spending habits, which is supposed to show how creditworthy they are. Both credit scoring programs are opt-in, but a high score can offer perks like deposit-free rentals, coupons and small loans.

WeChat Pay hasn’t said what the highest possible score is, but 784 is on the higher end. (Picture: WeChat)
Tencent says the WeChat Pay Score is generated based on an evaluation of “identity characteristics,” payment behavior, and credit history. Identity characteristics refers to whether a user is registered with their real name and other relevant personal information, according to the program page. China’s central bank requires all mobile payment platforms to have users register with their real names, which are checked against ID numbers.

Credit history is based on whether users have ever defaulted on payments or have other negative WeChat Pay records. And payment behavior is related to consumption habits through WeChat Pay, although the company didn’t elaborate on how this is scored.

In the comment section of a Tencent Weibo post about the credit score, some users asked how they can improve low scores. Tencent’s response was to encourage people to use WeChat Pay more often. Alipay also appears to use purchasing volume, or frequency of use, as a factor in its Zhima scores, which makes it somewhat akin to a loyalty program.
When the system started testing in January last year, Tencent told Chinese media outlet The Paper that the WeChat Pay Score is different from Zhima Credit because it can draw from WeChat’s “social chain.” That means friends’ credit scores would be “mutually affected,” the company said.
We asked Tencent if the newly introduced credit score system would also be partly based on social connections, but the company didn’t respond. When previously asked by Technode how friends on the app might affect a user’s credit score, Tencent didn’t elaborate.
WeChat hasn’t publicly said what the highest possible score is for WeChat Pay Credit, but a score higher than 800 is considered high. To get access to all the perks, though, you only need a score higher than 600. In one marketing stunt, Tencent posted a screenshot of CEO Pony Ma challenging people on WeChat to beat his credit score, which stands at 835.