Tencent’s WeChat Pay to allow Hong Kong users to pay for purchases on the mainland

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 25 September, 2018, 6:52pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 September, 2018, 4:07pm

Shoppers will soon be able to use the Hong Kong version of the WeChat Pay mobile payment app to pay for purchases at mainland merchants, making it the first Chinese company to let users settle bills on the mainland via Hong Kong dollar.

Tencent Holdings, which operates the Hong Kong version of WeChat Pay, will partner China UnionPay and its subsidiary UnionPay International to let users settle the bill for their purchases on the mainland in Hong Kong dollars, starting from October, according to a statement from the company.

Vendors such as Didi Chuxing, Meituan-Dianping and railway ticketing platform will accept payments made via WeChat Pay HK. Purchases will be converted from yuan to Hong Kong dollars automatically within the app, where exchange rate quotes and automatic exchange services will be available.

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“The cross-border mobile payment will greatly increase the collaboration opportunities for both Hong Kong and mainland Chinese businesses,” said Jim Lai, president of Tencent and head of the company’s fintech arm Tencent Financial Technology, in the statement. “This exchange of culture, talent and the stimulation of economic activity across a wide variety of sectors will serve to strengthen the mutual relationships between Hong Kong and mainland China.”

WeChat Pay HK, as the Hong Kong wallet is known, was previously only available locally in the city and was not accepted as a form of payment by mainland merchants as the payment systems used are different in each jurisdiction and not interoperable.

“The People’s Bank of China supports the development of regulated cross-border payment and healthy competition in the industry,” Wen Xinxiang, secretary-general of the central bank’s monetary policy committee, said at the WeChat press event in Shenzhen on Wednesday.

The launch of the cross-border mobile payment feature will help to cement Hong Kong’s status as a financial hub and facilitate cash flow and trade between the two regions, Ma Xiaodong, vice president of Tencent Financial Technology, said at the event.

AlipayHK, a local mobile payments partner affiliated with Alibaba Group Holding-backed Ant Financial Services, has not yet announced a similar feature.

“At present, AlipayHK digital wallet has the technology required for cross-border payment,” AlipayHK said in a statement. “In order to bring a better and more comprehensive consumer experience, we are discussing the best solution to implement this with relevant parties and merchants.”

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Mainland users of WeChat Pay and Alipay have for several years been able to make payments at selected merchants with their Chinese mobile wallets when travelling abroad. Such payment methods are commonly accepted at luxury stores in Europe and at popular tourist attractions, where payments for overseas purchases will be settled in yuan.

Both WeChat Pay and Alipay have raced to have their respective wallets accepted as a payment method around the world to cater to China’s hundreds of millions of outbound tourists, who last year spent US$258 billion abroad, making them the biggest spenders globally, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation World Tourism Barometer.

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Encouraging Alipay and WeChat Pay as payment options outside China can help drive transaction volumes, since users are more likely to use payment methods familiar to them for convenience. The ticket size of each transaction is also likely to be larger when users are travelling abroad.

Alibaba is the parent company of the South China Morning Post.