How to setup a WeChat Wallet without a Chinese bank account

This post tells how I managed to setup WeChat Wallet from outside of China and without having a Chinese bank account.

WeChat is a fascinating platform. It has become the most used platform in China, leading the way in mobile use, online shopping & mobile payment.

With a large number of innovative features like the use of QR codes, and the linking of online & offline (from cab services to bike rental and food ordering) it’s more advanced than the likes of Facebook & Twitter. Although it’s very much aimed at China, more and more people across the world are getting interested in using WeChat. It is easy to download the app, and find some friends, either in your contacts or in the area around you.

However when you try to extend the use to payment (when visiting China) things get more complicated. I have managed to set up a WeChat Wallet, and would like to share my experience with you.

First of all when you download the WeChat app, you probably won’t see the wallet. It should be under the Me tab, but in most cases it is lacking in the international versions.

Some people have been able to activate the wallet by changing the language to Chinese (and back), however I have heard mixed results about that trick. The easiest way to do this is ask someone with a WeChat Wallet to send you a ‘Red Packet’ Red Packets are basically a way to send money as a gift to someone else. So it’s peer-to-peer payment. The amount can be as little as ¥0.01 When someone (in my case Floor has been so friendly) sends you a Red Packet you will see that in the chat with that person. When you accept the Red Packet the app will automatically create the WeChat Wallet, and you will see it appear under the Me tab.

WeChat allows you to add bank cards and credit cards to the app. It is supporting Visa, but not in all cases it allows you add the credit card. In my case I was able to add a card.

However it is not accepting the card for payments. It is only used for identification. When trying to top-up the balance it asks again for credit card details, but after entering the number it’s not accepting my Visa card. Adding another card constantly tells me the system is busy and try later. My impression is that system will be busy forever.

So topping up is a problem. Still the best way to top up is asking friends to send you money through WeChat, and pay them back through other means. Another way to top-up your wallet is via PayPal or Bitcoin. There is a service called Micredits that allows you to pay in PayPalor with BitCoin, and then will send you a Red Package. I used the service, it works very fast & convenient. However it comes with a price. The exchange rate from US$ to Yuan is not very benificial. Another service I used is about Vpayfast which also gives a good service, again at the price of a costly exchange rate.

N.B. Since April 2018 in many cases WeChat asked for a Chinese ID for real name verification. Since August 2018 it looks like Visa and Master Card are accepted again for identification (not for top-up)

But be careful adding large amounts to your wallet. I have seen people reporting a Chinese ID or bank card is required after having larger amounts (>1000 RMB) in the wallet.

Please let me know your experience as a comment to this post, or via harryvandenbergh on WeChat. And as I have become a WeChat enthusiast, looking forward to talking to you on WeChat.

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