How to set up your WeChat wallet without a Chinese bank account

If you visit China you will very quickly realize that most people in the large cities don’t carry cash these days and they don’t use EFTPOS for paying either.

setup WeChat walletInstead they use WeChat or Alipay apps on their phone to pay. In my experience WeChat is used the most, with the ubiquitous QR code scanners on every store counter, and in every cafe or restaurant. Quite frankly I’ve felt like a dolt pulling out cash to pay for a coffee at Starbucks. The problem is that the international version of WeChat doesn’t make it easy to set up the wallet functionality, which requires you to connect to a local Chinese bank account or credit card. Tencent does have global ambitions for WeChat so I imagine they will start to support international credit cards eventually, but as it stands today they don’t work..and that is if you can even figure out how to activate the wallet functionality in the first place.

Thankfully, with a little trial and error I was able to activate the wallet on WeChat and even credit my wallet with some Yuan, despite running the international version of the app. Here’s how I did it…

How to set up WeChat wallet

  1. The first thing you need to do is to have a Chinese friend of colleague send some Yuan to your WeChat account. Any amount will work, as little as ¥0.10 will be fine. The act of sending Yuan via WeChat to your WeChat account will enable the wallet functionality on the app. The wallet doesn’t show up by default on the international version of the app, but receiving some funds will activate it.
  2. Once activated you will be able to view your wallet and balance from the Me tab in the app. You can now use the wallet to send WeChat payments to any of your WeChat contacts, though you will need to top up your balance ahead of time because the app doesn’t currently support international credit cards or bank accounts. You’ll only be able to spend as much as you have in your wallet balance.
  3. To top up your WeChat wallet you really have two options:
    1. Ask you Chinese friend to send funds to your account and you pay them back by some other means. This is probably the best option as you can agree a reasonable exchange rate, something close to the official rate of the day.
    2. You can use a 3rd party service like Micredits.com where you can buy Yuan funds for your wallet via PayPal. I used this service to add some finds to my account and it worked well, though it does seem to be a little bit manual. Effectively you are paying the service in USD via PayPal and they will then manually send you Yuan to your WeChat account. Understandably they make a cut on the USD to RMB exchange rate…and it is quite a cut. I paid $24.50 USD for ¥100, where the official rate values ¥100 at <$16 USD. It worked for me, but I don’t know I would recommend it…certainly you’ll get a better deal if you can pay a friend some other way and have them send the funds to your wallet.

 

And that’s it..actually quite simple, if a little bit of a work around. You will at the very least be able to add funds to your wallet and use these to send funds to any of your WeChat contacts, though at the time of writing you still can’t use these funds to pay instore using WeChat pay because your WeChat wallet isn’t verified until it is actually connected to a Chinese account. So yes, it is rather limited, but still handy if you need to be able to send funds to friends or colleagues to pay for your share of dinner!

Final note: in the wallet app inside WeChat you will find that you can add a credit card, but (at the time of writing) these can’t be used to top up your balance. I’ve added my card but every time I try to top up my balance it asks for the card details again, and just goes round in circles. It appears that this functionality just hasn’t been enabled yet, but you have to assume that this is on the cards to be enabled at some point in the future, which will definitely make it much easier to use for the international audience.

Posted By Charles

With nearly 20 years in web development and online marketing management, Charles' professional experience spans b2b ecommerce, b2c multi-channel marketing and agency side online marketing services. Today Charles leads the team at Cross Border Digital. Connect with Charles on LinkedIn.

27 Comments

Jessica

Hi Charles, I’m having trouble as well trying to set up my master credit card with WeChat.. I even went through a third party service to purchase yuan. Are there any other work arounds that might work? Thanks!

Charles

Hi Jessica, I’m not aware of any other work-arounds at this time. I’m hopeful that Tencent will soon start to support full featured payments using international credit cards.

destiny

yes I have tried to receive fund through a friend is still asking me to do the real authentification first, I didnt activate my wallet.

Jasper

Is this still working now?

Charles

Hi Jasper, this is still working as described as far as I am aware, but please note it is rather limited in that you can only send Yuan to other users from funds loaded on your account. You can’t use it to pay merchants.

Christian

Thanks Charles for this wonderful information. Once i receive funds to my wechat wallet from a friend can i transfer it to another wechat user without verification?

Charles

Hi Christian, you used to be able to do this, but I now have trouble with this. The user flow seems to have changed since I wrote this post. I need to do an update.

Deroles D

Yayaka.com is also another Excellent 3rd Party Wechat Top up service website. The price is more reasonable because there is no commissions.

Shane

Worked like a charm. Now my friends can order their own food. =) Thank you so much.

Cathy

It wont work on mine. i tried asking a friend to send me money and I still get a card required or id.

Charles

Hi Cathy, yes it seems since I wrote this article that this method isn’t working any more. I need to retest this and see if there is another means to do this.

allie

Hi Charles, Thank you for the article. I have been using we chat pay on visits to China without problem. I linked it with my Hong Kong credit card as it asked me to confirm my identity. This worked to start with but then it kicked me out and now I have money in my balance but it won’t let me use it & keeps asking me to verify my identity….I have tried unlinking the credit card and relinking but it doesn’t work…any ideas?

Charles

Hi Allie, I’m having the same trouble now myself and I don’t have a solution at this time.

Mary

I can’t activate the wallet option even though my friend had sent me some red pocket money in yuan. I couldn’t pass the authentication. Is there any way to by pass it?

Charles

Hi Mary, I’m not sure what to tell you in this case. What happened to the funds that your friend sent you? Did they get them back or were they not even able to send?

Joao

Hi, would this process work if I want to add wechat to my Chinese Apple ID? Or it might be another way to add a payment to my Chinese Apple ID, thanks

Charles

Hi Joao, I’m not familiar with Chinese Apple IDs so I can’t answer that question. Have you found a solution to your problem?

Pre

Hello is it possible to use my sister account number while registering Wechat and later replace it when I open a bank account

Charles

Hi Pre, that is a good question. I don’t know for sure, but I believe that this won’t be possible as I am sure a bank account can only be linked to a single WeChat account. If you try it please let us know the outcome!

mrs chan

HI Charles,
how do I make transfer to a friend ? [I have some balance in wechat wallet] thanks

Charles

Hi Mrs Chan, this is quite easy…

  1. Open a chat with the friend you want to send the funds to.
  2. Tap the + icon
  3. Tap the Transfers option and follow the steps to complete transfer.

Here’s a screenshot…

How to transfer funds using WeChat wallet

Bowen

Hi Charles, i have ask my friend to Send me the red pocket to me but when i want to open the red pocket, it pop up a message saying that “ according to laws of the People’s republic of China, you need to add a Chinese bank card registered in your name in order to continue using your wechat pay balance”. Same message pop up when i want to make payment even i have link my credit card in my wechat

Charles

Ho Bowen, can your friend send you funds using regular transfer rather than Red Packet?

Lee

Hi Charles,
I seem to be banging my head agents a brick wall. I manage to get to the registration phase, enter all my details and when I get to the point of receiving a registration code I never get the text. This has happened way over 10 times now. I have even tried to do it to other numbers. Any suggestion?

Charles

Hi Lee, sorry to hear you are having so much trouble. I don’t have any immediate suggestions. What country are you in?

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