🇨🇳 Monzo in China [Wiki]

This is a wiki crowdsourced by the Monzo Community to help you travel with Monzo.

Just like Wikipedia, anyone can edit it to help out others. If you have any tips or feedback for visiting China with Monzo, please feel free to edit this guide. You can also add a comment or question below — someone will then incorporate your comment into the main text below and then delete your comment. To create your own “Monzo in …” guide if one doesn’t already exist, just copy this template into a new post and write away!

Safe travels! :wave: :airplane:


Currency

China uses the Renminbi (yuan; ¥)

Card usage

Card payments are rare in China as mobile payments are preferred; plus UnionPay is the primary card network in China so you may find your card (Mastercard) is generally not accepted. Acceptance will be better in Tier 1 cities such as Shanghai, Beijing and Shenzhen but likely only in tourist-orientated places and higher-end Western establishments (Carl’s Jr, Starbucks, or Costa Coffee, for example). It is unusual for card transactions to take place at all these days due to mobile payments (Alipay, WeChat Pay) dominance so you may find it easier to rely on cash or create an Alipay account and top it up with your Monzo card (see below).

Alipay (Mobile Payment)

Unlike in most of the world where mobile payments are primarily contactless EMV, in China they are based on either you scanning a static QR code provided by the merchant (this low-cost option helped spur its adoption among smaller merchants who couldn’t afford a card terminal and associated merchant account), or the merchant scanning a dynamically generated QR code on your phone in a payment app. Until very recently, this was inaccessible to visitors, as QR code payments could only be done from a linked Chinese bank account. This changed in early November 2019 when Alipay announced a new “Tour Pass” feature for foreign tourists. In 6 steps, you can set up an Alipay wallet and top it up with your credit or debit card, significantly reducing the amount of cash you need to carry.

Note: You will need to have a Chinese visa. If you are doing a stopover using the 3 or 6 day transit without visa scheme, you will be unable to complete the application process.

  1. Download the Alipay app and start the signup process with your mobile number.

  2. Select “yes” when prompted if you want to use the international version.

  3. Once signup is complete, select the “Tour Pass” option on the main screen.

  4. Select the amount you want to top up. The maximum top-up amount is 2000 CNY (around £222).

  5. You will be asked to provide your full name, nationality, passport number, date of birth, a photo of your Chinese visa (not your passport) and your card details.

  6. Once the top-up succeeds, your funds are ready to use.

How to use:

If the shop or stall shows you a QR code, select “scan” from the main screen, scan it, and type in the amount requested. You will be asked to confirm the transaction with either your Alipay PIN (set up during signup) or biometric verification, and done.

If the shop prepares a barcode scanner, then select “pay” and let them scan the code shown on your screen. You will see the confirmation straight away, unless you are asked to verify the transaction (this happens sometimes as a fraud prevention measure), then you will have to verify, and done.

A temporary Alipay wallet set up in this manner will last for 90 days from set-up. Note that your limit over these 90 days is 2000 CNY total. If this is not enough, further spending will have to be in cash. At the end of 90 days, any unused funds will be refunded to your card. Your Alipay account will remain, but you will need to create another Tour Pass wallet and top it up again. If you have a Chinese bank account, you can link it for direct payments instead.

ATMs

Whilst not all ATMs in China support Mastercards, acceptance is good with larger banks such as ICBC, Bank of China and China Construction Bank (three of China’s “big four”). Do be aware that some banks, like Agricultural Bank of China, will have the MasterCard logo displayed at all of their ATMs while not actually supporting MasterCard at all of them. You’ll often find the ATM is in a lockable cubicle outside of the bank and may be labelled as a ‘Cash Deposit/Recycling System/Service’ (which indicates a deposit-capable ATM to that bank’s customers) but can be used as an ATM. An English option may be available, follow on screen instructions for this.

When making a withdrawal, you may be asked which account you wish to withdraw from. You can select Default, Savings or Checking (whichever of these is available) and not Credit. This happens because you can often withdraw from other accounts you hold with the bank, but doesn’t apply to non-Chinese cards.

Payment and withdrawal limits

All Monzo cards have some payment and withdrawal limits. To check yours before you leave, tap “Manage” under the picture of your card and then “Spending and card limits”.

Crowdsourced merchant data

Data will most likely be scant so please try and contribute relevant feedback about transactions

Miscellaneous

  • Try Didi (Like the Chinese Uber) instead of Taxi if you want to pay by card. An English version is available which fully supports Monzo cards.
  • Prepare a VPN if you wish to use the apps you’re used to. A VPN is NOT required for the Monzo app. Be aware before you pay one, however, that most VPNs do not work in China.

To edit this guide, just tap the pencil icon below. Alternatively, add a reply with your comments and someone from the community will incorporate your suggestions into the guide and then delete your comment.

1 Like

Just spent a week in China and used the Monzo card in hotel ATM. The machine allowed me to withdraw only R1000 per day.

Also, tried to pay for purchases at two separate shops and to settle my hotel bill but card was not accepted by the terminals. Disappointed.

Not long returned from China (Shanghai) and no problem. Even liked the feature that popped up reminding mt to but the “Magstripe ATM” on! The card was better than my company card and lucky I took my Monzo card with me or wouldn’t have been able to eat that day!

FYI/ NB. Chinese retailers prefer cash payments (from my experience) than card

1 Like

Hi I’m currently in china and have used the card twice in board River Cruiser no problem but was unable to use it at the local museum, I haven’t tried to withdraw from an ATM yet.

Ref. ATM when the card is entered will the language change to English? Thanks

Hi I’ve just withdrawn from an ATM in China Yes it did come up in English when I entered the card and I just followed the prompts No problems :+1::+1:

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Just a tip. If you are going to first tiers cities (yeah Chinese tier their cities) like being Shanghai Shenzhen Guangzhou. you probably have no issue using the card all day round as long as you enable megnetic strip witdraw.
Now this is the fun part. If you are not in first tier cities. Remember local back branches might turn off the international transaction function in their ATM :triumph: so do try ALL banks like bank of China ICBC CCB etc. Try all ATM with MasterCard logo on.
So far has not had issues on using card payment on POS which support MasterCard. And no Chinese bank don’t give out cash back at POS.

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Actually now they prefer alipay or WeChat pay

WeChat and Alipay are certainly very widely used. WeChat is particularly useful as the major social media programme in China but charging a WeChat account appears impossible at the moment for a foreigner without a Union Pay account. It would certainly revolutionise things for tourists outside the major cities – and even within them at minor stores, taxis, etc. – if there were a method of putting money through Monzo into a WeChat account.

1 Like

Wild imagination. Maybe Monzo will be the first UK bank supports alipay and we chat pay tight up. Since these two payment solutions is eager to enter european market. And Monzo does have competable hardwares. Although there will be regulations on both country to get over. Maybe.

3 Likes

It is things like joining WePay and SOFORT or offering a Maestro or UnionPay option that would create a real USP for a fintech but most seem not to want to smash the mould of british banking just reshape it slightly :wink:

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Any bank who did that. Or at least offer an option to allow user join Wepay or unionpay would attract the large incoming Chinese students and invested a and traveller as their customers. Plus probably brownie points to get head start in their deployment and not to mention good will from the Chinese market :star_struck: in my humble opinion

4 Likes

Hello, I’m just here to add some helpful information. I couldn’t see the icon to edit the wiki itself.

Firstly a note about the most popular way to pay in China: mobile wallet applications Wechat (Wēixìn) and Alipay (Zhīfùbǎo). Almost everybody (shops, restaurants, market stallholders, street food stallholders, cinemas, taxi drivers, friends) and everything (phone charging stations, vending machines) accept payments from either or both applications.

Currently (June 2018) you won’t be able to pay or add credit to the mobile wallets using your Monzo Mastercard, even if you have an account that has been real name verified with a Chinese mobile phone number and linked to a Chinese bank account. You can add your card to the mobile wallet, but you won’t be able to do anything with it inside China. If you are in a city, have a Chinese speaking friend, and have a few free hours, open a bank account in China. Take your passport to get a Chinese SIM card and then use your phone number, passport and National Insurance number and try to open a bank account at one of the bank’s main branch. You may have to visit several different banks in order to find one that will open an account for you, especially if you have a tourist visa, so be prepared to use cash during your visit.

Secondly, ATMs. You will definitely find ATMs in cities that accept your Monzo Mastercard and allow you to withdraw Chinese RMB: look for the Mastercard symbol above the machine. There are many different banks in China, each with their own machines. ICBC is one of the main banks. Most of their machines (located in larger hotels, bank branches, and 24 hour self service rooms) will take Mastercard and allow you to use the machine in English after you have inserted your card. You may have to select to withdraw cash from your “credit card” if you are presented with an option to withdraw cash from a checking account, bank account or credit card.

Thirdly, the Monzo app. I had no problem receiving push notifications or using version 2.2.0 of the app on Android over cellular or WiFi in China. I didn’t need a VPN. This may change, however, and it’s difficult to give a definite answer before you arrive.

Hope this helps somebody - I’d be happy to answer questions if there are any.

4 Likes

Also Citi Atms work faultlessly too (tested in Shanghai).

1 Like

In shanghai. I’ve had no problems withdrawing from atms but have had frequent issues paying in shops at their terminals. It’s odd in that Starbucks almost never works but Pacific Coffee (a local coffee chain) works all the time.

2 Likes

Not being able to pay in most shops is very true. I have literally not seen one person use a card to pay - cashiers even sometimes appear confused because no one bothers with cards it’s all via mobile payment options (WeChat/QQ, Alipay and to a much lesser extent UnionPay themselves)

In China at the moment,
Card works in most national ATMs without Magstripe. eg. China Construction Bank
Does not work as Payment option anywhere. VISA does seem to work.

Cash is still king here for non locals as you need china bank account for WeChat and AliPay. Most place places it is either phone payments or cash. Hotels and bigger supermarkets will take VISA

It’s actually depends, not every post accept Mastercard in China. But I am not sure why there will be a limited in hotel ATM?

You have to change the language by yourself, at the start up there always an English option.

Vast majority of ATMs take Monzo card (and other Visa and MasterCard). There is always an option to change the language to English either prior to card insertion or at the PIN stage.

It is easier to say that the Monzo card cannot be used for purchases in China. The places you can use it are very, very limited.