This is a wiki crowdsourced by the Monzo Community to help you travel with Monzo.
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China uses the Renminbi (yuan; ¥)
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.
Download the Alipay app and start the signup process with your mobile number.
Select “yes” when prompted if you want to use the international version.
Once signup is complete, select the “Tour Pass” option on the main screen.
Select the amount you want to top up. The maximum top-up amount is 2000 CNY (around £222).
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.
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.
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 “Account” 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
- 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.
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