An expat’s guide to setting up China’s No. 1 online payment tool Alipay

For the good two years I’ve been living in China, my journey to Alipay has been slow and was almost put on the backburner until very recently. When I first arrived in China I heard about this awesome thing Taobao and how you could get anything on it, so naturally I decided to explore. After numerous Taobao transactions with attempts at using Alipay, I gave up and resolved to using plain ol’ direct bank transfers- which of course still work.

The thing with Alipay is that setting it up is essentially as simple as setting up a Taobao account – it hardly requires any Chinese and takes only a matter of minutes. When you get your Taobao account, they basically throw in an Alipay account, but here’s the catch… though you can receive money with your new Alipay account, you won’t be able to use it to buy stuff or withdraw it to a bank account unless you get your account verified. So in short, without verification you don’t get no Alipay.

In essence this tutorial will be about how to verify your Alipay account.

Things you will need:

  • An Alipay account for foreigners – you need to have used your passport during registration
  • An Internet banking-enabled bank account
  • Your passport photo
  • A photo of your visa or residence permit
  • A picture of your arrival stamp in China.


  • Patience!

Here are the steps:

1. Fire up

2. Click the big obvious blue button.5

3. Enter your username on the top and your password below. Hit the big blue button.4

4. In the area next to your name and your starred-out phone number you should see some yellow text – click that.


5. On the following screen, next to the big yellow button on the right hand side of the screen, you’ll need to click at a tiny bit of text to get us to the next page. Don’t click the yellow button!


6. The following screen is where much of the heavy lifting gets done. This is where your bank details, passport, full name and photos will be placed.


Follow this key for a translation of the relevant terms:

  • Full name – needs to match the way it appears on both your passport and at your bank
  • Passport number
  • Attach a picture of your passport photo page.
  • Attach a picture of your Chinese visa and arrival stamp (combine the pictures together).
  • Your address
  • Your phone number
  • Captcha

When done hit the orange button.

4. The following screen is much the same as the previous. Again, the following fields will need to be completed.


(The numbers represent below content:)

  1. Bank account name
  2. Bank name
  3. The city of your branch location
  4. Bank card number

When finished hit the orange button.

5. Now Alipay will transfer a small amount of RMB to your bank account. Alipay will very soon send you an SMS text message alerting to you the fact that you have made a transfer. When you receive this text message you will need to check your bank account to confirm the transfer amount. This whole process can take up to 1-2 days.

The easiest way to confirm the transfer amount is to check online – if you can navigate your way around Chinese banking – otherwise you may need to make a visit to the bank.612821950

6. When you’ve confirmed that you have received the amount that Alipay deposited into your bank account, you’ll need to input the exact amounts by revisiting this screen and hitting the orange button to enter the correct amount.


Now the waiting game begins. From here you may have to wait up to 2 days for Alipay to confirm your account. If all goes well you’ll receive a text message or email when they’ve confirmed it, or you’ll see this screen when you log in next.


There you have it folks – it ain’t so hard when you know what you’re doing. Lucky for you, you had us to guide you along. I didn’t even know this process existed. The world is yours!

(Top photo from Baidu Image)

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