Happy 2nd Birthday, WeChat Payment!

Tencent displayed an ad for WeChat red envelopes on a digital billboard in Times Square, New York City in February. (Photo from Sohu)
Tencent displayed an ad for WeChat red envelopes on a digital billboard in Times Square, New York City in February. (Photo from Sohu)

While WeChat celebrated its fifth birthday on January 22, WeChat Payment is only commemorating its second anniversary on Friday. Tencent completed internal testing and opened up WeChat Payment to verified service accounts such as enterprises and brick-and-mortar stores on March 4, 2014.

Tencent said in the company’s 2015 third quarter results that WeChat has amassed 650 million monthly active users. The platform is the world’s fourth most popular messaging app after WhatsApp, QQ Mobile and Facebook Messenger, according to statistics firm Statista.

Tencent also reported in the same earnings report that over 200 million users have linked their bank cards on WeChat. WeChat Payment is stuck at a distant second of 15.9% in the mobile payment market in China, trailing behind Alibaba’s Alipay, which has 71.5% of the market share, according to internet data research firm Analysys.

The vision of WeChat Payment that Tencent’s Founder and CEO Pony Ma had was to facilitate transactions via scanning QR codes within its messaging and social media platform. Currently, more than a dozen Chinese banks work with WeChat to let users link their bank cards to the platform.

Users are encouraged to pay for their utilities, cell phone and credit card bills, make investments, give out digital red envelopes, split bills between friends, and donate to charities on WeChat. Tencent also partners with different Chinese tech companies to let users to buy movie tickets, book flights and train tickets, participate in group-buying, find deals on an ecommerce site, and even order rides — all within the platform.

Let’s go over some of the milestones of WeChat Payment in the last two years.

June 13, 2014 Tencent launched “WeChat pocket money”. It allows users to maintain a balance in their digital wallet, besides making payments via the platform. This step is similar to the Balance feature in Alipay.

February 19, 2015 The number of WeChat Payment users were boosted to 200 million after the Chinese New Year holiday. This is because Tencent collaborated with China’s state television broadcaster CCTV to give away digital coupons and red envelopes to WeChat Payment users during the annual national Chinese New Year Gala.

November 11, 2015 Tencent begins to support overseas transactions for China-based WeChat users by partnering with a dozen foreign banks in more than 20 countries. Users will be charged in RMB but can settle payments in local currencies.

November 29, 2015 WeChat Payment goes global. Tencent chose South Africa as the first country to launch WeChat Payment overseas by partnering up with Standard Bank.

February 3, 2016 WeChat Wallet is available to Hong Kong-based users. For users who have both Hong Kong and Chinese bank accounts, Tencent allows users to switch digital wallets between the two regions.

February 5 – March 4, 2016 Tencent encourages users to pay with WeChat Payment by offering discounts to travelers who shop at the Shilla duty free shops at Incheon International Airport, Jeju International Airport and Gimpo International Airport in South Korea.

February 7, 2016 Tencent gave away digital red envelopes to WeChat users in New York City’s Times Square during this year’s Chinese New Year.

March 1, 2016 Tencent starts to charge users when users make more than RMB 1,000 (USD 153) in cumulative transfers from their WeChat Wallet to a bank account.

Pony Ma told Chinese state media outlet Xinhua on Thursday that WeChat is expanding overseas. Tencent is now looking for a local partner in India and developing strategies to differentiate the company’s products and services in order to compete with WhatsApp and other messaging apps.

Ma said the debut of digital red envelopes in Hong Kong during Chinese New Year was a success.

“When the time is right, it’s possible that WeChat will launch digital red envelopes in U.S. dollars, euros and other currencies,” Ma told Xinhua.

(Featured photo of birthday cupcake is from Shardayyy/Flickr)

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