China Marketing Blog

How to Choose a Chinese Online Payment Solution

Samantha — Tue, 05/17/2011 - 14:27

As of January 2011, there were 160 million online shoppers in China (CNNIC report from Jan 2011). Any e-commerce store owner knows that the choice of online payment systems can have a strong impact on sales and profitability. In China, there are at least 20 different such platforms such as Alipay, TenPay, 99Bill and PayPal. Choosing which one to use can be a bit daunting so we’ve collected some key info about the most popular platforms and created this handy guide for you. After reading this, we hope your decision is a bit easier.

Market shares of online payment providers in China

 

First Question: Do You Have a Company in China?

This is the first question you ask yourself, because if you do have a company in China that you can use to sign up for a payment solution, you may use any of these providers. If you do not, your options are limited to Alipay and PayPal. All the other payment solution providers request an ICP license which means only Chinese business entities can sign up. Even wholly owned foreign enterprises cannot register for the other payment solution providers. If you really want to use a payment solution other than Alipay or PayPal and you don’t have a Chinese company, you can register a personal account with a payment platform and individual Chinese bank account. However, this may result in a whole host of issues with taxation and money transfers.

 
 

What Chinese Internet Users Think About Payment Solutions

There are two important things you should know about what your potential Chinese customers think.

  1. Trust in online payment has historically been low in China. Online shoppers in China don’t necessarily trust the payment option used and they trust the merchants even less. This has led payment solutions to provide escrow services, ensuring that the seller is only paid after the product is received by the buyer.

  2. Alipay is the top dog. It is the most well-known and highly used payment solution out there and so is often used as the basis of comparison. Since so many people already have accounts, and Alipay is known for offering a wide selection of payment and withdrawal options, Alipay is usually the first choice for Chinese e-commerce websites, but that’s not to say that is always the best choice. Plus, it’s sometimes smart to provide buyers with more than one payment option.

 

Alipay

AliPay Logo

Alipay is the clear leader in online payments in China. As of December 2010, Alipay had over 550 million members and a daily transaction volume of over 2.5 billion yuan (about 378 USD), making it the largest online payment platform in the world both in terms of users and transaction volume. Alipay is the only payment system used on Taobao, the eBay of China.

Alipay has arrangements with over 60 Chinese banks, Visa and Mastercard. See the full list.

Available payment options:

  • Escrow - Payment is made by buyer before product is shipped and payment is released when product is received. This is the standard form of payment for any physical products.

  • Immediate payment – This option is normally used to pay for hotel room bookings, flight bookings or other items that do not need to be shipped.

  • Both escrow and immediate payment – The buyer can be given the choice.

Fees:

Foreign companies must pay a $1,000 USD setup fee, but there is no setup fee for Chinese companies.

Transaction fees for foreign companies are 2.5 – 3.0% depending on your annual transaction volume. Chinese companies need only pay 0.7-1.2%.

Signup process:

Foreign companies are welcome to use Alipay and Nanjing Marketing Group can communicate with Alipay to help you setup your account.

Step 1) Register an Alipay account online.

Step 2) Send some paperwork, including:

  • A colour copy of a business license.
  • A colour copy of the business owner’s passport.
  • Some information about the company’s bank account such as the bank’s name, the bank address and the account number.

Step 3) If approved, a contract is signed.

Then the signup process is done. Payment can be received via email or website.

Withdrawal:

  • A minimum of $5,000 can be withdrawn at a time.

  • The Alipay interface is only in Chinese.

  • Withdrawals can be made only to the official bank account registered with the company.

  • There is no withdrawal fee.

Websites That Use Alipay:

Websites That Use Alipay
 
 

PayPal

PayPal Logo

Since entering China in 2005, PayPal has become the top foreign competitor in the online payment platform market. While PayPal may lack overall usage in China, it is still the most common payment solution used by Chinese buyers to purchase goods from other countries.

Available Payment Options:

Immediate payment only. Although PayPal provides buyer protection, it’s not trusted as much as an escrow service. This can be a major drawback.

Fees:

When receiving payments from China to a non-Chinese PayPal account, PayPal charges 0.30 USD + 2.9 – 3.9% depending on the previous month’s transaction volume.

Signup process:

If you already have a PayPal account, you should be able to use that account to accept payments from China. For non-Chinese companies, PayPal is the easiest choice by far.

The downside is that not many Chinese people a PayPal account or use PayPal often. They will need to learn how to use it, register an account, trust PayPal and trust you.

Withdrawal:

Withdrawing money from PayPal is much simpler than for Alipay. Withdrawal charges vary widely by country. Withdrawal to a US bank account is free, while withdrawal to a Chinese bank account costs $35 per withdrawal. In other countries, withdrawals are free only over a certain limit.

 

99Bill

99Bill Logo

99Bill is another leading online payment service provider in China, offering a comprehensive suit of secure, safe and convenient electronic payment solutions to all kinds of enterprises and individuals. As of February 2011, 99Bill had 84 million registered users and about 830,000 merchant partners. 99Bill’s fees are quite competitive, but only for Chinese companies.

Some websites will install both Alipay and 99Bill because this allows them to make payment more convenient for customers that only use one of these platforms.

99Bill can accept payments from over 30 Chinese banks, Visa and Mastercard. See the full list.

Available payment options:

Immediate payment only.

Fees:

Setup: 500 RMB (About 75 USD)

Payments: 1%

Withdrawal: 0.1% (With a minimum fee of 5 RMB and a maximum fee of 50 RMB).

Signup process:

Only Chinese companies can sign up for 99Bill. They must have a website with an ICP license number.

Websites That Use 99Bill:

Websites that use 99Bill
 
 
 

TenPay

TenPay Logo

TenPay is an online payment system developed by Tencent which the most successful instant messaging service in China. With Tencent’s "600 million" plus users, TenPay gained an instant foothold in the market. Besides the same basic payment functions the other payment solutions have, TenPay also allows users to use their QQ points or QQ credits. This makes TenPay a great solution for any businesses realted to QQ games, QQ numbers and other QQ services.

Available payment options:

  • Escrow

  • Instant payment

Fees:

  • Escrow: 100% free. Free setup, no transaction fees, no withdrawal fees.

  • Instant payment: Free setup, 1% transaction fee. Every 7 days, as long as your account balance is 500 RMB or higher, TenPay will automatically transfer revenue to your bank account.

Signup Process:

Website needs to have ICP number, all the content has to be under Chinese law.

Websites That Use TenPay:

Websites that use TenPay 
 
 

Other Online Payment Systems in China

Some other Chinese payment platforms have advantages in certain situations. For example, ChinaPnR is specialized in phone call and prepaid payments, while CnCard is specialized in online game payments, and online lottery payments. If you’d like more details, please leave a comment.

 
3Pay
Chinabank Payment Logo
UnionPay Logo
3Pay Logo
95ePay
YourSpay Logo
95epay Logo
IPS Logo
WeDoPay Logo
ECPSS Logo
PayEase Logo
YFTong
YeePay Logo
ChinaPnR Logo
1Futong Logo
CnCard
AllMyPay
F2Pay
CnCard Logo
Allmypay Logo
F2Pay Logo

 

This post was written by Samantha Wang, manager of Nanjing Marketing Group. If you’re looking to setup a Chinese payment solution, or sell product in China, check out Nanjing Marketing Group.

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Comments

Hi, thanks for providing this informative guide! You mentioned some companies having specialties near the end. Are there any others that focus on video games? Is there a quick way to compare what kind of platform integration services each company provides (e.g. programming languages, APIs, other support provided)?

Thanks,

Z

For video games, i think it would be the best to have TenPay, since they have a hug QQ member users basis and QQ has experience at payments with video games.

Plus, they have a strong and mature services support compare to other payment companies.

Thank you so much! I have been wanting to know more about this subject in regards to online payment solutions.

I thought all companies needs to pay an installation fee to install Alipay,despite being Chinese or foreign companies.

Anyway, we are looking for a provider that supports international visa and master card online payment as well as phone call payment. Please advise.

Thanks in advance.

Many of the above online payments providers they support international visa and master card, and as i noticed that 99Bill have phone call payment. You could contact them first i would say.

 

Samantha,

I found this very helpful and one of the very few articles on online payments options for non Chinese organisations. Many thanks.

I work for University of York, UK, where we have a significant Chinese student population. Many struggle with paying through our online payment systems while they are applying and still in China, though once they are here they usually get a UK card and bank account and so are fine.

We are looking at adding Paypal as a payment option to our systems to help (currently we just take debit/credit cards, which seem very problematic with Chinese issued cards). Judging by the article above Paypal would be the best option. Is there anything else broader you would recommend to help, be it cultural, the way systems are designed, what help/support we can provide?

Kind regards,

Andrew

Thanks for the comment Andrew, maybe my new updated blog post at http://www.east-west-connect.com/one-more-option-your-china-online-payme... will give you a better idea.
Hope it will help.

Samantha

Thanks Samantha for a very informative article. Would you have more examples of multinationals starting to sell online in China and their strategy of which payment methods to accept?

For multinationals some prefer Alipay the most, because it`s more mature in China and for international trading, and some are considering PayDollar.(Read more at http://www.east-west-connect.com/one-more-option-your-china-online-payme...)

Regarding the pricing for AliPay, AliPay website says it's 1% (promotion price 0.5%). This is different from what it's shown in this article. Any thoughts on why there is a gap?

Thanks for reading and comments.

Are you asking about transaction fees? I believe in this article it says "for foreign companies are 2.5 – 3.0% depending on your annual transaction volume. For Chinese companies need only pay 0.7-1.2% which is also based on your annual transaction volume. 1% you mentioned is in the rang.

In a word, if your annual transaction volume is huge, they will charge you less, if your annual transaction volume is small, they will charge you more.

Hey Samantha, thanks for this wonderful article! well, am starting a B2B (import-export platform) but my target group are the English speaking! I need an escrow service for that matter to guarantee safe trading on my site, what best option would you recommend for that option? I understand Alipay is in chinese, how customized is it for the non chinese speakers?
Thank you

The best option is Alipay, you can contact their international department to see if they can customized the site for non Chinese speakers.http://global.alipay.com/ospay/home.htm

Thank you Samantha,
Idf I may ask, is it possible (and would you recommend) to run two different escrow services on the same e-commerce platform? example, integrating Alipay and someother user friendly escrow (depending on my target group)! Thank you.

Yes, it will be possible, i think as long as the 2 platform can compatible with each other, that will be good because different users might prefer different platforms. This will involve more tech issues, you may need to ask for the two platforms for further info. Regards,

Hi,

Thank you for the informative article on payment methods in China. I have a question which i hope you can answer. According to Alipay website on express checkout (http://global.alipay.com/product/expresspayment.html), it says is free cost for value added products. Does it mean is free for overseas merchants when they offer Alipay Express Checkout? Did i understand it wrongly?

Hi Samantha! I am Chi Burgos. I found your article very helpful. I really want to use Alipay but due to geographical limitations and restrictions, I can't use it. Would you know a credible payment service provider that transfers payment from Alipay to Paypal. My website is an online-teaching English site which caters to Chinese and Taiwanese. Will appreciate your response!

Thanks for reading, though i never heard of how they could transfer payment from Alipay to Paypal. Maybe you can consider other payment that if you doing personal business or go for the Credit cards payment solutions, because in China Credit cards are getting more common nowadays.

Great information!!
Do you have an updated version of this information?

Thanks for reading, the fees and process of each payment still quite same, but I maybe can update some of the info later when I have enough data.

Thank you, this is a very informative article. To break into Chinese market is not easy as a foreigner. If you have a company in China it would be of course easier to find an online payment system other than Alipay or PayPal. There is a large choice of providers and thanks to this article we can really see the offers and prices that are proposed by the different online payment systems.

Hey Samantha, great article thanks. We're running an online business producing natural aromatherapy balms and oils from NZ and shipping to Europe / US etc and are thinking of making a Chinese version of our website and approaching the Chinese Market. For our type of products which is the payment solution you would recommend. We currently use Paypal. Thanks again.

Thanks for reading.
I would suggest to get Alipay payment gateway installed, which support credit card payment, bank card payment and Alipay users payment, which is really convenience. If it`s not an option for you for now, I would suggest at least get the credit card payment gateway, because a lot of people start using credit cards now.

Hi,

thanks for your post. My question is whether Chinese customers are generally prepared to use Alipay for large value online transactions (ie greater than 5,000 RMB) or whether they would prefer to use other payment gateways like Chinapay?

Dear Samantha,

Thank you for your article.
Is it possible to get an Alipay Partner ID with an individual account or is it only for companies (chinese companies or foreign companies with less privileges rate) ?
I would like to setup a alipay option on my website but I don't find a way to get the partner id (needed to integrate the payment gateway)

Hi Robert,

Based on content from http://help.alipay.com/support/help_detail.htm?help_id=243726 it seems only Chinese company will have the Partner ID, if a foreign company you should be able to get the Partner ID from the Alipay contact.

For individual account, I am not sure about the Partner ID, you probably need to contact Alipay directly.

We have been applying to Alipay for an Overseas Merchant Account (over three months ago now) and I have asked on numerous occasions for an update on the progress of the application without success. I have identified that we have a partner ID number but not sure whether this means that the gateway is open and how to incorporate this into our website alongside other payment gateway solutions. Can you advise please?

Many thanks

Mike

We've heard Alipay hasn't provided very good service lately. Sorry, we can't really advise though. Hopefully your Alipay rep will respond.

I wonder if I'm just a drop shipper how can I use Alipay without any fee charge ? is it available ?

Hello.

As a non-chinesse company, I am planning to startup an online shop that accepts micropayments, maybe items with prices around 1 $. So, it is important for me to use a payment method that does not charge an additional fee for such a little prices, because I know that some payment provider charges 1$ for items with prices under 30 $,
so I could not sell items of 1$ if the provider charges me the transanction fee + 1$ !!

Do you know some provider to accept micropayments both by web and by mobile.
And if possible, not a provider like Alipay because the startup fee (1000 $) is huge !!..

Thanks in advance and best regards

Hi Samantha,

Can you please let me know if there is any API or something available to integrate Chinapay on our website? I have visited their website but there is nothing available like an API.
How can we integrate Chinapay as a payment gateway option in our website?

Dear Samantha,

Many thanks for your great article. Very useful.

Is it still possible to open an Alipay business account as a WOFE?

I know that most companies want to get their money from Chinese buyers through Alipay. However, we are looking for the opposite way, to pay money to the private user in China through Alipay.

Do you know by chance whether this is possible?

Thanks for your answer in advance.

Hi. Please tell are there in AliPay any fees? I am private user, not company.
Thanks

Thank you for sharing the info its really helpful.

Nadia,

Paymentz Online Payment Gateway

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