An executive at Chinese tech giant Tencent told CNBC that the firm plans to ramp up efforts to expand its WeChat Pay service throughout the United States.

This platform allows users to pay for items in shops simply by displaying barcodes on their smartphones; a shop worker scans the barcode to deduct the money from the shopper’s Chinese bank account.

It’s important to note, however, that Tencent is not trying to create local versions of WeChat Pay in other countries. Instead, it’s trying to sign merchants up throughout the world to accept WeChat Pay in order to facilitate payments by Chinese tourists.

The director of WeChat Pay’s Cross-border Operations, Yin Jie, told CNBC that more US merchants will be accepting the payment platform later this year. She said that their focus on expanding throughout the US will not be hampered by the trade tensions between China and America.

Jie said: “WeChat Pay is just a payments product, so if the Chinese tourist wants to use it and the merchant wants to accept that, I think we have a market.”

She pointed out that it’s already accepted in duty-free shops and airports around the world.

Their approach will be gradual. First, Jie said that they will choose merchants that are popular with Chinese tourists, like famous restaurants and other outlets. Next, they’ll focus on medium-sized merchants like supermarkets and convenience stores before eventually expanding to smaller merchants.

WeChat already boasts a billion users

More than 1 billion people are already using WeChat, and around 800 million of them take advantage of WeChat Pay. The United States is the world’s most popular destination for tourists from China outside of Asia. Chinese tourist spent $4,462 dollars on average in 2017 per person while holidaying in the US, which is more than they spent in any other country or area that they visited, studies show.

Nevertheless, just 28% of the payments that Chinese tourists made on holiday were carried out via mobile platforms, according to a Nielsen survey. Many Chinese tourists do not realise that their mobile payment apps will work outside of China at some merchants. WeChat Pay launched their payment platform in Europe last year.

Alibaba’s Alipay is also focusing on an American expansion of its own. Last year, Alipay joined forces with VeriFone, a specialist in electronic payment transactions, to enable American taxis to accept digital payments made by Chinese travellers who wish to use this service.

Tobias Matthews

Tobias Matthews


Writer at Fourth Source.