What is Alipay?
Alipay is a mobile e-wallet that allows shoppers to send money when making purchases. The system works similarly to Apple Pay but is tied to your bank account rather than your debit or credit card and usesQR codes to scan and send payments through the Alipay mobile app.
However, one key difference between Alipay and other e-wallets is that Alipay holds money temporarily rather than release it immediately.
For example, when a buyer makes a purchase using Alipay, the payment is made to the seller. Instead of sending the money straight to the seller, however, Alipay keeps the money and notifies the seller that a purchase has been made. The seller then sends the product to the buyer and when they receive it, the buyer confirms with Alipay which then releases the buyer’s money to the seller.
This means that neither the buyer or seller are in control of the money until the product or service is completed. What makes Alipay even more interesting is that the service monitors the product to make sure it been received or completed and automatically releases the funds.
Alipay dates back to around 2004 when it was created as the payment method for Taobao, the business to consumer (B2C) platform of Alibaba Group. Back then, most online transactions failed as both customer and seller believed each other to be frauds. There was a lack of trust between both parties so Alipay was introduced as a third party to temporarily hold the money paid by the buyer until the product was delivered. This solved a huge problem and paved the way for online purchases in China.
Soon after, Alipay launched outside of the Alibaba website and was used frequently to make payments. As its popularity grew, Alipay was accepted at numerous online websites and then eventually at retail stores.
In 2016, Alipay’s parent company, known as Alipay back then, was re-branded as Ant Financial Services Group. During this time, the payment option continued to grow in popularity in China and even began to break into other countries such as the USA, the UK and more. In 2017, Alipay made headlines after it launched its facial recognition payment service which acts similarly to Apple Pay, allowing customers to use FaceID to verify payments.
Today, Alipay has over 450 million users in China alone and controls just under half of the country’s online payment market. It’s become incredibly popular because it’s easy to use and can be used for practically anything.
How Does it Work?
In China, Alipay can be used to buy airline tickets, transfer money, pay for taxis, buy food and entertainment and so much more. It’s become the leading payment method in China as more and more people turn away from real cash.
Like most other e-wallets, Alipay is also incredibly easy to set up because it’s all done on your mobile and it only needs to be connected to your bank account or, if you’re outside China, a valid credit card. It can be used around the world by retailers and countries who accept Alipay.
Most transactions made through Alipay will be completely free. However, the service recently launched a 0.1% fee for people who withdraw money over the equivalent of £2,200 from their Alipay account to their bank account.
Is Alipay Safe?
One of the reasons Alipay is becoming so popular around the world is because it’s incredibly safe to use. The app allows you to create different levels of security, such as TouchID, passwords and two-factor authentication, and it allows you to select which you’d like to use. The app also requires the user to create separate passwords for logging-in and for making payments.
The payment service is monitored 24 hours a day, seven days a week by a high-tech system which analyses data, determines risk levels and helps spot any unauthorised transactions. When spotted, these transactions are fully refunded by Alipay. In addition, Alipay is owned by Alibaba, one of the largest e-commerce websites around.
The app also uses the same technology as PayPal and has connections to major banks around the world, which means it uses their technology and security services to keep you and your information safe.
Despite this, it’s important to remember that you shouldn’t scan untrustworthy QR codes and shouldn’t give a QR code to your account out freely as that could lead to unauthorised transactions.
Setting Up AliPay
To begin using Alipay, you must download the app to your phone and complete the registration process. During this, you will need to provide your mobile phone number. To confirm your number, Alipay will message you a four-digit code that you will need to enter on the app. After this, you’ll be asked to enter a password and the app will automatically log you in.
Once you’re logged in, you’ll need to add a bank card which can be done by navigating to the ‘My Account’ section, clicking ‘My Cards’ and then clicking ‘Add Card’. You’ll then be required to enter your bank card details.
After this, you’ll need to confirm your phone number and your identity. Once this is all done, Alipay will send you a text message containing a confirmation code and you’ll need to enter the code to finish linking your bank card. That’s it!
From here on, you’ll be able to make payments wherever Alipay is accepted. All you need to do is click the ‘Pay’ button when making a payment or purchasing something at a retail store accepting Alipay. When you do this, your unique QR code pops up on-screen and the cashier will scan it, approving the transaction. Your Alipay app will ask you to confirm the purchase and that’s it! Payment made!
You can use it to transfer money to a friend or to pay for services such as a taxi ride. All you need to do is hit the ‘Scan’ button and scan the other person’s QR code with the Alipay app, enter the amount you wish to transfer and click send.
If you’re making a payment online or purchasing something over the internet, you’ll do the same thing. You just need to scan the relevant QR code displayed on the website and confirm the payment via TouchID or FaceID or some other way.
Is it available in the UK?
Alipay can be used in the UK. The payment method has slowly been spreading across the world and it’s finally reached the UK, allowing people to make payments easily. At the time of writing, however, Alipay can only be used by people with approved Chinese bank accounts.
As of 2019, Alipay has become available in several countries all over the world. It launched in Hong Kong in 2017 and can be used at stores such as McDonald’s, 7-Eleven and Circle K. The payment method also launched in Singapore in the same year. Alipay is also accepted in Japan and Bangladesh.
In 2017, Ant Financial, the company that runs and owns Alipay and Alibaba, struck an agreement with First Data in 2017, allowing the service to be used by over four million retail brands in the country including Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, Bubba Gump and more.
Alipay also launched in Canada in 2017 after the service partnered with SnapPay. Around 800 retail outlets now accept Alipay including several Cadillac Fairview mall locations. From August 2018, Air Canada also began allowing people to book flights from Canada or the United States through Alipay.
Meanwhile, Alipay is expected to launch in Norway in 2019. Around 30 retail stores in Bergen are ready to accept the payment service and several shops in Oslo are currently being prepared.
Alipay in the United Kingdom
While many people still don’t know what Alipay is, the service is already accepted at several major retail stores in the UK. Back in December 2016, Ant Financial signed partnership agreements with Barclays, BNP Paribas, UniCredit and Six Payment Services in order to expand throughout the UK. Since then, Alipay UK has been accepted at major stores such as Harrods, Holland and Barrett and Selfridges. Alipay is also accepted as a payment method at Heathrow Airport.
In June 2018, Alipay announced a partnership with Merlin Entertainments which would allow Chinese tourists to use their Alipay app on all of Merlin Entertainments’ tourist attractions in London. Users would be able to buy tickets and souvenirs for attractions including the Coca-Cola London Eye, the London Eye River Cruise, Madame Tussauds London, SEA LIFE London and the London Dungeon.
In the same month, Alipay announced that it would help Chinese tourists by pushing notifications to their mobile devices to help them find nearby attractions.
However, a recent article about retailers in the UK that don’t accept Alipay show that they are missing out on billions spent by Chinese tourists as 80 per cent of non-luxury retailers still don’t accept Alipay or WeChat.
Alipay at Online Casinos
Once Alipay has fully launched outside of China, where gambling is illegal, it’s thought that online casinos may begin accepting the service as a payment option. Like other e-wallets accepted at online casinos, Alipay will be incredibly secure to use and will allow users to make quick payments.
As a payment method with quick transactions and low fees, it would be an ideal fit for all casinos in the UK and worldwide. This is especially true as credit cards are getting banned from online gambling starting April this year and operators are urged to provide alternative payment methods to their players.