In North America, cash is making its way out of people’s pockets. With the convenience of tap cards and online banking, it’s never been easier to only carry cards.

But in China, people are already one step ahead. Mobile payments—on Alipay and WeChat Pay—dominate the payment scene. And, with mobile payment transactions reaching a record 81 trillion yuan ($16.8 trillion CAD), Chinese cities are the “closest to cashless consumer economies in the world.” (source:

So why is mobile payment so big in China? And why are we still behind in North America? 




Chinese Mobile payment

In China, the popularity of mobile payment is no joke. Estimates place 61% of global mobile payment users in China, and 64.7% of Chinese smartphone users use mobile payment as their main transaction method. (sources:;

The craziest example of this popularity? In China, beggars will display QR codes which passersby can scan with their phones to instantly donate money. (source:

How did mobile payment get so big in China?

In China, debit and credit cards were never popular methods of payment. In the early 2000s, cash was the major form of payment. People didn’t use credit cards because they distrusted them, didn’t have a lot of extra cash to spend, and were averse to debt. (source:

Alibaba, parent company of popular retail sites and, developed the Alipay payment system because payment was a huge barrier to business growth. Alibaba developed a trustworthy method of transferring funds, in which payments would be held in an online escrow system and only released when the goods were delivered. (source:

This won over Chinese customers trust, as this was a safer way to transfer funds. Mobile payment also caught on because of the prolific use of smartphones in China. Smartphones are both widely used and inexpensive- many low-income people do not own a computer, but they do own a smartphone. (source:

Why haven’t mobile payments caught on as much in North America?

Companies like Apple have been trying to introduce mobile payment to North America, but with limited success (only 19% of Apple users have ever tried Apple Pay).

Unlike China, which jumped from cash to mobile payment, cards are the main payment option used in North America. People are used to these, and don’t see many benefits in using mobile payments.

Mobile payment also isn’t set up well. North American mobile payment systems often require multiple steps to complete, compared to the quick QR code scan in China. QR codes have not caught on in North America, and they are critical to the success of mobile payment in China.

Finally, of those that use mobile payment, only 30% use it consistently. The most common reason for this? According to a study by Auriemma Consulting Group, consumers just forget to pay with their mobile devices. It’s clear that mobile payment hasn’t yet caught on in North America. (source:

But, mobile payment is the norm in China. According to a survey by Nielsen and Alipay, 91% of Chinese tourists would shop more if overseas merchants had mobile payment options. 83% of Chinese tourists said they would ask whether or not a local merchant supported mobile payment while overseas. (source:

Clearly, Chinese visitors are coming to Canada, looking for mobile payment options above all other payment options. If your business has mobile payment options, this will stand out to Chinese tourists and draw in Chinese business.

Interested in having more Chinese tourists at your location? Check out our Golden Dragon Certification – a complete program designed to help your business reach and welcome the growing number of Chinese customers each year!