Chinese tourists use mobile pay abroad more than cash in 2018

Three-fourths of supermarkets and convenience stores in Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand now accept Chinese mobile payment, according to a Nielsen survey released Monday. Some 71% of duty-free stores and luxury stores in those countries also take the payment method.

The two dominant operators are Alipay, which is run by Alibaba-affiliate Ant Financial, and WeChat Pay, which is tied to Tencent's ubiquitous Chinese messaging app, WeChat. Alipay co-issued the report, which covers 1,244 merchants and 2,806 Chinese residents surveyed in the fall of 2018.

Transaction volume skyrocketed from around USD 5 trillion in 2016 to nearly USD 16 trillion by the first quarter of 2018, according to Analysys data cited in a Hillhouse Capital report.

As Chinese tourists take the mobile pay habit abroad, merchants are adapting quickly. Of those in Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand who accept Chinese mobile pay, 88% adopted the technology in the last two years, the Nielsen survey found. Of those who accept the payment methods, 40% said overall foot traffic increased.

The report also said roughly 60% or more of Chinese people surveyed said they used mobile pay during trips last year to the U.S., Canada, the U.K., France, Germany or Italy.

Overall, more Chinese tourists used mobile pay than cash while traveling last year, the report said. Bank cards did remain the most common payment method, while shopping, accommodation and dining remained the top three spending categories.

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