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Dawei3

Beijing metro - paying with your phone as a foreigner

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Dawei3

When I go to China, I purchase a metro card to travel around.  Is it possible for a visiting foreigner (i.e., with no address other than a hotel and an American cell phone #) to set up pay-by-phone for the metro?

 

I have a Chinese bank account.  

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889

I haven't tried Beijing yet, but in cities like Xi'an when you download the Wechat mini-app you don't get very far because it requires real-name validation, and validation only works with ID card numbers, not passport numbers.

 

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DavyJonesLocker

i use an app called 亿通行 for the subways here in Beijing however its linked to my alipay account. However I see , looking at the other methods of payment you can link ICBC card, wechat pay etc. (Not sure what the last one is, edit -> China Merchant bank it seems ) .

 

I am out of touch as what non residents of china can do with alipay,  wechat pay etc Things move so fast around here

 

 

 

 

WeChat Image_20200117181646.jpg

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mungouk

The ticket gates in the Beijing metro supposedly support Applepay (it sometimes gets triggered on my phone as I pass through), but there were signs in the stations last year about some technical problem they were having. I don't know if it's resolved yet. 

 

You would need to have a Chinese bank card linked to it in order to pay.

 

Real-name verification would just require a Chinese bank card and passport though, and so it should work whether you're resident or not. 

 

Edit: I just noticed you don't have a Chinese phone number — maybe that could be a problem.  Easy enough to get a Chinese SIM card though.

 

 

 

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m000gle

When in China, I typically just obtain a local transit card (if I don't already have one for the city in my collection) and slip it in my mobile phone case, behind the back of the phone, and simply tap the phone on any of the entry/exit gates.  Its worked really well, for years in my case, and has several advantages:

  1. It is quick and easy.  It's actually quicker than the QR code based apps.  You neither need to unlock your phone nor fumble around in a clunky payment/transit app, nor hold your phone at just the right angle for the QR code to be read.  Just whip your phone out, tap and go!
  2. You do not need to be tied into any of the Chinese cashless payment systems (WeChat Pay / AliPay), which still provide a very poor user experience for non-resident foreign nationals if they even let you sign up at all.
  3. You do not need any additional software on your mobile device which may not be available through your device app store in the first place (e.g. Google Play Store), thus requiring a potentially insecure installation method (e.g. via .APK or third party app store), and/or can come with its own security implications since said app will almost certainly require numerous unnecessary permissions etc.
  4. Your travels on the system will not be personally identifiable as the app will not provide any such information, to the transit operator, at each scan.

The only real negatives to going the old school, card based, route are:

  • Paying a few extra kuai to purchase the card in the first place.
  • It might not work on any transit system which is small enough where a card does not exist, making an app the only option; probably an outlier scenario for most of us, here.
  • Concession fares (child, student, senior) might be tied to using the app, although foreigners rarely make use of these anyway.
  • Having a collection of transit cards, if you travel extensively. For me, though, this is a positive as they make neat yet useful souvenirs.

I am certainly curious about these mobile payment and transit apps, even if still skeptical of their utility at the present time.  So, I am still curious to hear everyone's experience, especially if there are any significant advantages to this new system.

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Dawei3

Thanks to everyone.  I like that there is often much depth of response to questions posted here.

 

3 hours ago, m000gle said:

I typically just obtain a local transit card

I have several Beijing cards(not intentionally, but because when I go, I've forgotten to bring the old one).  I can continue to use this approach.  Also, I'm often carrying luggage or other items, so your point about the ease of using a card, without having to unlock one's phone, makes much sense.  

 

3 hours ago, m000gle said:

transit apps

The best worldwide transit app I've found is Rome2rio  For some places, it will link to purchasing a ticket, but I've not yet used it for that (it doesn't link to buying tickets in China).  If you put in 2 places, it will give you every possible option, flying, driving, mass transit, etc and the estimated time & cost of each. 

 

As an example, London to Paris, it gives "train  2 hr 21 min, bus 8 h, ride share 5 hr 49 min, drive car ferry, drive eurotunnel, fly from Heathrow, train to Gatwick & fly, and 3 more options (and estimated cost of each).  You can click on each and gives exact instructions for each.  E.g., I used it for buses in Ireland and it gives the exact schedule & the company who runs that bus line.  

 

On my iphone, it links to Apple maps, so it works for planning traveling in China (but not paying for it). It's a free app.  

 

 

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m000gle
13 minutes ago, Dawei3 said:

I have several Beijing cards(not intentionally, but because when I go, I've forgotten to bring the old one).  I can continue to use this approach.  Also, I'm often carrying luggage or other items, so your point about the ease of using a card, without having to unlock one's phone, makes much sense.  

 

One detail I forgot to include is that in order to prevent your mobile phone itself from interfering with the transit card and entry/exit communicating, you should disable your mobile phone's NFC functionality.

 

While this might prove problematic when overseas, due to the ubiquity of Apple/Android/Samsung payment apps allowing for phone tapping credit card payments etc., I have never really felt the need for NFC while in China.  Any cashless payment app relies on QR codes, while any other in-person payment typically relies on cash.

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anonymoose
6 hours ago, m000gle said:

Having a collection of transit cards, if you travel extensively. For me, though, this is a positive as they make neat yet useful souvenirs.

 

Post a photo of your collection here.

 

I also have umpteen of these. I'll post a picture when I get back to the UK.

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