Having just returned to Canada, following a rather lengthy Christmas visit, I would like to provide a bit of an update to the current WeChat/AliPay cashless options for non-Chinese nationals. I have experience in IT, have lived in China, and speak the language rather fluently; so, one would assume that if the average person should be able to get this working, I should find it a breeze:
Foreign nationals who reside in China can use both services, just like a local, provided they have a local Chinese bank account number. Non-resident foreign nationals do not have this option.
AliPay does work, provided you are OK with the rather significant caveats. First, non-resident foreign nationals MUST use the AliPay Tourist Pass option, as a regular account requires either a domestic Chinese bank account number or a Chinese ID card number. Second, AliPay Tourist Pass MUST be configured using an overseas mobile number, so make sure you get things set up before you depart. This also means that if AliPay Tourist Pass ever locks your account, you're out of luck as you likely won't be able to access your SMS text messages, from back home, which is uses for verification. Third, AliPay charges a 5% transaction fee in addition to the 3-5% transaction fee charged by credit cards for foreign currency transactions, making this an absolutely horrible value proposition when compared to simply carrying cash. Fourth, if Google/Apple store reviews are anything to go by, not only are there significant limits to time (max 90 days per account), and significant transaction limits (currently 5000 CNY), but some accounts are being frozen (along with all the money in them) with little to no recourse.
Summary: Can work; but with high fees, and high risk.
WeChat Pay is further behind the curve even than the AliPay Tourist Pass mess, described above, to the point where it seems non-resident foreign nationals still cannot use the service at all. You may be able to add your foreign credit card; however, you will not be allowed to add funds from them, nor will you be able to send/receive money from other WeChat users. Real name verification still requires a local bank account or Chinese ID card number, even though a passport option exists. Finally, attempting to use said passport option got my WeChat Pay account frozen. After three weeks of dealing with telephone support (Chinese language only), my WeChat Pay account is both frozen (due to "suspicious activity") and unable to be cancelled (due to a balance which exists from before these regulations barring foreigners took effect). Odds are, I will need to start a whole new WeChat account, in future, and somehow move over all my contacts, in order to rectify this mess. If this ever does get fixed, however, I will update the post.
Summary: Doesn't work, full stop. Make use of the passport option and you run the risk of permanent loss of WeChat Pay functionality even if/when they full support on-resident foreign nationals.
in a nutshell, I would bet that very few non-resident foreign nationals will make use of either service any time soon, and those that do are subjecting themselves to what feels like a Wild West of extortionate fees and frozen accounts.
I normally like to present things in a more positive light, or at the very least provide mere facts without editorializing. That said, it would be remiss of me to not admit that the whole mess has left be with a very poor impression of both services. Use at your own risk.