“Sorry, no change!” – Cashless China

“没有零钱 (mei you lingqian) – We don’t have any change!

We heard these words every single day in China. “Getting rid” of a 100 Yuan note (about 13€) could sometimes be a challenge… 🙂 Why was that?

Well, hardly noticed by many other countries (in Berlin a lot of shops still only take cash), money management has gone through an amazing transformation in China over the last few years. Today the Chinese don’t use cash anymore – they pay using apps like Alipay or WeChat. The process is very simple: all you need to do is to:

  1. scan the QR-code of the shop/ restaurant
  2. enter the amount of money
  3. hit send
  4. (if asked), show the confirmation to the seller

While there are now more than 200 payment apps in China, Alipay and WeChat account for more than 80% of all transactions. The numbers are incredible. Alipay now has more than 500 million users! (The gigantic amount of data 😱. ) The potential is definitely enormous. 750 million Chinese are online and 96% of them access the internet via smartphones.

“…China, where even beggars accept e-donations” The Economist

We really wanted to use these apps but unfortunately you need a Chinese bank account and we decided this was not worth the effort… 🙂 Fortunately, after a quick “wait a minute” and running to the neighbouring stalls or shops, every little street business managed to give us back our change and we were still always able to pay cash. (There are reports of shops which do not accept cash anymore…) It will be interesting to see if Europe joins this trend anytime soon!

Below are some typical examples of QR-codes in shops and restaurants…

Finally, one picture below to prove that a cash-dependent world does still exist in China… In rural areas or in addition to the QR codes, we did actually still see some good old cash thrown into paper boxes, from which customers can do digging for their owed change themselves 😄.

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