New arrivals to China may be shocked to discover that almost no one nowadays uses credit cards or cash to pay for things in China. Instead, they use a Chinese app called Wechat. Wechat is primarily a social media app but also has many other uses. You can buy train or plane tickets on Wechat, call a taxi, order some takeout, make a donation, pay your cell phone bill, or find a hotel among other conveniences. When you make a new friend, the first thing they will probably say is, “Add me on Wechat!”
In addition to staying connected to all your friends and acquaintances in China, Wechat also allows you to follow your favorite companies and read the latest news so you’re always in the know. Shopping is available on Wechat as well inside of Wechat stores. You can receive a money transfer from a friend or even from a stranger who scans your QR code. Some have called Wechat “China’s app for everything” and that’s pretty accurate! Many even use it for work as you can easily create groups made up of your colleagues to efficiently discuss work issues with the whole team.
One of the most popular features of Wechat is its hongbao ability. “Hongbao” in Chinese means “red packet” which in Chinese culture always has money inside of it. You give out a hongbao at a wedding, holiday or other special occasion. Now with Wechat, you can hand out virtual hongbaos whenever you want. Most are not very high in value but it’s always fun to receive one regardless of the amount.
Other social apps have now caught on to this idea. Facebook introduced games and payments into its Messenger platform, although you can’t send money in a group yet. PayPal also introduced a new way send people monetary gifts. And Twitter has added stickers, which is a very popular Wechat feature.
Before long, Wechat will have one billion active users. If you’re planning to come to China anytime soon, you’ll absolutely want to download this app in advance.