What is WeChat?
WeChat — locally known as 微信 or Weixin — is a social media app that’s become one of the most widely used in China. Because it’s governed by China’s strong censorship laws and messaging interception rules, the government can potentially review your messages and other data at any time. Given this, it’s no surprise that WeChat hasn’t yet caught on internationally. Additionally, President Donald Trump signed an executive order in January 2021, prohibiting transactions with companies behind eight Chinese apps, including WeChat Pay.
Can I use WeChat Wallet in the US?
Only if you own a bank account in China, Hong Kong, Malaysia or South Africa. It’s the only way to use WeChat Wallet in the US, but that might be impeded by the executive order signed by Trump.
WeChat Pay launched at the start of 2018, allowing tourists, expats and international students to pay at select stores in the States. See if your local grocery store participates by looking for the WeChat logo.
How do I request and send money with WeChat Wallet?
Follow these steps to request and send money with WeChat Wallet:
- Download the WeChat app. Unlike PayPal and similar services, you must download an app on your phone or computer. You can’t access WeChat Wallet through a website.
- Set up your WeChat account. Enter your phone number and subsequent verification code, complete your profile and create a password and ID for your account.
- Activate WeChat Pay by getting someone to send money to you. To activate WeChat Pay for the first time, ask a friend or loved one to send you either a red envelope — also called a hongbao — or a small payment.
- Add a credit card or Chinese bank account number. Enter your info and select your bank for verification through your mobile phone number. You may also need to add your ID or passport number.
- Set up your transfer. Choose the Me icon at lower right and choose Wallet from the list of services. Select Transfer and the contact you’d like to transfer money to or request money from.
- Indicate your transfer amount. Specify how much you’d like to send or receive, and add a note if you like. Choose Transfer again and enter your password to complete your transaction.
What happens when someone sends me money?
The money you’re sent on WeChat is automatically transferred into your WeChat Wallet — meaning you don’t accept or deny payment. Review your balance to manage how much money is in your WeChat account.
Are there restrictions for sending money with WeChat?
Yes. WeChat is not legally allowed to process international money transfers. Be aware that only wallets specific to the areas supported by WeChat — China, Hong Kong, Malaysia and South Africa — can send accessible money among one another.
Keep in mind that if you’re trying to send money from your wallet in China to someone in South Africa, WeChat will send the money, but now your recipient in South Africa will also have a Chinese wallet. Unless the user from South Africa heads to China, they can’t access the money.
Is sending money over WeChat Wallet safe?
WeChat encrypts your personal information, financial details and monetary transactions. However, WeChat doesn’t provide much information on other digital safeguards.
Because WeChat Wallet is based in China, it isn’t required to comply with American security standards. The Chinese government also monitors all social media devices, including WeChat. So it’s maybe safe from hackers, but your transaction isn’t private.
- Free service. Unlike PayPal, which makes money by skimming a percentage of your transaction amount, WeChat’s developer Tencent makes money selling other products. WeChat Wallet is another way for Tencent to sell its products, but the service is free to use.
- Limited service area. To use WeChat Wallet, your account must be registered in mainland China, South Africa or Hong Kong.
- Potential for government prying. WeChat is governed by China’s laws that allow the government to monitor your messages and personal info.
- No specified delivery. WeChat doesn’t advertise how long it takes for transfers to complete, which means you may need to look elsewhere for emergencies.
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