China has one of the oldest currencies in the world and now, also has the most widespread high-tech methods of payment with everyone from street vendors to hospitals accepting payments with your phone using WeChat and Alipay. The convenience of mobile payments means that people are more and more dependant on their phones but also that you can leave the house with just your phone -- no need for keys, wallets, transit passes, and many more things that can be forgotten or lost. Just make sure you don't lose your phone!
The most common item that phones replace in China is money. Many stores both big and small accept payment via WeChat and Alipay. Users can connect their Chinese bank account to WeChat or Alipay to access their money. Then they can scan QR codes or have their QR code scanned by a cashier to send money. These apps also easily enable transferring money between friends so you can split the bill when you go out to eat.
In many major Chinese cities and some smaller cities, the public transit system now lets users store their transit card on their phone. The transit card can be used at subway turnstiles and on buses by either scanning a QR code in WeChat or using NFC in Apple Pay or an Android digital wallet. The transit card can also be topped up directly on the phone so there is no longer a need to use the ticket machines in the subway or search for change for the bus.
Bus, Train, Airplane Tickets
It's very easy to buy bus, train, and airplane tickets from a phone using travel apps like C-Trip or 去哪儿 (Qùnǎr), however, digital tickets came into use in China a bit later than other countries. Only a few airports in China are experimenting with digital boarding passes, although travellers can remain paper-free until arriving at the airport. Plus it's still required to have an ID card (or passport for foreiners) to get on the bus, train, or airplane.
Depending on what someone is doing or where they're going on a given day, they may or may not need to carry their ID card. The official position is that everyone always needs to have their physical ID card with them. There are random security checks in some subway stations and certain tickets where the holder needs to show their ID card. For the most part, when purchasing a ticket that requires an ID card, it only needs the number and the purchaser doesn't need to physically bring the card.
Many houses and apartment buildings still have a door with a physical metal key to unlock it. However the popularity of digital locks is growing so people can pair the lock with their smartphone or enter a code to unlock the door. One less item to forget or lose!
This article is part of our new online Chinese course. An efficient way to learn Chinese language for working and living in China.