Cash/Card-less Hell in Shanghai

“1st Class Chinese Citizens Only” Source: chinamoneynetwork.com

I was in Shanghai this week for a business trip. I have been told how advanced China has become when it comes to electronic and mobile payments. Wechat Pay, AliPay, etc have leapfrogged many other countries. You can pay using these services for almost everything: taxis, groceries, meals, allegedly even beggars.

And it was true. It was truly amazing to witness how widely accepted this has become. Even at the little tiny hole in the wall shop, just take your phone out, show them the QR code, and off you go. It’s not just cashless. It’s also cardless. It wallet-less. What am I supposed to do with my handmade artisan SLIM wallet?! (Cashless world problem …)

But it was hell for me.

I don’t have the China version of these services (I have both Alipay and WeChat Pay setup in Hong Kong).

I don’t have a Chinese bank account, hence I couldn’t set anything up.

Therefore I had to use cash, or credit cards.

The cab driver complained that he didn’t have enough change. The lady at Pret a Manger didn’t know/remember how to use the credit card terminal. At Baker and Spice she asked me multiple times if I had other forms of payment after I handed her the dirty 50 RMB bill. The guy at Sproutworks blamed it on my card(ss) for not working (not true. I used one of them at Starbucks).

I almost felt discriminated against. I too wish I could use AliPay and WeChatPay, but I couldn’t. I also thought my credit cards would get me to most places on earth. I know, I know, I got to keep up. But still, at the minimum though, I shouldn’t need to feel like a 3rd class citizen when I used cash …

I understand why going all mobile is great. I get it. But does that make it more convenient for all? I think about how convenient it was to know that my credit card would mostly work when I travelled to japan / US / Australia. I could even use credit cards to pay for cab rides, purchase train tickets, pay the parking meter, etc. Mobile Payments in China don’t exactly offer the same universal convenience yet …

Then, of course there is HK, where impossible … is nothing only if you have the Octopus card …

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