Buying Stuff Online in China without Alipay

Buying Stuff Online Shouldn’t be a Pain in the Ass

Sometimes simple services in China often come with unnecessary complications, unexpected obstructions, and incompetent providers. But it doesn’t have to be so difficult. In this post, I will list some golden tips that ought to reduce the some of the hassles that come with buying products on the internet while in China.

Limitations on my Mandarin skills have proven a challenge for me when it comes to online commerce. While I’ve studied Chinese for a long time, reading certain forms online still isn’t easy. Previously, I’d never gone through the necessary steps to get online banking secured for my Chinese bank accounts. This is something that you should get sorted at the time you establish your bank account with the help of a translator.

Often, what I would do in the past is ask a Chinese friend to help me order things off the internet, then reimburse them when the products arrive. Though it’s not a terribly troublesome request, it can occasionally feel disempowering to have to rely on someone else to help with something simple like that.

I have seen from some online sources that it is possible to establish an Alipay account as a foreigner. I tried to get my own Alipay account set up, but due to some misstep, I was been unable to access the content on the site for foreigners. I believe it is because I originally established myself with my Chinese phone number, so now the site believes I’m a Chinese national. Pretty damn stupid. I have informed that it’s a difficult process to rectify and have found no way to reverse this.

Buying Stuff Online

Then I heard of a service called WeChat Secretary and I started using them instead. Though they take a percentage for whatever service you pay for, it can be much easier to deal with them than trying to navigate Taobao’s payment system on you own. One of the best parts is that you can pay for their service with Paypal. They can help with almost all of the difficult things a real-life Chinese secretary might be able to do. They can even make phone calls for you in times when your Mandarin is not advanced enough. The service isn’t free, but it can help in a pinch.

When I last used the service, they recommended that I try and use Bitcoin instead of Paypal to circumvent the unnecessary fees during currency change. So I went over to Coinbase and got an account set up there. They have a choice to pay through your bank with account and routing number, or a credit / debit card. If you want to use a card, you need to provide scans of a state-issued photo ID. You can use my referral link here:

Buying Stuff Online

Never bought Bitcoin before? Perhaps you have some faulty preconceptions about the currency? You can check out my updated guide here. Some people think that after seeing that 1 bitcoin is worth near $1800 that it’s something that they will never be able to afford. Well, you can buy partial bitcoins and you don’t have to spend that much. As world travelers, I feel we should get accustomed to using this kind of currency, as more and more services support it. Also, when you finally manage to receive your first package paid for with bitcoin, it should feel especially satisfying.

These services together should help out a lot with taking control of your life in China instead of having to unnecessarily rely on students, girlfriends, or other acquaintances to handle these basic things for you.