Chinese bike-rental company Ofo announced on Thursday (in Chinese) a strategic cooperation deal with Sesame Credit, a social credit scoring system developed by Ant Financial Services Group. Ant Financial is a subsidiary of Alibaba and operator of Alipay and other Alibaba-backed financial services.
Under the deal, new Ofo users with a Sesame Credit score of 650 or higher can register on the app without making the RMB 99 deposit. According to data released by Sesame Credit, the majority of Sesame Credit users have a score of 650 or higher.
Currently, the free deposit service is only available in Shanghai.
“In a city with excellent credit like Shanghai, Ofo’s free-deposit practice can benefit even more people,” said Ofo co-founder Zhang Siding.
The “deposit free” function was added to the Ofo app on March 16. After successful registration on the app, a “deposit payment” interface will pop up with two options at the bottom saying “No deposit necessary if Sesame Credit score higher than 650″ and “Make the deposit.”
To verify the credit score, users must open Alipay and verfify their identity.
Ofo claims to have 20 million registered users (in Chinese), putting their total deposits at around RMB 1.98 billion. There has been speculation that China’s bike-rental companies are using deposits to fund their expansion, but both Mobike and Ofo say they keep their operating funds separate from user deposits.
Users can also use the deposit free service directly from the Alipay app, including the ability to scan an Ofo QR code to get the combination. Other bike-rental startups have also teamed up with Ant Financial Services, including Youon (永安行), U-Bicycle (优拜) and Qibei (骑呗)