A screenshot of WeChat’s user interface for the new phone number payment feature. (Image credit: TechNode)

WeChat has introduced a new payment feature that allows users to send and receive money using a mobile phone number.

Why it matters: Tencent’s WeChat Pay is one of the most popular payment methods in China, with access to the messaging app’s billion-plus users. The payment giant frequently locks horns with rival Alipay, operated by Ant Financial.

  • Tencent has been focusing on its fintech push since late last year. According to the company’s first-quarter financial results, fintech and enterprise-facing services was its second-largest division, behind only online games.

Details: WeChat users can unlock the new feature from the messaging app.

  • The sender can transfer money to the receiver by entering a phone number. The funds will be automatically deposited into the receiver’s WeChat wallet.
  • Both the sender and the receiver’s WeChat account are required to be linked to valid mobile numbers.
  • The sender can transfer money to any WeChat user, even those that are not a friend, as long as the mobile payment feature is enabled.
  • The feature is currently available only on iOS.
  • Some Chinese netizens questioned the security aspect of the payment method. “What if I entered the wrong phone number?” a Weibo user commented on a Sina Tech post about the new feature. “It should at least add another verification step to make sure the name of the receiver is correct,” another user said.

Context: The Alibaba-affiliated Alipay rolled out a similar payment feature back in 2012, which allows money transfers using only a mobile number or an email addresses.

  • Several other major banks in China have also introduced a mobile phone number-based funds transfer feature, including Bank of China, China Merchants Bank, and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China.

Nicole Jao is a reporter based in Beijing. She’s passionate about emerging trends, news, and stories of human interest within the world of technology. Connect with her on Twitter or via email: nicole.jao.iting@gmail.com.

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