The digital yuan wallet. (Image credit: TechNode/Shi Jiayi)

Lucky winners of Suzhou’s digital yuan lottery can spend their digital currency on, Meituan, Bilibili, and Didi, depending on their bank card, a look at the wallet app reveals. TechNode has seen the app in action through screen recordings sent by a user in Suzhou.

TechNode is the first English language outlet to see the digital yuan wallet in action during the Suzhou trial.

The trials are still limited: The winners received only RMB 200—about $30, enough to buy 10 coffees at Luckin or five at Starbucks. There’s no way to load more money on the digital yuan wallet. Users only have access to a few online shopping platforms, with the exact options depending on which bank card they used to register with the app. They can also spend the currency in some offline stores in the city.

The digital yuan also knows a trick that cash doesn’t: It has to be used by Dec. 27 otherwise, it pulls a disappearing act. Poof. It’s gone.

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Why it matters: This is the first time consumers can use the digital currency to pay directly on e-commerce apps in the digital yuan’s public trials.

  • The Suzhou lottery is only the second time the digital currency has been made available to the public. Another lottery took place in Shenzhen in October.

Connected to bank cards: Users are asked to link their bank cards to the digital wallet to get the digital currency. Only cards from China’s big five banks are eligible: Bank of China (BOC), Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), Agricultural Bank of China (ABC), China Construction Bank (CCB), and Postal Savings Bank.

  • The local government said users don’t have to register a bank card to use the digital wallet. If they do register a bank card, it has to be one of the five.

Where to spend it: All bank cards can connect to e-commerce platform, where users can spend their money. ICBC cards also connect to ride-hailing platform Didi and lifestyle app Meituan. BOC cardholders can connect to streaming platform Bilibili, and users of CCB cards can use the digital yuan on own CCB’s e-commerce platform.

  • The city said it will enable nearly 10,000 offline merchants to accept the digital yuan. A list can be queried through the city’s app.
  • The app has a button to pay Communist Party dues. But when TechNode tried, the app said that it was not available for the user’s Party branch.

No withdrawals: The digital currency cannot be transferred to other users’ digital wallets. It also cannot be converted to ordinary RMB in the bank account of the owner. If users wind up returning goods they buy with the digital currency, the Suzhou government said, they will be refunded only for regular currency used in the purchase.

Screenshots from the digital yuan wallet: Left, the homepage, including the option to pay Party membership fees. Middle: When connected to an ICBC card, the app can be used to pay on Meituan, Didi, and Right: When linked to a BOC card, the digital yuan wallet can be used on Bilibili and (Image credit: TechNode/Shi Jiayi and Eliza Gkritsi)

Context: In a lottery (in Chinese) announced on Dec. 4, Suzhou distributed RMB 200 million ($30.6 million) of the digital yuan to 100,000 people in digital red envelopes of RMB 200. Only residents of the city who have paid monthly social security at least once in the last three years are eligible to participate in the lottery.

  • The results of the lottery were announced today, and winners can spend their winning from 8 p.m. on Dec. 11 to Dec. 27. They money will be taken back from the account if it is not spent within this time window. The Suzhou government said the unspent red envelopes will be “recycled,” but did not clarify how.
  • Prior to the Suzhou and Shenzhen lotteries, only a few whitelisted individuals were taking part in the digital currency trials.

READ MORE: INSIGHTS | China’s digital currency has a long way to go

Eliza was TechNode's blockchain and fintech reporter until July 2021, when she moved to CoinDesk to cover crypto in Asia. Get in touch with her via email or Twitter.

Shi Jiayi is the Shanghai-based visual reporter helping provide multimedia elements about China’s fast-changing technology and culture. She holds a B.A. in Convergence Journalism from the University...