Foreign travelers to China will be able to use digital yuan

A sign shows that this department store’s cash register accepts e-CNY, the digital currency issued by China’s central bank.

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BEIJING – Foreign travelers to China can use the government-developed digital yuan without a local bank account, the country’s central bank said in a paper released on Friday.

Mobile Pay has grown rapidly in recent years and has become the dominant means of payment in China. Merchants often prefer not to take cash with them, while credit cards have never been as successful in China as they were in the US

However, the two primary mobile payment apps – operated by Tencent and Alibaba respectively – usually require a connection to a domestic bank account, which prevents foreign travelers from simply using the apps.

It was not immediately clear when the bankless digital yuan feature would be available. However, CNBC confirmed that a foreign reporter already had access to the digital yuan through a domestic bank account.

People’s Bank of China has been developing a digital version of the yuan, known as e-CNY, since 2014. On Friday, the central bank released a paper – in English and Chinese – on research progress.

“Foreign residents temporarily traveling in China can open an e-CNY wallet to meet daily payment needs without opening a domestic bank account,” the newspaper said.

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The central bank claimed that the e-CNY system “collects less transaction information than traditional electronic payments,” and that the PBoC internally keeps digital yuan information separate from other departments.

By the end of June, after about a year of e-CNY testing across the country, more than 20.87 million personal wallets and more than 3.51 million corporate wallets with a transaction value of approximately 34.5 billion yuan (5.39 billion US dollars). said the paper.

Foreigners generally were unable to participate in government-organized digital yuan handouts or other tests because they were restricted to local residents of mainland China, Hong Kong, or Macau.

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