How to use your phones to tap and go on public transport

Use your mobile device as a transport card in the city with the step-to-step guide below

Photo: bmac/Wechat

We’re sure at some point, as you’re scrambling for currency or your transport card at one of the metro gantries, that you'll notice locals simply swipe their phones and breeze in. Chances are, you’ve dismissed it as a service only the locals have access to. Well, it’s not.

The Beijing transport smart card, or 一卡通 Yikatong, literally the ‘one card pass’, can be linked to your mobile devices. And then be used to tap the sensors of public transport of buses and metro. It also functions as a charge card for random services that range from shared bikes to getting a meal at KFC. By year’s end, the same card can also be used across the Chinese mainland including some 260 Chinese cities.

The Yikatong app used to require a refundable deposit of 20RMB to activate on smart phones but from July 3 it’s now free of charge for android users to sign up. iOS users might need to wait till they get this deposit waived, although a refundable 20RMB shouldn’t be a bar to this ultimate convenience.

WIth the Yikatong app, you can use your phone like you do with the transport card. Just pull out your device, put it near the sensors and it’ll automatically deduct fares from your balance just like a physical card. You don’t have to open the app or unlock your phone to use it. Just tap, and go. However, the app comes in only Chinese and would prove somewhat tricky to navigate. So here’s a step-by-step guide to setting it up on your phone.

Do note that the app supports only Android devices with near-field communication function (NFC), or on iOS devices with Apple Pay (iPhone 6 or later models).

Here’s how to download it and activate your card:

1. Go to app store, and search 北京一卡通 and download app

2. Open app, tap on ‘添加’, and you will be asked to register an account with your phone number or WeChat account.

a. To register with you phone number, fill in the your phone number and the confirmation code sent to your phone:

b. To register an account with WeChat. A window will pop up asking you to authorise log-in on WeChat. Click 确认登录 and 完成 to confirm.

3. After registering, you can add a card to your account and choose how much money you wish to put on the card (as of now, iOS users are still subjected to the 20RMB refundable fee).

4. When you’re done, you can pay with Apple Pay, Alipay, or WeChat Pay. Once you’ve put in an amount, you’re good to go.

Welcome to the future.

  • 4 out of 5 stars

User comments

  • 4 out of 5 stars


Fri 12 Jul
I have followed your steps and downloaded the APP. So, what do you do when you go past the ticket machine? Do you need to have the APP open? Please advise.
  • 4 out of 5 stars

Time Out

Fri 12 Jul
Hello FLIM, you don't have to open the app. Just tap your phone against the sensor and it will automatically deduct the fare.