Unlike most Western online shopping websites, where you simply key in a credit card number, Taobao uses Alipay, China’s version of PayPal. However, connecting an Alipay account to your Chinese bank account can be a massive hassle, and makes the whole Taobao experience much less accessible. But once again, fear not! There are far easier ways to get that pair of shoes from your shopping cart to the checkout line.
Instead of paying as you purchase, you can simply ‘recharge’ your Alipay account the way you would your cell phone when you run out of minutes.
Here are the steps:
1. Head over to your local China Post Office and ask for 网汇E (wang hui-E). The teller will give you a small form and tell you what to fill out, but essentially all you need to know is your phone number, your name, your zip code, and the amount of money you want on your account. Let’s say you want to start with 300RMB.
2. During the process, the teller will ask you to create a six-digit Pin code. Remember this number!
3. After processing your paper, the teller will give you a receipt. Don’t lose it!
4. Once you’ve hurried home, log on to your account. Next to your profile picture (the default is a cartoon of a grey person crying), click on the characters 我的支付宝(wodezhifubao). This will take you to your Alipay account, which should have a total of 0.00RMB.
5. Click on the large orange icon that has the characters 充值(chongzhi; ‘recharge’).
6. Click on the fourth tab that says 充值码(chongzhima; ‘recharge code’)
7. When this tab opens, select the green icon that is farthest to the right and click the orange button below.
8. The first box you need to fill out is the 14 or 18 digit code that is printed on your receipt.
9. The box directly underneath is for the Pin you gave at the Post Office. You didn’t forget it, did you?
10. Voilà! In a matter of seconds, your account has been charged and you’re ready to go with 300RMB! As soon as you have spent the lot, simply go back to the Post Office. They’ll know you there by name in no time.