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Chinese mobile-payment apps launch in Vancouver, Toronto
Toronto-based OTT Financial Inc. is working with Chinese Internet giants Tencent and Alibaba to introduce their mobile-payment infrastructure in Canada. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

VANCOUVER — The Globe and Mail (includes correction)

A pair of widely used Chinese mobile-payment systems have launched in Vancouver and Toronto, allowing users to pay for purchases using their home currency.

Toronto-based OTT Financial Inc. is working with Chinese Internet giants Tencent and Alibaba to introduce their mobile-payment infrastructure in Canada. The two apps, WeChat Pay and Alipay, are linked with users’ credit cards and allows them to make payments in renminbi, which is then converted to Canadian dollars before it’s transferred to merchants.

B.C.’s Sprott Shaw College, a private school that caters to international students, and Trump Tower have signed on to use the services, said Daniel Sui, project manager of AirBank technologies, OTT Financial’s marketing partner. The apps launched in Toronto last month at Yorkdale and Square One shopping centres.

The Canadian launch will allow retailers to expand their mobile-payment offerings beyond existing services such as Apple Pay while specifically targeting Chinese consumers, who represent the top overseas-tourism market in Toronto and the second largest in Vancouver.

Milly Gu, administrative manager at Sprott Shaw College, said the school also brought in the service to address concerns about China’s foreign-exhange controls, which were tightened earlier this year. China’s State Administration of Foreign Exchange restricts Chinese citizens foreign exchanges to $50,000 (U.S.) a year.

Students at the school are now able to use the apps to pay their tuition costs, which range from several thousand dollars to as much as $30,000 (Canadian).

“We learned that it’s no longer that easy to transfer money from China. The requirements are strict,” Ms. Gu said.

Ms. Gu said WeChat Pay can be linked to numerous credit cards, which can have individual limits as high as $20,000 a day.

report from Tencent says about 200 million WeChat users are using the app, while Alipay’s website says that by June, 2015, more than 400 million people have registered to use its platform.

Mr. Sui says OTT Financial is currently looking for partners in Calgary and is seeking to expand across Canada.

Tourism Vancouver’s vice-president of marketing, Stephen Pearce, said the service will have a “positive effect” on tourism in the region and could increase the amount Chinese tourists who are already visiting will spend.

China has become Vancouver’s second-largest overseas-tourism market since 2014, and the largest for Toronto. A news release from Tourism Toronto notes that more than 300,000 Chinese visitors spent an estimated $275-million in the region in 2016.

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this article quoted B.C. Sprott Shaw College administrative manager on Toronto-based OTT Financial Inc.’s mobile-payment systems. Her private school has signed on to use their services. Milly Gu told The Globe and Mail “OTT Financial told us that by using the service, foreign-exchange limits won’t apply, because it’s seen as overseas spending.” She now says this was her opinion only and an OTT official said the statement is incorrect and in fact foreign-exchange limits do apply.

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