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Tenpay starts charging withdrawal fees whild the banks cancel them


03-02-2016 04:58 BJT

Tencent has started charging its WeChat Wallet users a 0.1% transaction fee for transferring funds above 1,000 yuan from their wallets to their bank cards. The charge that began Tuesday comes just after China's five major state-owned banks lifted their fees for mobile transactions of less than 5,000 yuan. Why has Tencent started charging just as the banks stopped and what will the company do with the money?

The good old days end today! Tencent is now charging its users for withdrawing balances in their WeChat Wallets and transferring the money to bank cards. Each WeChat user will have a lifetime allowance of 1,000 yuan, and WeChat will start charging for anything above that. The move comes just a week after the country's five major state-owned banks said they would now do the same thing for free, for any mobile transactions under 5,000 Yuan. While people we spoke on the street said WeChat's 0.1% fee wouldn't bother them much, the experts are questioning it.

While the percentage isn't much, why does Tencent want the money? The problem is that when money is moved from your WeChat wallet to your bank card, the bank charges WeChat for the transfer. Tencent used to bear that cost, but the expenses are adding up. The company says it will use the money to pay those expenses -- so the question is, how much are the banks charging?

It varies. Mobile payment experts say the average charge to WeChat is around 0.2 to 0.3% for credit cards, and 0.1% for debit cards. If special deals have been reached, the fees could be cut or even waived. Several sources from payments companies, including one from Alipay, told us that they believe the rate charged by banks to WeChat will actually be lower than 0.1%.

Other than covering some costs, however, what's going on here? Professor Chiang Jeongwen from the China Europe International Business School says he thinks only a small fraction of current users will change their payment habits because of the new fees, but he is still puzzled by TenCent's move.

Chiang points out that consumers are not likely to be loyal to one single payment platform, but rather make payment choices depending on promotions and convenience.



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