When I lived in the hutongs, buying electricity involved jotting down the numbers of not one, not two, but four electricity meters associated with our house, taking them to the nearest Postal Savings Bank of China, and telling the clerk how much money we wanted charged to each meter. Because our stove ran on a propane tank, we also had to call up Beijing Gas every three months or so to deliver a new bottle.
Last week, I was reminded of these experiences when the lady who periodically drops by my current apartment to demand gas money taught me – out of sheer exasperation – how to pay for utilities on WeChat Wallet. “See how simple that was?” she asked. “Now I won’t have to come by your house and chase you anymore.”
Most gas bills look like this:
The first black bar is where your 10- or 11-digit user number would be. The second is your address. Jot down the user number in a safe place; you’ll need that later.
Select WeChat Wallet under “Me.” Tap “Utilities.”
Select “Gas” (煤). Water is 水, electricity is 电 (not currently available for Beijiing), Internet is 宽带 (China Telecom, China Unicom, and China Tietong supported), and landline telephone is 固话.
Enter your 10- or 11-digit user number and tap the green button. In this case there’s only company that provides this utility, but other categories may have a drop-down list with several options; be sure to select the correct one.
The system will automatically find any outstanding balances, which can be paid using WeChat Wallet as normal. If there are no outstanding balances, you’ll be rewarded with a picture of a dancing robot:
The process is very similar on Alipay, the main difference being that electricity payments are supported on the latter.
On the Alipay app, scroll down on the main screen until you see utilities (生活激发).
Choose “Electricity” (second option).
Enter your user number. If you’re not sure, ask your landlord or call State Grid at 95598 and press 4 for English service.
The system will automatically look up your landlord’s name, address, and outstanding balances. If everything looks correct, scroll down to recharge your electricity meter.
Enter the amount you want to add (e.g. RMB 100), then tap the blue button to confirm. You’ll be asked for your Alipay password.
Voila! Now you’ll never have to experience the special panic of being plunged into darkness in the middle of winter while watching re-runs of The Good Wife because you forgot to add money to the electricity meter – a completely hypothetical situation, of course.
Sijia Chen is a contributing editor at beijingkids and a freelance writer specializing in parenting, education, travel, environment, and culture. Her work has appeared in Travel + Leisure, The Independent, Midnight Poutine, Rover Arts, and more. Follow her on Twitter at @sijiawrites or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Main photo by Maëlick (via Flickr), screenshots by Sijia Chen