For the longest time, I couldn’t figure out how to use Taobao without an Alipay account. After setting up online banking at my bank (China Merchants Bank), I kept running into a screen at check-out prompting me for a Chinese ID (shenfenzheng) number. Entering a passport number wasn’t an option, so my online adventures were always foiled there.
But recently, a friend told me she’s always been able to use Taobao without an Alipay account or shenfenzheng number. You just have to go through online banking, she said, and sent me detailed instructions. The answer was so dumb, so simple, and led to an "aha!" moment as I gleefully bought a cave for my pet crayfish, Christopher (don’t ask). I’ve republished my friend’s instructions here – with screenshots.
Before anything, you must have online banking set up; you must go to your bank in person with your passport, but it only takes a few minutes.
Here, I’ve just checked out and I’m being presented with the payment options screen. However, they’re all through Alipay.
Scroll down a bit. You’ll see an alternative option called 网上银行 ("online banking"). It’s very easy to miss because the dropdown menu is collapsed by default. Click on the blue characters that say 选择其他 ("Select another option").
A pop-up window will emerge with all the different banks. I selected China Merchants Bank. Be sure not to confuse your bank’s icon with the ones at the bottom; they’re meant for businesses and enterprises. Then, click the orange button that says 下一步 ("next step").
On the next screen, do not tick the box that says 同意 ("agree"); that will take you to Alipay, which we’re trying to avoid. Just click the orange button that says 登陆到网上银行付款 ("sign in to online banking to pay").
A new tab will open to your bank’s online payment site. Enter your card number; make sure that 借记卡 ("debit card") is selected, not 信用卡 ("credit card"). Click the blue button that says "next."
Click the button that says 免费获取 ("obtain for free") next to the first field; that will send a six-digit security code to your mobile phone. Enter it in the first field. In the second field, enter your debit card PIN. When you click 确定支付 ("confirm payment"), a little white window will pop up. Click 确定 ("confirm") again.
You’ll also get a confirmation on your mobile.
Now go out there and shop!
Special thanks to Cerian Foulkes for demystifying Taobao and Tara Talabi for the headline suggestion
Screenshots by Sijia Chen