Why WeChat Added a ‘Red Envelope’ Payment Feature


The ability to chat and transfer money in one application is changing the way people communicate and how companies work and operate.

WeChat, Red Envelopes, and In-App Payments

With an estimated 1.15 billion monthly users and transacting trillions of dollars each year, “WeChat” remains China’s leading messaging application. Active accounts increased on average by nearly 20 million users each quarter from 2011 to 2019.

Now, what started as a simple chat app is the default work application for most Chinese companies and employees. With features like their “Red Envelope,” WeChat is changing how people transfer and receive money. WeChat and Alipay are currently the leaders in money transfers among China’s population.

In 2014, WeChat first introduced their “red envelope” or “red packet” feature. This was based on the Chinese tradition of gifting red envelopes, called 红包 or hóngbāo, that are filled with money to friends, family, and colleagues. Though especially popular during Chinese New Year, this is also a popular custom for weddings, holidays, and other special occasions.

On WeChat, however, these “e-packets” allow users to send money to individuals or groups. When a user receives a packet, they cannot see how much money they have until after they open the envelope. This small element of surprise further mimics the traditional Chinese custom and adds an element of excitement.

WeChat and AliPay

Currently, WeChat and Alipay have cemented their position as staples of daily life in China. Often dubbed the “Chinese WhatsApp,” WeChat has a variety of features for its users. Through the app, users can purchase phone credit, pay bills, rent e-bikes, and even purchase insurance. With Alipay, users can also pay for just about everything.

Red Envelopes

WeChat’s “Red Envelope” feature allows users to connect their bank account with their chat app. This is by means of a “WeChat eWallet.” Once a user successfully sets up their in-app wallet, they are then able to send and receive gift packets.

Users can send these out to individuals or groups. The receiving parties can then withdraw the money they receive directly from their wallet, into their personal bank account. This feature reached such adoption that not only do individuals use it, but now businesses also manage their transactions on these platforms.

WeChat Wallet

The WeChat Wallet is accessible through the “wallet” icon in the user’s profile. The setup process is very straightforward. Users enter their credit or debit card number into the app, provide their mobile phone number, and then create a password for their wallet. Debit cards are more common for payments and there are restrictions as to which banks are accepted.

If using an approved card, the wallet can be set up in minutes. Then, users are ready to send and receive funds through the app. Users can even attach messages to their red envelope gift packets; some kind words or a thank you for the occasion.

Messaging Apps Becoming the All-in-One

By integrating payment features into messaging apps, companies are transforming these into “all-in-one” applications. With these, users can seamlessly pay for goods and services, top their mobiles, and transfer payments. Further, these applications aim to integrate features for both individual and enterprise use. And if the popularity of WeChat in China shows anything, it’s that these integrations are in high demand.

The more value these novel apps bring to users, the more widely and rapidly they will be adopted. This could be especially true with the fact that there is a rapidly growing remote workforce. As well, there are more international companies today than ever before. All in all, apps providing “all-in-one” solutions may prove to be the go-to tools for professionals.

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