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In the last article, I mentioned paying rent and paying bills deserved their own essay. There’s a good reason to make these parts of life a separate article. 

Paying rent and utilities are different in China than they are in the US. You don’t go online and pay the bills until next month. It can be more complicated than you think. 

I talked with the same Facebook group I spoke to in the last article. We talked about how people paid their bills.

Every person who responded said it was something they wished they knew about before they came to China. 

How do you pay rent? 

This question sounds strange when you first hear it. You can use a bank card and go to the building, right? You can’t do that in China. 

Instead, there are four different ways a person can pay their rent in China. The method you use is going to depend on what your landlord prefers. 

Cash. 

Some landlords won’t accept anything less than cash. I did this in my first two years in China. The landlady worked through the agency, so I would go to my agent’s office when my rent was due. 

Not all landlords are like this. Some may come to the apartment and ask you for the cash. Make sure you have it on hand. 

Be careful if your landlord only wants cash! Most ATMs have a limit per day, so you’ll need to build up the money over a few days! Don’t wait until the last minute if this is you! 

Deposit the money into your landlord’s bank account

It’s not as weird as it sounds, I swear! Sometimes, when a landlord can’t be at your apartment every three months, they’ll give you their account number. They expect you to deposit the money every three months. 

Your landlord will give you their bank card. Then, you go to their bank, type in the account number on the ATM, and deposit the money into the ATM machine. Then your landlord will have it instantly. 

WeChat/Alipay

My last landlady preferred WeChat. She had another job, so she couldn’t come to my apartment and get rent. 

I liked using WeChat to give my money too. It was fast and easy.

 I knew when she’d take the money. I also had the proof on the screen she had the money. 

Of all the ways to pay rent, using WeChat was my favorite. I didn’t need to leave the house to do it. She would remind me if I forgot to pay rent. 

Here is a unique trick to lower your rent

If you have a fantastic landlord, here is a life hack to make your rent even lower! If you’re a handy person and something breaks in your apartment, you can buy the materials to get it fixed. 

Then give the receipt to your landlord. They will take the total amount paid out of your rent. 

Not a handy person, but still know what’s wrong with the appliance? Don’t worry! 

Buying the new part and getting someone to fix it will help, too! The landlord can still lower your rent if you purchased the materials. 

How do you pay for your utilities? 

Utilities are different here than in the US or other countries. You’ll need to do the traditional cash at different times, but you can pay up to a year in advance! 

Sometimes, you can use WeChat or Alipay, depending on the company you’re using. 

And then there are your electricity and gas cards. Every floor of every apartment building has a room filled with slots for said cards.

 Electricity card slots are usually outside of your apartment building, while the gas is inside your apartment. 

Your electricity card is easy. You have a choice of going to a bank or the nearest State Grid, pay the tellers money, and you have money on your card. 

And you have electricity! Then, you go back to your building and put your electric card in your slot. 

When I lived in my second apartment, I paid for electricity once a year. Once it started warming up in Beijing, I’d walk to the nearest State Grid and put 1,000 RMB on the card.

I wouldn’t need to touch it again until next year. 

When I left China, I’d heard of people paying for their electricity through Alipay, but I never tried it. Both WeChat and Alipay make it easy for people to pay their utilities. 

WeChat was how I paid for my water and internet. 

My gas card was more complicated. I didn’t understand which bank I needed to go to, so my landlady would take care of it for me. 

She would come over, and I’d hand her the cash. Then, she’d have me put the card in the slot to ensure the money went through. 

The Takeaway

So let’s quickly recap what we learned today. 

  • There are three ways to pay your landlord rent: Cash, depositing in their bank account, or WeChat/Alipay. 
  • You can pay for your internet up to a year in advance! 
  • Stick to WeChat for your water bills. 
  • Gas and electricity need their own cards. You can go to either a bank or State Grid to put money on them. 
  • It’s better to ask your landlady to take care of the gas card. 

Now that you know what to expect, you won’t get caught off-guard when it’s time to be an adult and pay your bills! 


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Keara Hopkins

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