Major Chinese banks are now allowing people to apply for digital yuan wallets

Quick Take

  • Six Chinese state-owned banks are now allowing public users to apply to activate digital yuan wallets in Shanghai and Beijing – suggesting yet another step toward a wider rollout.
  • The move is notable because, in previous tests, users were required to either win a lottery or be invited in order to activate a digital yuan wallet to participate.

Major Chinese state-owned banks have opened the doors to applications from members of the public seeking access to digital yuan wallets in Shanghai and Beijing.

The development indicates that the multi-stage digital yuan tests occurring in different parts of China are in the process of widening in scope. Specifically, six state-owned commercial banks in Shanghai are now allowing public users to apply for wallet activations, according to a Tuesday report from the Chinese state media outlet Securities Times.

The six banks include the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, China Construction Bank, Agricultural Bank of China, Bank of China, Postal Savings Bank of China and Bank of Communications.

In addition, Beijing Business Times said on Wednesday that at least three of the aforementioned commercial banks are also opening up the application process in Beijing for public users.

The move is notable because, in previous tests, users were required to either win a lottery or be invited in order to activate a digital yuan wallet to participate. 

By changing the process from invite-only to one based on applications, the public could become more active participants, as they would be able to top-up their activated digital yuan wallets and pay with it in whichever shop that supports the payment method.

However, the reports added that not every application will be automatically approved and that acceptance is reviewed on a case-by-case basis by the Chinese central bank.

An applicant would receive an SMS within a day if their applications were successful, instructing them on how to download and activate the digital yuan wallet.

Per the reports, users would need to fill in real names, ID and mobile phone numbers, email and employee names after scanning the digital yuan wallet application QR code provided by a bank.

"Although the application criteria has not loosened up, we've opened it up to the public so the process is less restrictive than before," an employee of a Beijing branch of the Postal Bank of China told the Beijing Business Times. "As the review process goes digital, the speed of getting applications approved will be much faster later on."

Since October, four Chinese cities -- Beijing, Shenzhen, Suzhou and Chengdu -- have conducted city-wide digital yuan lottery giveaway events to test the central bank digital currency. 

Although Shanghai has not yet conducted any city-wide giveaway, various locations including shopping malls and hospitals have already rolled out support for the digital yuan as a payment method.

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Wolfie joined The Block’s news team in 2020 and switched to the research side in 2021 to focus on crypto mining analysis. Prior to The Block, he had been a journalist at CoinDesk for three years. Wolfie has a background in financial journalism.