Blair Zhou, 26, uses Alipay on a daily basis, spending at least 2,500 yuan a month with the third-party payments platform on everything from transportation to dinner.
"Young people rarely put much cash in their purse now. A mobile phone with Alipay is enough," she said.
What makes using Alipay even more convenient is Zhou's relatively high Sesame Credit score — 775 out of a possible 950 — that allows her to access a host of privileges unavailable to those with lower scores.
Sesame Credit, a credit-scoring service from Alibaba affiliate Ant Financial, attributes scores to Alipay users who have opted into the program. Users with higher scores are able to access benefits that run the gamut from waivers on car rental deposits to expedited airport security checks.
Sesame Credit is just one of several provincial-level or private pilot programs in China's push to develop a nationwide social credit system — even as experts warn of data privacy and transparency concerns. The current implementations are currently unconnected, but may ultimately be combined under government leadership.
Part financial credibility indicator and part compliance mechanism, the social credit system aims to generate a score for individuals and institutions in China based on data like tax filings and driving demerits. And while consumers may reap rewards, the score also functions as a signal mechanism for authorities about whom or what deserves to be penalized.