How to pay online in India as a foreigner

Ever wondered how to pay online in India as a foreigner? It’s a tricky task, but we’ve finally found a way. Read on and learn how to pay online in India as a foreigner with Airtel and PayTM.

 

Update 2019: Apparently the method below doesn’t work anymore. It is still possible to create the wallet with a fake passport number, but loading money doesn’t seem to work without KYC aproval. We’d love updates from readers who have tried the below method. An Indian passport number starts with a capital letter, followed by seven random numbers. Passport numbers never start or end with a zero. Thanks to all the readers who tried and let us know.

 

India is increasingly embracing online payment systems and mobile wallets. Bus and train tickets can be booked online, and even small paan shops now accept cards or digital money.

This is especially useful for travelers, as it allows you to buy train and bus tickets online, saving you the hassle of standing in line at the train station or paying extra fees to travel agencies.

How to pay online as a foreigner in India - Paan with PayTM in Hyderabad, India - Lost With Purpose

Why yes, you can buy this with mobile payments.

It’s not easy to pay online in India as a foreigner

Unfortunately, due to India’s archaic laws and fear of foreign-sponsored terrorism, it’s not always easy to make online payments as a foreigner.

Not all vendors allow payments with a foreign debit or credit card, for instance, and the ones who do only work erratically (I’m looking at you, IRCTC). There are also plenty of charges associated with using foreign credit cards to pay online. These can quickly add up, especially on long trips.

Are mobile wallets the answer to making payments in India as a foreigner?

So how to pay online in India as a foreigner? Online wallets seem like a great alternative to paying with debit or credit card… right?

Here’s the problem: PayTM, the country’s biggest online wallet, doesn’t allow you to charge money with a foreign card. This means that PayTM doesn’t work for foreigners. The only way to load money on a PayTM wallet as a foreigner is to have an Indian friend transfer funds with his or her local debit or credit card.

(Talk about useless.)

Unless you have Indian friends whose card you can use, you’re stuck paying extra fees to either travel agencies or your online service provider when you want to buy tickets. Or worse, if you’re like me, you’ll end up shouting at your computer because IRCTC declined your payment for the sixth time for no apparent reason.

How to pay online in India as a foreigner - Train from Jodhpur to Delhi, India - Lost With Purpose

It only took us a million tries to buy these train tickets…

Airtel makes it easy to make payments in India as a foreigner

Luckily, it’s just become easier to make online payments in India as a foreigner. India’s largest mobile provider, Airtel, has just rolled out Airtel Payments Bank, a mobile wallet of sorts.

If you have an Airtel sim card—which we recommend, as it offers good coverage at decent rates—and download the My Airtel app (AndroidiOS), you automatically have an Airtel Payments Bank account linked to your mobile number.

Tip: If you’re having trouble downloading the Airtel app, try using a VPN and setting your location to India to get it to download, or download the APK file.

The great thing about the Airtel Payments Bank is that it basically gives you an online Indian debit card. The moment you deposit money in your Airtel Account, which can be done at a myriad of Airtel Stores throughout the country, you can start paying for things online using this debit card.

You can even use the card to top up PayTM, if you’d rather use the more popular mobile wallet. You can also use the money to top up your phone credit, or send credit to others regardless of carrier, which is pretty handy.

 

How to pay online as a foreigner in India - A mobile phone store in Jodhpur, Rajasthan, India - Lost With Purpose

How to pay online in India as a foreigner with Airtel Money

  1. Get an Airtel sim card/phone number at any Airtel showroom. There’s also an Airtel stand right outside arrivals in the Delhi airport.
  2. Download the My Airtel app (AndroidiOS). Use a VPN and set your location to India if you’re having problems finding it in the app store.
  3. Set up the My Airtel app.
  4. Register for the Airtel Money Payments Bank through the wallet icon in the top right corner of the My Airtel app. It should take less than a minute.
  5. Load Airtel money onto your sim card with cash. You can do this at any official Airtel store in India. Some have automatic payment machines, others you might have to convince the customer service rep to help you out.
  6. Use the debit card number from your Airtel Payments Bank for all your future online purchases, or to load money onto your PayTM account.

[bscolumns class=”one_third one_third_first”]How to pay online in India as a foreigner - Airtel Debit card screenshot - Lost With Purpose[/bscolumns][bscolumns class=”one_third”]How to pay online in India as a foreigner - Airtel Debit card screenshot - Lost With Purpose[/bscolumns][bscolumns class=”one_third_last”]How to pay online in India as a foreigner - Airtel Debit card screenshot - Lost With Purpose[/bscolumns][bscolumns class=”clear”][/bscolumns]

Disclaimer: Before you start worrying, we have not sold our soul to big corporate Airtel. Nor are we associated with them in any way. The sole purpose of this article is to make it easier for foreign travelers in India to pay for things online.

Alex Reynolds

American by birth, British by passport, Filipina by appearance. Addicted to ice cream. Enjoys climbing trees, dislikes falling out. Has great fondness for goats which is usually not reciprocated.

More about Alex

55 thoughts on “How to pay online in India as a foreigner

    Anwar says:

    Thanks! This is easier than getting my cousins to online pay for things for me 🙂 Useful info.

    Absolutely. We used to ask friends to do the same, but it’s much easier if you can do it yourself.

    Travelosio says:

    Woo, I didn’t know it so much hassle to pay as a foreigner in India. Thanks for the detailed information. I would definitely keep this in mind once I’ll be in India.

    Cash payment are easy, but online payments can be a true pain in the ass. This makes it a bit easier.

    dsk says:

    I am an Indian and because I live in the US, my Indian bank account is not active and I encounter all the issues outlined in this article. It is such a hassle to buy anything online using my US credit cards. I hate that India makes it so difficult. I hope it comes up with an alternate safe way to make transactions that are appealing to make even when not using an indian credit card. With the 2-way authentication India has now adopted, it has just gone to another level. I wish I could make utility payments for my Dad in India, but I cannot make those payments from here unfortunately.

    Stuart says:

    I love you for this information! I have an Airtel sim and the app but never loaded money onto it! I never knew it had a mastercard type function. Awesome post.

    Glad it’s useful. Cheers!

    Kara says:

    Sorry doesn’t work – requires an adhar card and foreigners don’t have those

    You know this from experience? We’ve been paying for all our data top ups and train tickets through this method, and can assure you we don’t have an adhaar card.

    Kara says:

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/80f151869bb24563fc33913190109ebb9727b1380626d03f93a881fed5b86c7a.png

    Yes, that is to get the savings account. To get the regular mobile wallet, which includes an online debit card, you don’t need an adhaar number.

    Kara says:

    I went into the Airtel storefront and they tried to add money but weren’t able to (either on the kiosk or by their computer) and so they said this was what I had to do – I will have to go back and try again – clearly they didn’t know how it worked

    That’s odd. You did manage to activate the wallet? If not, the activation button is in the top right hand corner of the app, I think.

    Big airtel stores have machines on which you can add money, and small stores should be able to do it, too. We haven’t had any problem adding money so far. Hope things work our for you. It should definitely be possible without an adhaar card.

    James says:

    Thanks for sharing. Did you register for a SIM with a foreign passport? My past 2 experiences with Airtel was that they would deactivate the SIM without notice after about 3 months, assuming you would be out of country. I can imagine having a bunch of money loaded onto my airtel wallet and then it disappearing. Also, any familiarity with the app Haptik? I was trying to find a way to load money on that app also. Evidently you can book train tickets from this app as well, but I have not used it to confirm.

    Sebastiaan says:

    India has a rule that sim cards sold to foreigners can only be active for 3 months at a time. This applies to all mobile operators. If you have a visa with a longer validity. If your visa is valid for longer than that, you can get this period extended, though. We used the same number for the 9 months we were there. However, our sim card did get deactivated after 3 months, but an Airtel customer representative was really tenacious in helping us when this happened. Your best bet is to not load too much money (we usually loaded 2000 Rs at a time), and keep good track of when you bought your sim card. We haven’t heard of Haptik.

    Nadia says:

    How do you manage to put money on your wallet? When I pay cash they put money on Airtel account balance but not on wallet. I activated wallet and airtel debit card but how to top up a wallet itself?

    Sebastiaan says:

    You can ask at any Airtel store to top up you wallet account. Just tell them you want to top up Airtel Money, and they should know what to do.

    Alex says:

    You neglected to mention a couple of important points:
    – There are all kinds of limits and transaction fees involved (I suggest Googling for all the sordid details)
    – Unless the amount to be loaded is trivial (very less as they say in India) you are not likely to find an Airtel Payment Bank representative capable or willing to top-up money into your account.

    I recently visited the largest such establishment in the city of Mysore Karnataka and tried to load 6,000 Rs to pay for a domestic flight online. Despite the agent’s best efforts in the end had to concede defeat. I contacted Airtel to seek “official” advice but so far a response has not been forthcoming..

    Sebastiaan says:

    Thanks for pointing that out.
    I never had to pay any transaction fees. I usually get cashback (as they call it) when using Airtel Money. Have honestly never has a problem using this method. Mostly use it for train tickets and obviously for data top up on my phone.

    I usually load 2,000 rupees at the time, and also never had a problem doing this. The most I’ve loaded at once was 4,000 and, again, no restrictions on that. Perhaps you were unlucky, or perhaps they changed the system (although I loaded 2,000 just a few days ago). Perhaps ask the Airtel representative to load 2,000 at a time, see if that works.

    Helen says:

    Thanks for sharing. Do you know if this still works? I’m trying to register, but it asks for one document (Aadhar Card/Voter ID Card/Driving License/PAN Card/Passport/NREGA Card) none of which I have. (Foreign passport won’t work)

    Sebastiaan says:

    You’re most welcome. It worked for me just three weeks ago, but Alex has been having the same problem. Perhaps they changed something during a recent update. You could try going to an Airtel store and see if they can help.

    Helen says:

    Yeah, I’ll go to Airtel store tomorrow, thanks for your help!

    Jordan says:

    I’m having the same problem as Helen

    Sebastiaan says:

    Unfortunately it seems the Indian government has made linking Adhaar mandatory for these services. I will double check when I’m back in India to see if there is a way around it, but for now the only thing you can do is ask at the Airtel store if they can set it up. Not sure if that will work though, but it’s wort a shot.

    S says:

    I was able to do it by using a generic passport number.

    Sebastiaan says:

    Thanks for letting me know, very useful info!

    jampaginny says:

    so how many digits has a generic passport number?

    Phil says:

    This is all very well but I’m trying to recharge my Airtel SIM from Sri Lanka before I return to India.
    The Airtel site is probably the most useless site I have visited in a long while. They say India is an up and coming nation. I won’t happen if they continue to deny international credit cards and international debit cards.

    Sebastiaan says:

    Agreed. India makes it too difficult to pay with international debit or credit cards. As for recharging your sim, there’s usually an Airtel booth at the airport, so you should be able to do it right after you land.

    Jessica says:

    This is helpful to know, but still leaves me with a lot more fees and hassles than I have to deal with in the US. For instance, I can only withdraw 10,000 INR out of the bank at one time. Plus I have an ATM fee each time which is the same 200 INR for each withdraw. Small but adds up after 6 months, since I have to pay cash for EVERYTHING. Then I am loading it onto a wallet be it PayTM or AirTel now I am putting money back into a machine (IE means long line of people waiting to do this) and not to mention potentially filling out a form (IE, filling out an ICIC form to get money on my PayTM). Still means I am holding cash to get a digital payment option and still paying an ATM fee, just so I don’t have to carry twenty 100 INR notes all around so I can pay EXACT change all the time. I would like to hear if anyone has found a method to get everything done without waiting in a line, filling out a form or having cash limits.

    Tobie says:

    Seems like it won’t work anymore because of a new rule called “kyc” or “know your customer” that requires you to have your physical documentation checked… this article was written last week: https://scroll.in/article/870873/indias-e-wallets-are-struggling-to-weather-the-storm-set-off-by-mandatory-aadhaar-linked-kyc-norms

    Mano says:

    Make some friends, it is easy in India, and if they have a Paytm account they transfer the amount onto your Paytm account and you give them the cash. No fees. You have to find a well off Indian with a Paytm account to be able to do that.
    Down south like Kerala I don t get charged fees with the state bank of India. I repeat the transaction twice if I need rp20000. Not an issue.
    The biggest problem these days is getting the sim card in the first place. Most places will want to see an adhaar card except, as i have heard, in an airport. Can anyone tell their experience of getting a simcardb as of 2018?

    AbroTech says:

    13/03/2018 i went to some brand stores with my international credit card but all of them pos machine declined it. Also I have tried to setup airtel wallet but needs indian documents to setup.

    Goodbye india.

    traveller says:

    Slightly out of topic, but difficulty in using international credit card can also be found in the USA ! I recently visited usa and had difficulties using my international credit card for Metro North 10 offpeak ticket to Stamford pass or even the weekly NY subway pass. Apparently Metro North has a limit of some us$30 that can be used on a purchase ! So at Grand Central station ticket booth (not vending machine), I used my intl credit card for us$30 and cash for us$50 ! (Ps I don’t remember the exact amounts but they are in the right ballpark). The weekly NY subway pass cost approx us$35, and I could only buy one with my credit card on the machine ! It didn’t allow for a second one. I had another credit card, and again I could buy only one on it ! We were a party of 4, so two passes I had to buy with cash ! Not sure why such restrictions, especially in area of high intl tourists.

    traveller says:

    PS the staff explained the above restrictions were only on international credit cards, and due to fear of fraud ! Seemed ridiculous. In India (and indeed all countries that I have been to though never went to many african or central asian countries or china / north korea yet), I was able to use my international credit card everywhere. Though I didn’t use the smaller online websites. The only place I have been stumped is in NY subway / Metro North trains !

    traveller says:

    SIM card for foreigners can be obtained in India, but staff at some smaller outlets may not be aware. I recently got a vodafone prepaid sim. Bring along your passport and visa, and photocopies of them as the outlet i visited didn’t have a photocopy machine in it. Also a photo. You will need one set for each sim card you need. Not sure about how long the sim card remains activated. Some readers have commented 3 months. Not staying that long. The staff told me an outgoing call must be made every 30 days for it to remain activated.

    traveller says:

    I don’t carry much cash in India or elsewhere. Even small amounts can be paid by credit cards, including international credit cards. Cash is mostly used for autorickshaws. In india, eating in a restaurant can cost as low as us$2 and credit cards accepted ! For taxis in bigger cities, i am using uber. So all in, not much cash needed.

    Nayan Tiwari says:

    So the thing is, I added money to my wallet using my AMEX credit card, I was charged $1 for adding 1 rupees and same when I tried adding 5 rupees. So what exactly is the deal? How much will I be charged for adding 1000 rupees or more than that? What is the transaction fees? Please lemme know. Thank you,

    Anuj says:

    Well, it looks like you can use an American Express Credit Card to load cash into your Paytm wallet. Just tried it with a US issued Amex..

    Foreign tourist 6months visa says:

    I recharged 500Rs this morning at small recharging shop.
    My plan was to use this deposited amount for new plan 499Rs 2GB every day.
    But this deposited money could not be used for purchase any mobile plan.
    Registering Airtel money wallet was not possible for foreign tourist with only passport.
    So this 500Rs is as same as stolen by Airtel.
    Airtell official shop was helpless and no refund.
    It is fraud, isnt it ?
    Airtel must provide some way to use this charged amount for customers choice of any airtel service plan.

    Eddie says:

    I was able to get an Airtel SIM at Kochi airport in Mid-April. The process was quite painless, I’ve been very impressed with the coverage, and it’s phenomenal value for money. The only problem now is I don’t know how to recharge it…

    Alex says:

    Haha, always a struggle! To recharge your SIM, head to any little shop (or official Airtel store) that has the Airtel logo on it somewhere. Then you tell them how much money you want to charge to your SIM and pay up. There’s usually little charts with recharge amounts and costs in the shop, but beware—deals can vary by state. I recommend downloading the My Airtel app and looking at the offers to figure out how much you need to pay to recharge.

    Ankush says:

    Hi i want to make a payment online on an indian website but i cannot use my internationally cards as they don’t accept them… Also cannot sign up for airtel as i need to have an india voter id passport etc… Do you have any recommendations? thanks

    Avner says:

    It’s still quite cumbersome to withdraw cash from an atm and then go to an airtel store to charge your wallet.
    I haven’t found a straight forward way to charge a wallet by using a card but I did find an easy way to recharge the airtel sim. Although you can’t charge Amazon pay with an international card you can apparently charge the airtel sim by paying with your international card through Amazon. That’s one type of transaction I won’t be using friends for anymore…

    Sam Bella says:

    How were you able to use an international credit card on Amazon? Amazon.in doesn’t accept my credit card — I get as far as putting in the address and then it says my PIN code is not valid (duh — because it’s a zip code).

    Bharatiya says:

    Now you can use Amex card to pay utility bills on their websites in India.
    I just paid my US issued Amex card to pay MTNL & TATA Sky bills.
    I also use my US issued Visa card to shop Amazon.in for last 2-3 years. All you need is a friend’s mobile number to register.
    All I need now to be able to send fresh fruits & vegetables to my parents using online grocery stores like BigBasket but they don’t accept US issued credit cards.
    Hope this helps someone.

    Irene says:

    OMG! Thanks. Someone said he used a genetic passport number. I did that and it worked. Thanks again

    Irene says:

    I mean “Generic”..

    Travis says:

    Early 2019 updates – I am on business travel for several months in India. You need the following in order of priority: a cell phone, food, and money. This article was extremely helpful with the last item.

    However, an update for foreigners visiting India. In Feb/Mar 2018 – India locked down eWallets significantly. You now have to go through a process called “KYC” – Know Your Customer – which entails validating your identification in person. A foreign passsport is not accepted as valid identification.

    The PayTM method noted in this article still works and will get you a 10,000 rupee limit per month. Talk to somebody you know and trust in India to transfer that limit to your India cell phone number, give them cash. I had several coworkers who were willing to help out as all of them had PayTM accounts. The amount will be enough per month to pay for taxis and other misc. items.

    Note – foreign credit cards are taken by several restaurants and merchants in the malls no problem but are blocked by many other online companies in India (Uber, Zomato Gold membership, Thrillophilia, etc.). eWallets solve this in a lot of cases. Cash is always an option – but highly inconvenient as getting small change in India is not always easy. i.e. Don’t hand your Uber driver a 500 rupee bill for a 125 rupee trip – they probably won’t be able to break it. eWallets giving precise amounts avoids this hassle. Also for business travelers – you’ll want a paper trail for expense reimbursement.

    Airtel – unfortunately – has locked down their Payment Bank significantly. You have to do KYC first before they will allow any transfer of money. I tried in person per this article with cash in hand to transfer, but the app constantly blocked us saying “limit exceeded”. The amounts tested were 10,000 and 5,000 rupees. If anybody finds a way to make this work with Airtel as of 2019 – please post. Sharing my experiences for now.

    B says:

    I have the same problem Travis. I tried to add 3,000 rupees and got a “limit exceeded” error. I was told that I’d get a phone call once they figured out what that meant, but I haven’t heard back.

    B says:

    I’m working in India so I have a PAN card and was able to setup a minimal Paytm account. It has a 10,000INR limit (140USD) per month.

    I’ve had some success with purchasing Bitcoins and selling them for Paytm transfers using a service called LocalBitcoins. It’s not easy, there are fees, bad exchange rates and you have to find trustworthy sellers otherwise it’s risky. I don’t recommend it unless you’re out of other options.

    Grabo says:

    When entering a generic passport No .what information do you put in the other box’s .Name .DOB.Email and so forth ?

    Guilherme says:

    Can I use that debit card to pay spotify? some1 knows?

    Ruben Netherlands says:

    Thanks, Sebastiaan, for your article!

    Managed to get the Airtel creditcard, topped the wallet up with my American Express card as all other credit cards were blocked. So I did not have to go to an Airtel store to try and top up. As for KYC, I managed to give my full details and passport number I just did the capital character + 7 random numbers without 0’s, as my NL passport number was not accepted. KYC is completed without having to upload any document or visit any store.

    With the 2000 rupees I tested, I could top up the IDEA SIM card of my girlfriend, as there is no other online way. Trying to use this Airtel creditcard to top up the PayTM is not working, the error I am getting is that prepaid credit cards are not allowed. So for now I will probably end up finding an Indian local who will help me with that or just keep using the Airtel credit card.

    Jessica says:

    Go to Amazon.In and select recharge. Put in your mobile # and pick the plan. Then when pay simply enter your intl card details. Just make sure your bank knows you are abroad so the transaction doesn’t get denied.

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