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.
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.
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 (Android, iOS), 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 in India as a foreigner with Airtel Money
- Get an Airtel sim card/phone number at any Airtel showroom. There’s also an Airtel stand right outside arrivals in the Delhi airport.
- Download the My Airtel app (Android, iOS). Use a VPN and set your location to India if you’re having problems finding it in the app store.
- Set up the My Airtel app.
- 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.
- 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.
- Use the debit card number from your Airtel Payments Bank for all your future online purchases, or to load money onto your PayTM account.
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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.