When diners ask for the bill in an urban Chinese restaurant, they are more likely to reach for their mobile phones than their wallets.
In a survey of 1,000 urban consumers conducted by FT Confidential Research, a unit of the Financial Times, 98.3 per cent of respondents said they had used mobile payment platforms over the past three months, with little difference across city tier, age group or income level.
Alibaba's Alipay was the most frequently used payment platform, cited by 79.5 per cent of respondents, as the first chart shows.
That is a far greater proportion than those who said they most regularly used credit cards (45.5 per cent), debit cards (30 per cent) or even cash (79 per cent).
Alipay's chief rival Tenpay, owned by Tencent, was cited by 26 per cent of respondents. Just 0.3 per cent said they used Apple Pay.
Alipay's dominance is nationwide, selected by 79.3 per cent of respondents in first-tier cities, 80.2 per cent in second-tier cities and 79 per cent in third-tier cities. It was 5.9 percentage points more popular than cash in first-tier cities, though narrowly lost out in second and third tiers.
The rapid adoption of such platforms means credit cards may never gain traction in China. Credit card penetration fell to 0.29 per person at the end of last year, after peaking at 0.34 at the end of 2014, according to central bank data.
The number of users of mobile payment platform grew 64.5 per cent in that time to 357.7m.
Respondents said they most often used them for payments in supermarkets and shopping malls, but they are also popular for paying utilities, ordering food, buying travel tickets or eating out, as the second chart shows.
Unsurprisingly, the younger the respondent, the more likely they were to have adopted this relatively young technology: only 56.1 per cent of respondents aged 35 or older said they prefer making mobile payments to paying via PC, even though almost all owned smartphones. In contrast, 88 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds preferred paying via their mobile device.
Mobile platforms are now trying to move beyond a simple scan of a QR code for a retail transaction. Taking advantage of the big data resources of their parent companies, they are expanding into consumer finance, some with a view to challenging the traditional banks.
The take-up has not been entirely smooth, however. The new online banks have not overcome a central bank regulatory hurdle to become deposit-taking institutions, which requires in-person verification of an account holder's identity.