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This is not a scam. I repeat: this is not a scam. Did you know that you can buy pre-paid vouchers with a 10% discount from the Seoul government to use at local businesses? Because I had no idea until very recently. It really felt like they dropped the ball on that one by not widely sharing the news with foreigners. If you’re paying for expensive services like a gym membership, that 10% government subsidy can really make a difference.

What is Zero Pay?

Zero Pay is a payment service or an alternative to paying with credit cards by using a mobile app to scan a QR code and pay directly via your bank account. It helps out small business owners by minimalizing credit card transaction fees. You can read more on the Zero Pay Point website or Zero Pay website.

Though it was implemented in 2018, it didn’t really take off until the pandemic due to the introduction of those discounted vouchers.

Which apps support Zero Pay?

There are many apps that support Zero Pay which may include your own banking app, e.g. Naver Pay, Hana 1Q, Hana Members Card, Payco, Post Pay, Smile Pay, SSG Pay, L Pay, and Bizplay Zero. You can read the full list of supported apps here. However, the gift certificates can only be bought on the apps listed here like Bizpay Zero Pay.

What are the benefits of Zero Pay?

According to the Zero Pay website, the main benefits are:

  • You can receive a 30% income deduction at the end-of-the-year settlement
  • You’ll get discounts on public facilities usage fees such as public parking lots and cultural facilities in Seoul
  • You can use mobile “onnuri” gift certificates in traditional markets/shopping streets and local gift certificates in your neighborhood

But the main draw? It’s those discounted vouchers that you can purchase at up to a 10% discount, meaning if you buy a 100,000 KRW voucher, you’ll pay only 90,000 KRW.

Which stores accept Zero Pay?

Not all stores accept Zero Pay, but you’ll often see the QR code at the front of the cashier counter or the sticker on the window. If you need to find supported merchants, you can search through them on the Zero Pay website.

And to make things a little more confusing, not all stores accept the discounted vouchers that were introduced through Zero Pay. However, you can search the Zero Pay website in Korean for accepted merchants in your area which will also display the type of voucher that you can use with that business.

How can I buy a pre-paid, discounted voucher on the BizPay Zero Pay app?

Using the BizPay Zero Pay App to Buy Vouchers

You can read this PDF in Korean on how to buy the discounted vouchers on the BizPay Zero app, but below is a quick summary in English.

Step 1: Download the App

You can download the app on the Google Play Store or the Apple App Store.

Bizpay Zero Pay app
the initial menu screen of the Bizpay Zero Pay app

The introduction screen of the Bizpay Zero Pay app translated to English, clockwise (starting from top-right):

  1. Main Banner – Zero Pay and gift certificate event information (메인 배너 – 제로페이 및 상품권 이벤트 정보 제공)
  2. My Zero Pay – My Zero Pay, which registers and pays for an account in the name of the person (마이 제로페이 – 본인 명의의 계좌를 등록하여 결제하는 마이 제로페이)
  3. Preferences – screen lock, biometric authentication, notification, account setting, customer center, etc. (환경설정 – 화면 잠금, 생체 인증, 알림, 계좌 설정, 고객센터 등)
  4. Notice – check payment history, notifications, PUSH messages (알림 – 결제 내역, 공지 알림 PUSH 메시지 확인)
  5. Payment Details – payment cancellation, refund, approval details, receipt confirmation (결제 내역 – 결제 취소,환불,승인 내역 영수증 확인)
  6. Main – go to the home screen (메인 – 메인 화면 이동, 앱 Home 화면 이동)
  7. Corporation Zero Pay – payments for government/public institution/corporate use (법인 제로페이 – 정부/공공기관/법인에서 결제하는 법인 제로페이)
  8. Mobile Gift Certificate – mobile gift voucher payment, purchase, gift, usage history management (모바일상품권 – 모바일 상품권 결제, 구매, 선물, 이용내역 관리)
Bizpay Zero Pay app
Terms & Conditions and Real Name Verification of the Zero Pay app

Step 2: Sign Up

After installing the app from the Play Store or Apple App Store, you’ll see the introduction screen as pictured above. Before using this service, you need to agree to the terms & conditions and verify your identity through your mobile phone.

Friendly reminder: write your name exactly how it appears on your mobile phone statement for real-name verification. It’s a weird quirk with Korean apps and payment providers, but I always have to put my name in all caps and without any spaces. So, if your name is John Doe, you’d write DOEJOHN.

Bizpay Zero Pay app
Agree to Terms & Conditions and Verify your registration number and phone

Step 3: Select a Mobile Gift Certificate

Bizpay Zero Pay app
Select the Gift Certificate and Pay

Click ‘Buy Gift Certificate’ then select the mobile voucher (e.g. Seoul Love or Mobile Onnuri Gift Certificates) that you’d like to purchase. Afterward, click the type of voucher you wish to purchase and click ‘Buy’. You’ll also have to set up a password and/or biometric authentication (for Apple phones, Face ID).

Reminder: You can only buy up to 700,000 KRW worth of Seoul Love (Sarang) vouchers in a month as an individual, and the vouchers expire on May 31st, 2021. If you try to buy more than 700,000 KRW worth of Seoul Love vouchers at a time, you’ll get an error. You can, however, buy 700,000 KRW worth of Seoul Love (Sarang) vouchers from the start of the month and the end of month, e.g. April 1st to April 30th, and then buy another 700,000 KRW worth of vouchers on May 1st as the limit resets on the first of the next month.

Step 4: Pay for the Mobile Gift Certificate

Select your bank to pay for the gift certificate and click ‘Buy’. After entering your bank account information — enter your bank account number without the ‘-‘ — you will have to authenticate your bank information. In my case, it was ARS authentication with KEB Hana Bank via a phone call where I had to enter my birthdate (6 digits in this format, YYMMDD) in the keypad. After clicking the ‘OK’ button, you can pay with the purchased gift certificate.

Step 5: Pay with the Mobile Gift Certificate

Bizpay Zero Pay app
Use the Gift Certificate to Pay for Items or Services in South Korea

Click ‘Make Payment’ on the main mobile gift certificate screen. Authentication is performed with the transaction authorization number or biometric authentication. At affiliated stores, you can scan the QR code or barcode with your phone camera. Check the payment amount and the gift certificate, and then enter the amount. After confirming that the transaction has been successfully completed, check the e-receipt. You can check the merchant information and payment information on the e-receipt after payment has been completed.

What are the limitations of the vouchers?

They’re Not Available in Every Region of Korea

There are many types of gift certificates that you can purchase with specific requirements.

Each gift certificate has specific requirements on where you can use them and how you can use them. You should check each certificate individually, but in my case, the Seoul Love voucher suited my needs. Some districts do not accept the Seoul Love gift certificate or voucher, so you should check if your district has its own voucher. You can take a look at the different gift certificates on the Zero Pay website.

Not Every Store Accepts the Vouchers

The Seoul Love voucher (gift certificates) can only be used at businesses like karaoke rooms, indoor sports facilities, restaurants, cafes, saunas, PC rooms, beauty salons, et cetera. You can usually ask if they accept Zero Pay and which voucher they accept. You can also search the Zero Pay website in Korean for accepted merchants which will also display the type of voucher that you can use with that business.

There’s a Purchase Limit and Expiration Date

For example, you can currently purchase only 700,000 KRW worth of Seoul Love vouchers per month as an individual.

The vouchers also have their own expiration date. In February, they upped the limit for Seoul Love gift certificates from 300,000 KRW per month for individuals to 700,000 KRW and moved the expiration date to May 31st, 2021.

What if I need a refund of the Zero Pay voucher?

You can request a refund for the amount you paid for the vouchers which excludes the discount subsidy. So, if you have a remaining balance on the voucher, you’ll get the money back minus the 10% subsidy.

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