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Chinese chatters send whopping 14B virtual cash envelopes over new year

It comes as China spends in the trillions of dollars in the financial tech world.

Moment Editorial/Getty Images

During Chinese New Year, it's customary to give out red envelopes, or hongbaos as they are known, stuffed with cash to people in your circle. It's one of the hallmarks of this most ancient of festivals. And as with most ancient traditions in China, tech companies have been proactive in bringing this custom into the internet era.

WeChat, China's most popular messaging app, has allowed people to celebrate Chinese New Year by sending virtual hongbaos to their friends and family for the past few years. The money is transferred through its built-in payments service.

This year's Chinese New Year proved to be a red letter year for the service, as a dizzying 14.2 billion digital red envelopes were sent on New Year's Eve alone, peaking at midnight with 760,000 transactions per second, according to the state-run Global Times -- that's two envelopes for roughly every person on Earth. This was a reported 75.7 percent increase as compared to last year.

The mind-boggling figure doesn't include gifts sent through similar services from Tencent rivals Alibaba and Baidu. These companies have launched similar initiatives on their own.

The uptake of financial technology in China is rising at an unprecedented rate for the world's largest mobile market. In 2014, online payments hit an estimated 11.9 trillion yuan, around $1.3 trillion dollars. In 2017, that number is expected to climb to 19.5 trillion yuan, or $2.84 trillion.

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