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7 of the best robot vacuums for pet hair



These robot vacuums do such a good job on pet hair, you’ll be wondering if your dog or cat moved out. They have powerful suction and brush rolls that’ll pick up hair and messes you can’t even see.

All products featured here are independently selected by our editors and writers.If you buy something through links on our site, Mashable may earn an affiliate commission.


Pets are mediocre roommates. 

Sure, they’re adorable and have a preternatural ability to cuddle. But pets are also messy — and unlike in a passive-aggressive roommate group chat, you can’t tell a pet to clean up after itself. 

They pay no mind as to where they shed or track dirt. You’re forced to constantly clean up after them which, frankly, we find pretty rude. Fortunately, robot vacuums are here to save the day. Or, at the very least, help cut down on your housework. These devices live for picking up stray bits of food, litter, and hair, ensuring your home doesn’t turn into a den of debris. Of course, before you rush over to Amazon or (gasp!) an actual store, you’ll want find out which robot vacuum might be best for you.  

What makes a robot vacuum good for pet hair

Like most gadgets, there are a handful of factors to consider before you purchase a robot vacuum. Chief among them are the type of floors in your home. Virtually all robots can master hardwood floors (as well as laminate, tile, and vinyl). A living space that contains a variety of flooring and/or carpeting will prove to be a little more challenging for a robot. In that case, you’ll definitely want to choose a model that has strong suction power. Additionally, as a pet owner, you will need a vacuum equipped with brushes designed to pick up hair without getting it tangled.

Another important aspect for people with pets? The filtration system. Vacuuming is bound to kick up dander, dust, and pollen. A good filter captures all of that and makes sure it gets into the vacuum’s dust bin. We should note that some robot models contain HEPA filters which can catch even smaller particles, leading to cleaner air and a cleaner floor. This is particularly advantageous if you live with an allergy sufferer. 

You’ll also want to consider noise level, especially since your pets might be sensitive. Some robot vacuums can be as loud as more traditional vacuums whereas others sound more like a fan. If you’re worried that you’ll find the noise irritating or distracting, there are models that allow you to program the vacuum to run at specific times —when you’re at work for example. Impressively, some of the newer and fancier options even have companion apps so you can control the vacuum from afar. You may schedule a cleaning, check on the robot’s progress, and even receive maintenance reminders all via your phone.  

Battery life and charging time should be taken into account as well. Some robots vacuums run for 60 minutes before they die. Others can go for over two hours. Similarly, it can take anywhere from roughly two to five hours for your robot to recharge, depending on the model. It’s good to think about the timing in context to the size of your home. If you live in a studio apartment, a vacuum that only runs for an hour should meet your needs. A larger home may necessitate a longer battery life. The robot’s mapping function (i.e. method/route in which it cleans the floor) might also affect your decision. Cheaper models tend to pursue a random “bump and run” pattern, making them less efficient and thorough. More expensive robots often clean in an orderly, linear fashion. Hence, they don’t usually over clean or entirely miss certain areas. And they typically complete the task more quickly. A handful even retain where they’ve cleaned so if they need to be recharged mid-task, they can easily resume their work and avoid unnecessary, repeat cleanings.

Additionally, as a pet owner, you might want to invest in a robot that has a virtual wall. This is a magnetic strip that stops the vacuum from coming close to items that may trip it up or that it might otherwise disturb. For example, the virtual wall will help prevent your robot from knocking over your dog’s food bowls. We’re confident you, your dog, and your vacuum will all appreciate this feature.  

Finally, price is likely to be a deciding factor. You can find robot vacuums that work with many budgets; options range from under $200 to well over $900. While cheaper vacuums certainly won’t offer all the bells and whistles of fancier models, rest assured that most will meet your needs. (It’s also worth waiting until Prime Day or Black Friday to shop for a new robot vacuum, as we typically see great sales on these devices during those times.) 

With all that said, we must admit that no robot vacuum is ever going to do as good a job as a standard upright vacuum. Sorry, but it’s true. But when taking everything above into account, there are some robot vacuums that stand out above the rest, especially when it comes to tackling pet hair.

All right, enough of our overview. Let’s get down to why you really clicked on this article—our list of best robot vacuums for pet hair.

Has enough power for a thorough carpet clean • Three-stage cleaning system lifts hair, dirt, and allergens • App connected
Tends to get a little noisy on carpet boost mode • Long hair gets wrapped around brush roll
You’re guaranteed to get a good clean no matter your floor surface, especially with the high efficiency filter.

iRobot Roomba 960

With a powerful brush and suction, this vacuum tackles pet hair with ease.

  • Cleaning Time:
    120 minutes
  • WiFi Enabled:
If you’re looking for a “Renaissance” robot, you will definitely want to consider this Roomba robotic vacuum — the 960. That’s because no matter what type of floors you have in your house — from carpet to tile to hardwood floors — the 960 will quickly adjust. Of course, many consumers are drawn to this particular Roomba because it’s manufactured with boost technology, which provides 10 times the air power on carpets and rugs. This powerful suction is paired with a high efficiency filter that captures 99 percent of particles, pollen and allergens floating around your home. Just as crucial for pet owners, it also has tangle-free extractors to prevent hair clogs. 
Importantly, the 960 offers WiFi capabilities as well as an iRobot Home App which lets you schedule and set cleaning preferences via your phone or tablet. You can also ask Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant to start, stop, or dock the robot (just don’t let all that power go to your head). Moreover, you can receive cleaning reports that show exactly where the robot cleaned and how long each area took.
And fear not; this Roomba won’t accidentally fling itself down stairs and come to a premature end. It has sensors to prevent it from tumbling over a drop-off as well as boundary markers to stop it from going into specific rooms or bumping into fragile objects. Best of all, the 960 will smartly return to its dock if it senses it needs to be recharged. Once the battery has regained life, the Roomba will resume cleaning until the work is complete. Because this robot takes pleasure in a job well done!
Amazon reviewer Jon Todd writes:

“I saved for this model and I’m so glad I did. We named him ‘Rick.’ Rick is awesome! He has learned our house and has become very efficient. We have a Golden Retriever that sheds constantly. We run Rick three times a week and the hair on the floor has all but disappeared.”

Long battery life • Large dustbin • Ability to schedule cleanings
Not great at cleaning in corners • Not good at avoiding obstacles
Provides a solid clean without breaking the bank.

Eufy Robovac 11S

Provides a solid clean without breaking the bank.

  • Cleaning Time:
    100 minutes
  • WiFi Enabled:
If you’re feeling frugal yet want to hop on the robot vacuum bandwagon, the Eufy Robovac 11S is a solid option. One of the better performing budget models, the Eufy features 11 infrared sensors, a drop sensor, central rolling brush as well as two side brushes and a swivel wheel—all of which help ensure that hair and debris will be picked up. However, we should note that the infrared sensors don’t work as well on dark floors or high carpets. It’s best for flat hardwood floors and low rugs.
While it doesn’t have any WiFi capability, the Eufy does work in conjunction with a remote control. The remote offers six different cleaning settings—single room, manual, max, spot, auto and edge. This variety of cleaning configuration proves to be pretty useful. The auto mode cleans based upon each room’s layout while edge mode primarily focuses on the edges (obviously). Spot mode seeks out spots of dirt and debris. If you’re cleaning a carpet, you’ll want to set the Eufy to max mode. Single room tells the robot to only vacuum the room it’s currently in, before gently returning to its charging station (though, admittedly, it doesn’t always make it back). Additionally, despite not having a fancy companion app, the remote does feature a button in which you can schedule future cleanings.  
Finally, we should note that the Eufy does get tripped up over even the smallest obstructions. You’ll want to make sure your floors are clear of cords or any wayward objects before turning the ol’ robot on. 
Amazon customer Nancy M. writes:

“I have 2 short hair cats and didn’t think they shed much, but the eufy says different! It has gotten stuck a few times, but is easily rescued.”

Great mapping technology • App and voice command compatibility • Max power mode
Random cleaning pattern • Only one cleaning mode is available to schedule • App requires access to personal information
This affordable vacuum offers a lot of the bells and whistles found in more expensive models.

Ecovacs Deebot 500

At an affordable price you still get plenty of desirable features.

  • Cleaning time:
    110 minutes
  • WiFi Enabled:
A fantastic, mid-priced option, the Ecovacs Deebot 500 is equipped with some impressive technology. For starters, it has an exclusive laser navigation system that scans and maps your entire home (it’s simultaneously cool and creepy). This allows the robot to craft an optimized cleaning path, saving both time and battery power. It also has anti-drop and anti-collision sensors. And most importantly, it has a three-stage cleaning system that works on both carpets and hard floors and picks up all debris in its path.
Like most WiFi-enabled bots, the Deebot works with both Alexa and Google Home voice commands. In other words, you can kick back and enjoy some hands-free cleaning. There’s also an accompanying app which lets you both schedule and customize your cleanings. You can even use the app to construct virtual boundary lines—in case you have a secret room you don’t want your robot seeing.
One Amazon customer writes:

“I have shaggy rugs which isn’t good for the robot. It tends to get stuck. But it is great sucking up pet hair, dirt, kitty litter etc. It does a great job both on wood and carpet.”

Great filter • Long-lasting battery • Shape allows it to clean corners with ease
Has a tendency to get stuck under low furniture • Some connectivity issues
Armed with a number of exciting features, it’s a powerful vacuum that delivers.

Neato Botvac D7

Its shape allows this vacuum to get into corners and the powerful suction leaves no debris behind.

  • Cleaning Time:
    120 minutes
  • WiFi Enabled:
Simply put, the Neato Botvac D7 knows how to get the job done. Though the D-shaped design might not seem especially sleek, it actually allows the vacuum to hug walls as well as reach under corners and ledges. This ultimately leads to a more thorough cleaning. Additionally, the D7 features both a spiral combo brush along with side brushes to help ensure that all lingering dirt and hair is sucked up. That’s right—no unwanted particles escape the Neato. And speaking of particles, the vacuum has both an ultra performance filter and a filter screen. These guarantee that debris stays in the bin. 
Importantly, the Botvac D7 is also a tech lover’s dream. After all, it’s WiFi enabled and offers an accompanying app that’s compatible with both Android and iOS. It can also be controlled via Alexa, Apple Watch, Facebook Messenger, IFTTT, Google Home, and the Neato Chatbot. Hence, you can schedule and monitor cleanings when you’re not at home. You can even create virtual boundaries to make sure the robot avoids precarious situations and sensitive areas. As if that wasn’t enough, the vacuum is capable of mapping and memorizing the layout of your home (up to 5,000 square feet). Finally, just to make sure you’re fully impressed, the Neato D7 automatically returns to its to dock to recharge—after finishing its task of course!   
Amazon customer L.Norris writes:

“It’s run every day now since I bought it. Sometimes more than once. It maps really well and only didn’t return back to base a few times. I cleaned it and found there was junk caught up in its brush (twist ties, plastic parts, etc.). After cleaning, it has returned back to its base every time. It is also obeying the no-go lines very well. Some added info is that our base is on carpet and it doesn’t seem to be a problem. Also we have several dogs, a cat, and a couple of long haired females in our house and it is handling the hair very well. Much better than our downstairs Roomba 650. We’ve also run our Dyson vacuum upstairs once between scheduled D7 runs and the D7 still fills its dirt bin daily. So it navigates well AND is actually a good vacuum. I’m very happy with it.”

Excellent on all floor types • Smart navigation
Easy to spill when detaching the dust bin
Though it’s a little noisy, the 890 definitely gives a good clean.

iRobot Roomba 890

The Roomba 890’s smart navigation and powerful suction will clear pet hair from your entire home.

  • Cleaning Time:
    90 minutes
  • WiFi Enabled:
We completely understand why the Roomba 890 is popular with pet owners. First off, it’s made with tangle-free extractors so pet hair won’t cause any issues. And it features the Roomba’s patented high-efficiency AeroForce filter which follows in the footsteps of HEPA filters. So you know that even the tiniest particles will be collected. Of course, the 890 isn’t a robot that rests on its laurels. It also offers customers a three-stage cleaning system that expertly lifts, loosens, and sucks up dirt and debris. It even has advanced dirt detection sensors which tell the Roomba that it must work harder on certain areas. 
The 890 is also one heck of a smart robot. It can sense “cliffs” to prevent it from falling. It can expertly navigate around furniture and clutter. And, naturally, it will automatically dock and recharge. As you might have suspected (and also because we mentioned it above), it’s WiFi-enabled. Thus, you can control it with Alexa, Google Assistant or its companion app.   
Amazon customer Fenny!!! Writes:

“GET A ROOMBA, it is AMAAAAAZING!!! I vacuumed pretty intensely before I started the Roomba on Day 1, and it still needed to be emptied out 3x in one hour. I was both horrified by the amount of dog hair the Roomba was able to find, and also impress [sic] that it found that much dog hair! … Because of the style of furniture we got, the Roomba was able to get under the bed, the couch, the armchair, etc…basically all the places that I only vacuum once a quarter…but it got ALL the dust bunnies (dust puppies?)!”

Repairable design that allows it to outlast competitors • Learns the layout of multiple floors
A little on the loud side • Shorter run time
Does a solid job of removing dirt and dust from hardwood floors and carpets alike.

iRobot Roomba 690

A reliable vacuum from a reliable brand, this Roomba will clean up after your pet’s messes.

  • Cleaning Time:
    60 minutes
  • WiFi Enabled:
We know this list is a little Roomba-heavy, but it’s with good reason. Their products are popular and well made. The Roomba 690 (which was designed to replace the 650 model) is no exception. Though it operates on a system of “bump and run,” it also features an invisible boundary marker for added control. Just as crucial, the 690 is armed with a dirt detect sensor to ensure that it works harder on high traffic areas. Even better, the robot’s dual multi-surface brushes and three-stage cleaning system guarantee that no debris (no matter how small) is missed.
Unlike the old 650, this Roomba is WiFi-enabled. You can tap into the iRobot Home app as well as connect through Alexa and/or Google Assistant. This allows you to schedule a cleaning from anywhere. In other words, you can always be sure you come home to a clean house. What a miracle! 
Amazon customer Mamie writes:

“This device (we have the 690 model) has proven to be much better than I expected. I have pets with long hair and while you have to run it a lot to get all the hair, there is no way we would ever have the patience to vacuum a rug for as long as the Roomba will do it. You can vacuum and then run this and have a lot more hair picked up. I put it in our bedroom, close the door and let it run until it needs recharging (about an hour). It’s also fun to watch it learn if you happen to be in the room with it. It works well on our short shag and gets up under things to vacuum the hard to reach places. The only downside is that there are no attachments so you can’t use it to vacuum pet hair off of furniture. Another possible downside is that anything spilled or if you have a pet that is not quite housebroken – as smart as the Roomba is it cannot smell or see – it will spread anything just like you stepping in it and walking around the house without knowing.”

Super affordable • Fits easily under furniture
Can struggle to remove some debris • Filter needs cleaned frequently
Though it’s a little light on suction, it’s great at picking up pet hair.

iLife V3s

For less than $200, the only feature you’re giving up is WiFi connectivity.

  • Cleaning Time:
    120 minutes
  • WiFi-Enabled:
The iLife V3s gives you the freedom of hands-free vacuuming without having to spend a small fortune. It’s less than $200 but doesn’t skimp out on any features. 
The vacuum contains a low-profile design making it ideal for getting under beds and sofas. While it’s not equipped with WiFi, it does come with a remote control. Moreover, it’s self-charging and allows you to program a cleaning schedule. The iLife V3 is also equipped with sensors to avoid bumping into or falling off objects or stairs. However, it does sometimes get tripped up when transitioning to different surfaces. And, lastly, the filter will need to be cleaned every time you run the bot. 
Amazon reviewer L. Leigh writes:

“I have 4 pets and daily vacuuming is not always accomplished. I needed something that will get the pet hair and kitchen crumbs up. I was amazed at how well this did this and at how much it was able to collect (hair, crumbs, kitty litter and dirt) not to mention how quietly this goes about its business. Yes your have to watch it the first couple times it runs because you just never know what it may get caught up on … It has no problem moving most light things out of its way such as shoes, pet toys etc. which I found awesome.”


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The Trump campaign celebrated a growth record that Democrats downplayed.



The White House celebrated economic growth numbers for the third quarter released on Thursday, even as Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s presidential campaign sought to throw cold water on the report — the last major data release leading up to the Nov. 3 election — and warned that the economic recovery was losing steam.

The economy grew at a record pace last quarter, but the upswing was a partial bounce-back after an enormous decline and left the economy smaller than it was before the pandemic. The White House took no notice of those glum caveats.

“This record economic growth is absolute validation of President Trump’s policies, which create jobs and opportunities for Americans in every corner of the country,” Mr. Trump’s re-election campaign said in a statement, highlighting a rebound of 33.1 percent at an annualized rate. Mr. Trump heralded the data on Twitter, posting that he was “so glad” that the number had come out before Election Day.

The annualized rate that the White House emphasized extrapolates growth numbers as if the current pace held up for a year, and risks overstating big swings. Because the economy’s growth has been so volatile amid the pandemic, economists have urged focusing on quarterly numbers.

Those showed a 7.4 percent gain in the third quarter. That rebound, by far the biggest since reliable statistics began after World War II, still leaves the economy short of its pre-pandemic levels. The pace of recovery has also slowed, and now coronavirus cases are rising again across much of the United States, raising the prospect of further pullback.

“The recovery is stalling out, thanks to Trump’s refusal to have a serious plan to deal with Covid or to pass a new economic relief plan for workers, small businesses and communities,” Mr. Biden’s campaign said in a release ahead of Thursday’s report. The rebound was widely expected, and the campaign characterized it as “a partial return from a catastrophic hit.”

Economists have warned that the recovery could face serious roadblocks ahead. Temporary measures meant to shore up households and businesses — including unemployment insurance supplements and forgivable loans — have run dry. Swaths of the service sector remain shut down as the virus continues to spread, and job losses that were temporary are increasingly turning permanent.

“With coronavirus infections hitting a record high in recent days and any additional fiscal stimulus unlikely to arrive until, at the earliest, the start of next year, further progress will be much slower,” Paul Ashworth, chief United States economist at Capital Economics, wrote in a note following the report.


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Black and Hispanic workers, especially women, lag in the U.S. economic recovery.



The surge in economic output in the third quarter set a record, but the recovery isn’t reaching everyone.

Economists have long warned that aggregate statistics like gross domestic product can obscure important differences beneath the surface. In the aftermath of the last recession, for example, G.D.P. returned to its previous level in early 2011, even as poverty rates remained high and the unemployment rate for Black Americans was above 15 percent.

Aggregate statistics could be even more misleading during the current crisis. The job losses in the initial months of the pandemic disproportionately struck low-wage service workers, many of them Black and Hispanic women. Service-sector jobs have been slow to return, while school closings are keeping many parents, especially mothers, from returning to work. Nearly half a million Hispanic women have left the labor force over the last three months.

“If we’re thinking that the economy is recovering completely and uniformly, that is simply not the case,” said Michelle Holder, an economist at John Jay College in New York. “This rebound is unevenly distributed along racial and gender lines.”

The G.D.P. report released Thursday doesn’t break down the data by race, sex or income. But other sources make the disparities clear. A pair of studies by researchers at the Urban Institute released this week found that Black and Hispanic adults were more likely to have lost jobs or income since March, and were twice as likely as white adults to experience food insecurity in September.

The financial impact of the pandemic hit many of the families that were least able to afford it, even as white-collar workers were largely spared, said Michael Karpman, an Urban Institute researcher and one of the studies’ authors.

“A lot of people who were already in a precarious position before the pandemic are now in worse shape, whereas people who were better off have generally been faring better financially,” he said.

Federal relief programs, such as expanded unemployment benefits, helped offset the damage for many families in the first months of the pandemic. But those programs have mostly ended, and talks to revive them have stalled in Washington. With virus cases surging in much of the country, Mr. Karpman warned, the economic toll could increase.

“There could be a lot more hardship coming up this winter if there’s not more relief from Congress, with the impact falling disproportionately on Black and Hispanic workers and their families,” he said.


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Ant Challenged Beijing and Prospered. Now It Toes the Line.



As Jack Ma of Alibaba helped turn China into the world’s biggest e-commerce market over the past two decades, he was also vowing to pull off a more audacious transformation.

“If the banks don’t change, we’ll change the banks,” he said in 2008, decrying how hard it was for small businesses in China to borrow from government-run lenders.

“The financial industry needs disrupters,” he told People’s Daily, the official Communist Party newspaper, a few years later. His goal, he said, was to make banks and other state-owned enterprises “feel unwell.”

The scope of Mr. Ma’s success is becoming clearer. The vehicle for his financial-technology ambitions, an Alibaba spinoff called Ant Group, is preparing for the largest initial public offering on record. Ant is set to raise $34 billion by selling its shares to the public in Hong Kong and Shanghai, according to stock exchange documents released on Monday. After the listing, Ant would be worth around $310 billion, much more than many global banks.

The company is going public not as a scrappy upstart, but as a leviathan deeply dependent on the good will of the government Mr. Ma once relished prodding.

More than 730 million people use Ant’s Alipay app every month to pay for lunch, invest their savings and shop on credit. Yet Alipay’s size and importance have made it an inevitable target for China’s regulators, which have already brought its business to heel in certain areas.

These days, Ant talks mostly about creating partnerships with big banks, not disrupting or supplanting them. Several government-owned funds and institutions are Ant shareholders and stand to profit handsomely from the public offering.

The question now is how much higher Ant can fly without provoking the Chinese authorities into clipping its wings further.

Excitable investors see Ant as a buzzy internet innovator. The risk is that it becomes more like a heavily regulated “financial digital utility,” said Fraser Howie, the co-author of “Red Capitalism: The Fragile Financial Foundation of China’s Extraordinary Rise.”

“Utility stocks, as far as I remember, were not the ones to be seen as the most exciting,” Mr. Howie said.

Ant declined to comment, citing the quiet period demanded by regulators before its share sale.

The company has played give-and-take with Beijing for years. As smartphone payments became ubiquitous in China, Ant found itself managing huge piles of money in Alipay users’ virtual wallets. The central bank made it park those funds in special accounts where they would earn minimal interest.

After people piled into an easy-to-use investment fund inside Alipay, the government forced the fund to shed risk and lower returns. Regulators curbed a plan to use Alipay data as the basis for a credit-scoring system akin to Americans’ FICO scores.

China’s Supreme Court this summer capped interest rates for consumer loans, though it was unclear how the ceiling would apply to Ant. The central bank is preparing a new virtual currency that could compete against Alipay and another digital wallet, the messaging app WeChat, as an everyday payment tool.

Ant has learned ways of keeping the authorities on its side. Mr. Ma once boasted at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, about never taking money from the Chinese government. Today, funds associated with China’s social security system, its sovereign wealth fund, a state-owned life insurance company and the national postal carrier hold stakes in Ant. The I.P.O. is likely to increase the value of their holdings considerably.

“That’s how the state gets its payoff,” Mr. Howie said. With Ant, he said, “the line between state-owned enterprise and private enterprise is highly, highly blurred.”

China, in less than two generations, went from having a state-planned financial system to being at the global vanguard of internet finance, with trillions of dollars in transactions being made on mobile devices each year. Alipay had a lot to do with it.

Alibaba created the service in the early 2000s to hold payments for online purchases in escrow. Its broader usefulness quickly became clear in a country that mostly missed out on the credit card era. Features were added and users piled in. It became impossible for regulators and banks not to see the app as a threat.

ImageAnt Group’s headquarters in Hangzhou, China.
Credit…Alex Plavevski/EPA, via Shutterstock

A big test came when Ant began making an offer to Alipay users: Park your money in a section of the app called Yu’ebao, which means “leftover treasure,” and we will pay you more than the low rates fixed by the government at banks.

People could invest as much or as little as they wanted, making them feel like they were putting their pocket change to use. Yu’ebao was a hit, becoming one of the world’s largest money market funds.

The banks were terrified. One commentator for a state broadcaster called the fund a “vampire” and a “parasite.”

Still, “all the main regulators remained unanimous in saying that this was a positive thing for the Chinese financial system,” said Martin Chorzempa, a research fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington.

“If you can’t actually reform the banks,” Mr. Chorzempa said, “you can inject more competition.”

But then came worries about shadowy, unregulated corners of finance and the dangers they posed to the wider economy. Today, Chinese regulators are tightening supervision of financial holding companies, Ant included. Beijing has kept close watch on the financial instruments that small lenders create out of their consumer loans and sell to investors. Such securities help Ant fund some of its lending. But they also amplify the blowup if too many of those loans aren’t repaid.

“Those kinds of derivative products are something the government is really concerned about,” said Tian X. Hou, founder of the research firm TH Data Capital. Given Ant’s size, she said, “the government should be concerned.”

The broader worry for China is about growing levels of household debt. Beijing wants to cultivate a consumer economy, but excessive borrowing could eventually weigh on people’s spending power. The names of two of Alipay’s popular credit functions, Huabei and Jiebei, are jaunty invitations to spend and borrow.

Huang Ling, 22, started using Huabei when she was in high school. At the time, she didn’t qualify for a credit card. With Huabei’s help, she bought a drone, a scooter, a laptop and more.

The credit line made her feel rich. It also made her realize that if she actually wanted to be rich, she had to get busy.

“Living beyond my means forced me to work harder,” Ms. Huang said.

First, she opened a clothing shop in her hometown, Nanchang, in southeastern China. Then she started an advertising company in the inland metropolis of Chongqing. When the business needed cash, she borrowed from Jiebei.

Online shopping became a way to soothe daily anxieties, and Ms. Huang sometimes racked up thousands of dollars in Huabei bills, which only made her even more anxious. When the pandemic slammed her business, she started falling behind on her payments. That cast her into a deep depression.

Finally, early this month, with her parents’ help, she paid off her debts and closed her Huabei and Jiebei accounts. She felt “elated,” she said.

China’s recent troubles with freewheeling online loan platforms have put the government under pressure to protect ordinary borrowers.

Ant is helped by the fact that its business lines up with many of the Chinese leadership’s priorities: encouraging entrepreneurship and financial inclusion, and expanding the middle class. This year, the company helped the eastern city of Hangzhou, where it is based, set up an early version of the government’s app-based system for dictating coronavirus quarantines.

Such coziness is bound to raise hackles overseas. In Washington, Chinese tech companies that are seen as close to the government are radioactive.

In January 2017, Eric Jing, then Ant’s chief executive, said the company aimed to be serving two billion users worldwide within a decade. Shortly after, Ant announced that it was acquiring the money transfer company MoneyGram to increase its U.S. footprint. By the following January, the deal was dead, thwarted by data security concerns.

More recently, top officials in the Trump administration have discussed whether to place Ant Group on the so-called entity list, which prohibits foreign companies from purchasing American products. Officials from the State Department have suggested that an interagency committee, which also includes officials from the departments of defense, commerce and energy, review Ant for the potential entity listing, according to three people familiar with the matter.

Ant does not talk much anymore about expanding in the United States.

Ana Swanson contributed reporting.


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