Uber and Alipay expand partnership to facilitate payment in yuan when using ride-hailing app outside China

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 03 May, 2016, 5:12pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 03 May, 2016, 6:33pm

Uber, operator of the world’s largest ride-hailing mobile app service, is expanding its partnership with Chinese online payments giant Alipay to serve more mainland tourists travelling overseas.

San Francisco-based Uber said on Tuesday that its cross-border payments alliance with Alipay will now cover mainland travellers in all 400 cities, across 68 countries and territories, where its ride-hailing service is available.

Their initiative would appear to heat up the competition with Didi Chuxing, China’s leading car-hailing app operator, which last month allowed its 300 million registered users to access the driver network of Uber’s American rival Lyft whentravelling in the United States.

Uber and Alipay initially rolled out their cross-border payments collaboration in February, so mainland travellers in Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan can pay for their Uber rides directly in yuan using their connected Alipay accounts.

Alibaba affiliate Ant Financial Services closes record US$4.5b round of financing

Alipay is part of the Alibaba Group affiliate Ant Financial Services, which set last month a record US$4.5 billion round of private equity funding -- the world’s largest single private placement by an internet company. Alibaba owns the South China Morning Post. Chinese online search market leader Baidu is a strategic investor in Uber’s business on the mainland.

“Alipay’s collaboration with Uber reflects a step forward for Ant Financial’s global strategy,” Eric Jing, the president of Hangzhou-based Ant Financial, said.

Before the alliance with Alipay, mainland Chinese travellers using the Uber app overseas needed to connect a dual-currency credit card with their Uber account, and were billed for their rides in US dollars.

The cross-border payment service with Alipay eliminated such dual currency credit cards or currency conversion for mainland travellers using the ride-hailing app outside the mainland, according to Uber.

“The collaboration also extends to Alipay’s strategic global partners, like Paytm in India,” Jing said.

Ant Financial early last year teamed up with parent Alibaba to invest a reported US$575 million in Paytm, India’s largest provider of mobile payment services.

China is now the fourth-largest source of international travellers to the US, while the US is the third-largest source of travellers to the mainland, according to the China National Tourism Administration.

Data from the US Commerce Department showed that an average of 2.1 million US travellers visit China each year. It estimated there will be 2.97 million Chinese travellers visiting the US this year, up from 2.56 million last year.

Zhen Liu, the head of China strategy at Uber, said it was “natural for us to extend this partnership [with Alipay] globally”.

Uber successfully cashed in on the massive mainland Chinese outbound travel market over the Lunar New Year holiday this year, Zhen said. Without providing figures, Zhen pointed out that Uber recorded 10 times more completed trips taken by mainland Chinese travellers in overseas markets during that holiday period, compared with the same period last year.