UnionPay launches cross-border mobile payment service in Hong Kong, Macau as it targets rivals Alipay, WeChat Pay
The bank card network operator is keen on expanding mobile payment connectivity in the Greater Bay Area
China UnionPay has become the first card payment processor to offer a cross-border QR code payment service to holders of cards issued by Hong Kong and Macau banks without an onshore renminbi bank account as it faces intensifying competition from the likes of Alipay and WeChat Pay.
UnionPay QR code service, offered in partnership with five banks and a non-bank fintech firm, enables UnionPay credit or debit cardholders to link their cards with the UnionPay app and settle payments in yuan, Hong Kong dollars and patacas.
Sources close to UnionPay said such cross-currency payment on a single mobile app is first in the Greater China region. Industry players say Ant Financial and Tencent Holdings, which operate Alipay and WeChat Pay respectively, have not yet launched similar services as mobile payment services in China remain distinct from their Hong Kong offerings.
The banks include the Hong Kong and Macau licensed units of Bank of China, Bank of Communications (Hong Kong), China Guangfa Bank’s Macau branch, Banco Nacional Ultramarino.
The tie-up also extends to K&R International, a non-bank company that has a stored value facility licence from the Hong Kong Monetary Authority.
The UnionPay app’s cross-border payment functionality also represents the company’s ambition in expanding its mobile payment service outside China.
Cai Jianbo, chief executive of UnionPay International, said over the years UnionPay has made various efforts in deepening their penetration in Hong Kong.
“Specifically, the latest mobile app service targets residents who travel frequently in the Greater Bay area while expanding the [network of our supported retail merchants] for Hong Kong and Macau residents in using mobile payment in their local markets,” said Cai.
The Greater Bay area connects the two special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau with nine cities in Guangdong province.
UnionPay executives said there are plans to expand the service to cards issued by “most banks” in Hong Kong and Macau by the end of this year, although they did not elaborate.
Across Hong Kong and Macau, there are currently “several thousand” merchants that support its QR-code mobile payment service, a number that will increase to over 10,000 by end of this year, said Lu Zhijun, general manager of business development at China UnionPay.
Public transport operators in Macau, Guangzhou, Zhuhai already accept its QR code payment, and those in Shenzhen will start accepting it by end of this year.
Liu Heng, general manager of UnionPay International in Hong Kong, said there are over 200,000 registered users of its mobile app in Hong Kong and Macau, and some 7.5 million merchants across 24 countries support its QR-code payment.
Sources close to UnionPay said one advantage of the QR code mobile payment compared to contactless mobile payment is that small merchants do not have to install any receiver device and this enables for easier expansion of the mobile payment network even to small merchants.
Alipay Hong Kong, a unit of Ant Financial and an affiliate of Alibaba Group Holding, did not return call for comment. Alibaba owns the South China Morning Post.