Banking & Finance

China’s UnionPay plans global expansion of QR code e-payments in battle with Alipay and Tenpay

The company has signed an agreement with US-based ACI and is looking for more overseas partners as it feels the pressure of domestic competition

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 25 March, 2018, 6:00pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 25 March, 2018, 11:15pm

China UnionPay, the country’s top bank-card clearing service, is looking to expand its QR code digital payment services abroad through partnerships with global e-payment service providers, as it faces stiff competition at home.

UnionPay International recently signed a partnership with ACI Worldwide, a US-based e-payment provider that has 5,100 institutions and merchants as its clients, and is emphasising the security of QR-based payments, according to Cai Jianbo, chief executive of UnionPay International, the global arm of the company.

“We are having new ideas, partnering with new institutions and embarking on new strategies to develop international businesses,” Cai said. “The past experience when we dealt with institutions and merchants one by one to roll out UnionPay services is history. We will promote our businesses together with our partners.

“The partnership with ACI will largely help us quicken our expansion pace abroad and provide safer, easier and more flexible payment experiences to UnionPay cardholders around the world,” Cai said.

The expansion plan comes as the state-owned firm faces mounting challenges from Alipay and Tenpay, which dominate China’s mobile payments market, as well as from companies such as Mastercard and Visa after China opened the company’s core card-clearing services market to foreign competition.

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In January UnionPay and Chinese mobile phone giant Huawei Technologies announced the launch of Huawei Pay digital wallet technology outside China.

Cai said UnionPay will work with ACI to further promote QR code payments, without elaborating. UnionPay’s QR code payment mode is now accepted in 13 markets in Asia-Pacific, central Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

Cai said the volume of UnionPay’s mobile QuickPass and QR code payments jumped more than 150 per cent from a year earlier during the Lunar New Year holiday period between February 15 and February 21, a peak season for Chinese travelling overseas. He would not disclose the exact volume of transactions.

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To date, UnionPay has issued more than 100 million UnionPay cards outside the Chinese mainland, which can be used in the company’s overseas network covering more than 23 million merchants in 168 markets.

Dan Frate, president of ACI, said that Chinese tourists’ overseas trips had prompted global players to upgrade services to facilitate payments.

“UnionPay’s growth opportunity is considerable with Chinese consumers now making more than 80 million trips outside Greater China,” he said.

Alipay is a unit of Alibaba, which owns the South China Morning Post.