UnionPay Steps Into UK With Prepaid Corporate Cards

China payment card issuer UnionPay is stepping into the market with prepaid cards for corporates and consumers, the company announced this week. Banking Tech reported on Wednesday (Jan. 9) that payment service provider Moorwand, a principal member of UnionPay, will launch the first UnionPay prepaid cards in the U.K.

The UPayCard is a multi-currency card designed for business and consumer payers. Reports said the first prepaid cards will be offered to an initial group of existing UPayCard account holders. The companies plan to expand the prepaid card rollout later on in the year’s quarter.

“This is a significant step for UnionPay through the issuance of the first prepaid cards with a U.K. financial partner,” said UnionPay International Market Director and Head of Europe Zhihong Wei in a statement. “In the future, UnionPay’s business development in Europe will be based on continuing to drive wider card acceptance with our merchant partners, while also developing a larger user base to issue cards.”

Reports in the Financial Times last September first pointed to UnionPay’s plans to position itself against Visa and Mastercard in the U.K., and broader into Europe. In addition, rising competition in China from Alipay and WeChat Pay has been pressing UnionPay to set its sights abroad, reports at the time said, adding that the company planned to introduce virtual prepaid cards for corporates in the U.K. to begin that expansion.

“In Europe, we want to target local customers in the domestic market, not only people traveling to Asia,” said Zhihong at the time, adding that because the company is working with third parties like Moorwand to issue the cards, it does not need to secure licenses in Europe or the U.K. to operate there.

Its official U.K. launch comes the same week that UnionPay announced the rollout of a developer platform. Its UPI Developer solution enables third-party solution providers and developers to create their own apps that facilitate cross-border payments, using UnionPay technology.