Payments Innovation

UnionPay To Roll Out Branded Card In The UK

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China’s UnionPay, the payment card issuer, is gearing up to roll out branded cards in the U.K. as it expands more into Europe, aiming to take on Visa and Mastercard.

According to a report in the Financial Times, with UnionPay facing increased competition in its home market from the likes of Alipay and WeChat Pay, it is setting its sights on expansion. The Chinese company, which is state-controlled, will ink a deal with a U.K. company as soon as October to begin issuing a virtual prepaid card for corporate clients in the U.K. The companies will give their staff use through a mobile wallet when traveling in Asia, reported the Financial Times.  In early December UnionPay plans to issue branded credit cards in other parts of Europe as well.  “In Europe, we want to target local customers in the domestic market, not only people traveling to Asia,” said Zhihong Wei, head of UnionPay in Europe, in the report. In Asia UnionPay’s card are accepted by more than 41 million merchants and 2 million ATMs throughout 170 countries, noted the Financial Times.

Because UnionPay is issuing the card via third parties including banks, Wei told the FT it doesn’t need a license for its expansion in Europe. Transactions will be handled by payment processing companies, noted Wei.  While UnionPay has lost ground to Chinese competitors Alipay and WeChat, Pay Wei said the company has been gaining back customers thanks to its QuickPass system, which relies on Near Field Communication chips to pay for transportation around the globe.

In August, to look into blockchain payment applications, Bank of China (BOC) announced it was teaming up with China UnionPay. The tie-up was fueled by regulatory requirements as well as market demand, and provides opportunities for cross-border payments, Cointelegraph reported. The two companies are seeking to look into distributed ledger and big data technology to update products for mobile banking. In particular, CUP is looking to create a unified integrated financial services port for mobile. The idea behind such a system is that cardholders could make purchases, transfers and trades using a QR code. In the future, the BOC plans to promote the payment system as a way to provide a “safer, more convenient and more efficient mobile payment service experience” to customers.

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