UnionPay International builds global web of services

Updated: 2014-09-23 07:05

By Wu Yiyao(China Daily USA)

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As more Chinese customers venture abroad, the bank card's network expands, reports Wu Yiyao in Shanghai.

Jenny Tan, a cashier at ION, one of Singapore's largest shopping malls, serves more than 200 Chinese tourists a day, and she has witnessed the fast expansion of UnionPay card use in the mall and the country.

"The Chinese phrases we must learn are huan-ying guanglin (welcome) and Yinlian Ka (UnionPay card) because they are used most often. Five years ago, it was another story," said Tan.

Chinese outbound travelers can now use their UnionPay cards to book hotel rooms, eat at a food court, shop for souvenirs and even pay taxi fares. Among the rising number of Chinese outbound tourists, more than 90 percent have UnionPay cards.

Shi Wenchao, chief executive officer of China UnionPay, the world's third-largest bank card association by market share, said it aims to boost the global use of the card over the coming years.

"UnionPay will strive to become a global payment brand," said Shi in a speech at the Summer Davos forum in Tianjin earlier this month.

The payment services provider has been broadening its overseas operations. UnionPay International Co Ltd, a subsidiary of China UnionPay, has spread its network globally over the past three years. Now, the cards can be used in more than 140 countries and regions.

This coverage is a result of the "tireless efforts" of UnionPay International to build a global acceptance network that enriches its cross-border payment product system, said Cai Jianbo, CEO of UnionPay International.

The company has more than 300 partners around the globe.

One method that UnionPay uses to expand abroad is to make sure that its partners, cardholders and merchants can all benefit, said Cai.

UnionPay has launched marketing campaigns to offer cross-border travelers and cardholders a wide range of privileges and discounts at the world's top 60 airport duty-free shops, 40 commercial districts and 20 tourist attractions.

"Basically, a UnionPay card is a VIP card or privilege card here at Lotte Duty-Free. Many brands have joined our program, which offers discounts of up to 15 percent to UnionPay cardholders," said Kim Myung-in, manager of Main Sales Part One with Lotte Duty-Free in Seoul.

Chinese consumers' use of the card at shopping malls in the United States has surged in recent years.

For example, transactions by Chinese cardholders almost tripled in the past three years at the upscale South Coast Plaza shopping mall in Costa Mesa, California, according to UnionPay.

Widespread recognition of UnionPay cards has also accelerated the internationalization of the renminbi, and the bigger role that China plays in regional and world economic development may have attracted more foreign cardholders, said Joe Zhou, manager of regional business development with UnionPay International Southeast Asia.

One example of the payment service provider's efforts to understand the locals is its Singapore team's research into consumption habits. Its local team examined Singapore residents' lifestyles and found that restaurants could be a focus for UnionPay services.

A report from a survey UnionPay conducted jointly with a research firm found that local families are "very much inclined" to dine out. The team thus started working on promoting the use of the card in the dining sector.

A source at UnionPay International said that the number of cards issued overseas in the next three years might more than double the current number.

UnionPay has issued cards in more than 30 countries and regions, with some 25 million cards issued outside the Chinese mainland as of the end of 2013, according to the company. In 2006, about 1 million cards were issued overseas.

"Going out is one of the key strategies of UnionPay," said Cai. He attributed UnionPay's fast development in overseas markets to the card brand's intensive cooperation with local partners and its continued efforts to go along with local cultures and lifestyles.

Contact the writer at wuyiyao@chinadaily.com.cn

(China Daily USA 09/23/2014 page14)