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UnionPay makes mark in Turkey

By Wu Yiyao in Shanghai | China Daily | Updated: 2015-03-21 08:02

The largest domestic bank card company, China UnionPay Co Ltd, has begun issuing cards in Turkey jointly with Garanti Bank, riding on the "One Belt, One Road" initiatives.

UnionPay has been expanding fast in overseas markets, especially Central Asian countries, to support the national strategy to build the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.

The belt stretches northwest from China through Central Asia, the Middle East and onward to Europe, while the maritime road runs to Southeast Asia.

About 30 percent of UnionPay's latest list of 80 international airport merchants that offer prestige packages to cardholders are located in countries on the "One Belt, One Road" pathways. They include Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Qatar, according to UnionPay's website.

Economic ties with Turkey are growing fast, and UnionPay sees more opportunities in that country, said Shi Wenchao, China UnionPay president. Simpler visa policies are helping as well.

Ergun Ozen, president of Garanti Bank, which is Turkey's largest bankcard issuer, said deeper cooperation with UnionPay will help local merchants and enterprises get more business.

About 30 percent of retailers in Turkey accept UnionPay cards. Many of them are in cities that are popular with Chinese travelers, including Istanbul and Ankara.

UnionPay International, the bankcard issuer's overseas arm, has been developing its networks along the "One Belt, One Road" in several countries, including Kazakhstan and the United Arab Emirates.

"The bankcard association is deepening and expanding cooperation with its partners in these countries and regions," said Cai Jianbo, chief executive officer of UnionPay International.

UnionPay's overseas business is being driven by China's outbound travel boom.

The card "is increasingly known these days overseas and its logo is at almost every cashier and ATM wherever I travel," said Sun Junyi, a tour guide with Shanghai Xinxin Travel Agency.

About 260 million merchants in 150 countries and regions accept UnionPay cards, which has the world's largest number of cardholders and the second-largest bankcard transaction volume, just after that of United States-based Visa Inc.

In 2014, interbank transactions using UnionPay cards totaled 41.1 trillion yuan ($6.62 trillion), up 27.3 percent year-on-year.

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