Business / Industries

Global role for UnionPay on the cards

By CECILY LIU (China Daily) Updated: 2015-07-06 10:07

UnionPay International has already employed the model in Thailand, and is working to establish partnerships with other emerging economies, he said.

"It's similar to helping a partner country build a motorway. After it's built, our cars can easily be driven on it, so we can export more cars," he said.

In mature Western economies, where Visa and MasterCard dominate the market, Ge said UnionPay International enters by first serving Chinese customers who travel abroad. It will also help retailers install its terminals so Chinese tourists can shop more easily at their outlets. Making a payment via UnionPay does not require foreign currency exchange fees.

The luxurious Ritz London Hotel was the first business in the United Kingdom's capital to install UnionPay terminals in 2011. Many other hotels and luxury stores followed suit, including Harrods and Selfridges.

Western banks have also become partners with UnionPay International, allowing UnionPay cardholders to withdraw cash from their ATMs. Some have also started to issue UnionPay cards to customers, although most UnionPay cards in Europe are still issued by Chinese banks, serving the Chinese community.

In March, Garanti Bank, Turkey's largest, started to issue UnionPay cards, and Ge said the company is discussing similar agreements with more banks, including Italian bank UniCredit Group, with whom he held talks this month.

"Such partnerships are beneficial for Italian banks, too, because it helps enlarge their customer base. We're building win-win relationships," he said.

"Chip cards provide greater security, and if we help European organizations upgrade their systems and infrastructure, we can make a natural entry into their systems and markets," Ge said.

UnionPay international has a presence in 38 countries and regions in Europe, according to the company. In countries such as the UK, Switzerland and Austria, most ATMs accept UnionPay, while in countries such as Spain and Germany, UnionPay is accepted in more than half of all ATMs.

In Italy, UnionPay International started to expand its operations in 2006, and now more than 70 percent of ATMs accept UnionPay. One-fourth of retailers in the country also accept UnionPay, from well-known brands to boutiques, as well as tourist destinations, Ge said.

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