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SHANGHAI, Jan. 18, 2024 /PRNewswire/ — UnionPay, one of the world’s largest payment brands, is embracing a new chapter of development after its global acceptance reach spanned 183 countries and regions and issuance outside Mainland China recently surpassed 230 million cards.

Thanks to its 20 years of internationalization efforts, it can bring more “Chinese solutions” to the global payment industry.

On January 18, 2004, with the approval of the People’s Bank of China, UnionPay launched card services in Hong Kong, marking the beginning of internationalization efforts made by Chinese bank card brands.

In 2012, UnionPay International was founded, dedicated to international business. Its international strategy evolved from “where the Chinese go, UnionPay card services go” to a more comprehensive “global network, international brand”, aiming to better serve China’s determination to open up further and set a high standard in the payments sector.

With the recent start of UnionPay card services in El Salvador, its global acceptance reach now covers 66.4 million online and in-store merchants outside mainland China. UnionPay cards have been issued in 81 countries and regions outside mainland China. Currently, UnionPay International has cooperated with more than 2,600 institutions around the world.

First choice of tourists

As China’s payment industry has evolved rapidly over the past two decades, UnionPay International has actively improved its network service capabilities, diversified product offerings and improved payment scenarios to provide high-quality financial payment services for residents. Chinese and international involved in trade and cooperation.

During the New Year holidays, Chinese tourists celebrating globally found UnionPay’s distinctive three-color logo everywhere, whether on the streets of Hong Kong and Macau or in shops in Bangkok, Tokyo, Abu Dhabi and beyond.

According to a Nielsen report, UnionPay has become the most accepted international card brand globally. Since the first UnionPay transaction came to Hong Kong, UnionPay cards have been accepted in 183 countries and regions around the world, among which 99 countries and regions support UnionPay mobile payment products. UnionPay acceptance rates in Asia-Pacific, Europe, North America and other regions have increased to approximately 80 percent.

In China’s Hong Kong and Macau, hundreds of thousands of merchants, millions in South Korea and almost all QR code merchants in Malaysia and Sri Lanka support the UnionPay app.

Starting from the foundation of practicality, UnionPay International has collaborated widely across industries to create a rich ecosystem for UnionPay payments, giving cardholders more convenience and ease in making payments.

In 2023 alone, tourist offices in Australia, South Africa, Singapore, Thailand, Saudi Arabia, the international tax free group DFS, the travel platform Trip.com and the tax refund agency Planet Tax Free, among others, have collaborated with UnionPay International, improving its payment capabilities in scenarios such as hotel reservations, transportation, dining and shopping.

Currently, UnionPay payment services are supported in more than 5,000 overseas schools, top 10 global hotel groups, renowned airlines, cross-border transportation such as China-Laos railway, and public transportation in popular tourist destinations in the foreign.

Close collaboration in cross-border payments between commercial banks and UnionPay International offers personalized options for residents. Several commercial banks have introduced distinctive UnionPay card products such as cross-border cash back cards, Prestige Asia, “Tour South Korea” themed cards and more, catering to different customer segments. Connected to the UnionPay APP network payment platform, commercial bank applications can also directly use UnionPay QR codes in overseas acceptance scenarios.

Global expansion

Since the resumption of cross-border movement, international events such as the Canton Fair and China International Import Expo have been successfully held in China, making it essential to provide quality payment services to foreign visitors in China.

Currently, outside mainland China, more than 230 million UnionPay cards have been issued in 81 countries and regions, and 180 UnionPay local wallets have been established in 35 countries and regions. These various UnionPay payment products cover multiple functions including card swiping, scanning and cash withdrawals, meeting the needs of both daily life and cross-border payments, positioning UnionPay as one of the preferred payment brands for visitors from China.

This journey began with the opening of UnionPay card acceptance in Hong Kong, China, where Bank of China (Hong Kong) issued the first local UnionPay card that same year. This marked the localization of UnionPay International’s business and the starting point to explore payment services for residents around the world.

Currently, the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area has issued 30 million UnionPay cards in total. In the countries and regions involved in the Belt and Road Initiative, the cumulative issuance reaches 170 million cards. In countries such as the United Arab Emirates, Kenya, Mongolia, Singapore and Kazakhstan, UnionPay has become the payment card of choice for local students, workers and teachers, integrating with local life.

These cards can be used in almost all POS terminals and scenarios in China, including taking public transportation, shopping on the Taobao app, booking tickets on Trip.com travel agency, requesting a ride on the Didi app, and ordering food via from the Meituan app.

Building on its experience in promoting QR code payments nationwide, UnionPay has continuously expanded its mobile payment services to residents outside mainland China.

In 2018, the Hong Kong-Macau version of the UnionPay app arrived in Hong Kong. Subsequently, UnionPay International has innovated cooperation models, supporting foreign wallets to link UnionPay cards or issue virtual UnionPay cards within their applications. This allows users to use familiar local products for payments in mainland China, without the need to create additional accounts or download domestic apps. Authentication can be completed through local institutions, eliminating the requirement to provide sensitive personal information to third-party platforms.

Leading Chinese Solution

While providing high-quality payment services for overseas residents, UnionPay International collaborates with central banks, national payment networks and payment alliances of various countries to establish technical standards for payment networks, QR codes and chip cards. In doing so, it brings more “Chinese solutions” to the global payments industry.

Adapting to industrial development trends, UnionPay International actively seeks new strategies to build global network advantages through the development of cards and mobile payments.

In recent years, many countries have accelerated the construction of local payment networks and promoted interoperability between different networks. Since 2023, UnionPay International has collaborated with local networks in 15 overseas countries and regions to promote QR code interoperability. Sixteen projects have been implemented or are in progress, including payment networks from Southeast Asian countries such as Malaysia’s PayNet, Vietnam’s NAPAS, Cambodia’s Bakong, and Laos’ LAPNet. Subsequently, the acceptance reach of UnionPay QR codes outside mainland China increased to 6.5 million merchants in 45 countries and regions. This establishes UnionPay as a payment product with significant advantages in the Asia-Pacific region.

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