This release by UnionPay International (referred to as UPI in the piece, which should not be confused with India’s Unified Payments Interface, the real-time payments platform also known as UPI), the ex-China arm of UnionPay, appears in Cision PR Newswire, and is basically an advert for the continued global expansion of the Chinese payments network:
“UnionPay International (“UPI”), a globally leading payment provider, announced today the issuance of its 120 millionth card in the 54th market outside mainland China, marking a new stage of UnionPay’s overseas expansion… In the first half of this year, financial institutions in countries including Sri Lanka, Uganda and Mexico began issuing UnionPay cards for the first time, contributing to the total number of UnionPay cards issued outside mainland China to surpassing 120 million. Among these cards, over 5 million are UnionPay premium cards (Platinum and Diamond), marking a year-on-year increase of about 20%.’”
The release does not discuss the split between consumer and commercial cards, so we assume it is predominantly consumer and, by extension, some small businesses, given the focus on ‘premium’ cards. One interesting point is the issuer capability to offer virtual card payments, which naturally fits with the global mobile demand. Also mentioned is the ability to utilize QR codes within mobile apps at the increasing number of accepting merchants:
“At present, multiple e-wallet products in Hong Kong, Singapore, Pakistan and Nepal have rolled out the UnionPay electronic card issuance feature. Users do not need to have a physical card. By only applying for a UnionPay virtual card online in the wallet apps, they can start to use mobile payment services powered by UnionPay…In Singapore, for example, local consumers can download local mobile payment app, NETSPay, and receive a UnionPay virtual card as a payment account. After bundling the accounts, users can pay via QR codes at over 10.8 million businesses in 30 countries and regions accepting UnionPay QR code payment.”
The release claims UnionPay issuance now in 54 markets and acceptance in 174 countries. We have no data or direct information at hand vis-à-vis how the issuing/acquiring processing is done in these markets, but one must keep in mind that while UnionPay and other Chinese payments systems expand globally, UnionPay still remains the only current processor of card products in China, having successfully resisted the 2012 World Trade Organization ruling for China to open their domestic payments market.
Overview by Steve Murphy, Director, Commercial and Enterprise Payments Advisory Service at Mercator Advisory Group