UnionPay Hits a New High in Transaction Volume

January 5, 2018         By: Steven Anderson

UnionPay isn’t exactly one of the big winners in the Chinese mobile payments market. Swamped by Alipay and WeChat Pay, it’s often not even mentioned in the same breath as the two front-runners. However, a new report from the company says it’s still got business enough to keep the company alive, as reported by record transaction volume for the New Year’s holiday.

The New Year’s holiday in question—the period between December 30 and January 1—was particularly good to UnionPay, as the company posted a transaction volume of 700.8 billion yuan, about $107.8 billion US as of this writing.

That’s a 36.8 percent jump over the last New Year holiday period, and the number of transactions, and overall volume, of UnionPay quick response (QR) code was likewise up. Number of transactions was up 11.6 times compared against the Dragon Boat Festival holiday—May 28 to 30—and volume was up 19.8 times.

Merchants actually played a role in ramping up these spectacular figures, with a variety of merchants offering year-end promotions and discounts to encourage spending. Since spending was up 41.9 percent over this time last year, the plan might well have worked. Given that 83 percent of the total spending was at supermarkets, household appliances and general merchandise, people were happy to spend, but kept the results of that spending close to home. Food and beverage merchants also saw some gains, and there were signs that UnionPay was branching out globally as well.

However, it’s worth pointing out that UnionPay was a pretty light entrant in the global stakes; Alipay’s work on that front has been impressive by any standard, and there were signs that WeChat Pay wasn’t so far behind. UnionPay’s got a lot of lag to overcome—there’s not much word about it even having much of an American presence—in order to really make it big. UnionPay does have some core advantages, like supporting nearly every currency on the planet and keeping fees comparatively low, but given the head start Alipay and WeChat Pay have, even these advantages may not be enough to break the if-it-ain’t-broke lead that the other two have.

Still, there are clear signs UnionPay is gaining ground, and may be a serious competitor before too much longer. Only time will tell how it all boils down!