Canada Gets Access to QR Code Mobile Payments with UnionPay

July 2, 2018         By: Steven Anderson

It’s been obvious for some time now that the Chinese mobile payment market is eager to branch out, if for no other reason than to take care of the growing numbers of Chinese tourists hitting the road for other countries. Not surprisingly, North America is a major tourist destination, and the Chinese tourism diaspora is focused fairly heavily therein. Thus, UnionPay International’s move to bring quick response (QR) code payments to Canada makes a particular sense.

The new effort came about as the result of a partnership between UnionPay and the Canadian subsidiary of Bank of China. With this partnership in place, QR codes could hit Canada, at least in limited capacity. Now, all Canadian Foodymart locations will take UnionPay QR codes, as part of a growing effort that’s expected to see QR codes in almost 5,000 merchants by the end of 2018.

Given that UnionPay cards are already accepted at 90 percent of Canadian ATMs and over 160,000 merchants, this move isn’t exactly a big one, but it will help add convenience to those already using the UnionPay system in the field. The numbers are fairly similar in the US, with nearly all ATMs accepting UnionPay and just over eight out of 10 merchants. UnionPay is even planning further developments, bringing out e-wallet systems for use with retail groups, switch networks and more.

It’s not a particularly big step, but what it does is help reinforce the market that’s already in play. With Alipay making its own inroads, and WeChat Pay not too far behind, UnionPay has to innovate to hold its market share. It can’t just leave things how they lay; that’s a sure route to getting swamped by competitors, and given the competition coming up, it’s a high enough risk even with innovation. This is, of course, discounting the potential influxes being made by North American payment systems into the Chinese market. That’s a whole other competitive threat, if a bit weaker thanks to China’s various rules on the matter.

So UnionPay is making its systems that little bit easier to use, and in the process, hopefully holding on to its user base in the face of Alipay and WeChat Pay’s ongoing pushes.