Explainer: China UnionPay, Russia’s potential payments backstop

George T. Taft

UnionPay cards are found displayed with a Russian flag in this illustration picture taken March 7, 2022. REUTERS/Florence Lo/Illustration

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HONG KONG, April 21 (Reuters) – Many Russian banks program to difficulty payment cards that use the community of China UnionPay as properly as that of household-developed payment program Mir, right after Visa Inc (V.N) and MasterCard Inc (MA.N) joined other Western corporations in suspending operations in Russia. read through more

UnionPay and Mir are amid several selections still left for Russians to make payments overseas because Russian banking institutions were being isolated from the international economic program adhering to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Russia calls its steps in Ukraine a “unique procedure”. read more

Whilst many Western nations have condemned Russia’s carry out, ally China has refrained from direct criticism, correctly allowing Chinese corporations such as UnionPay to proceed business enterprise as typical with Russian companions.

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Many Russian creditors presently challenge playing cards with UnionPay. Continue to, the Chinese payment services is cautious of cooperating with sanctioned Russian financial institutions for anxiety that could lead to itself becoming sanctioned, the RBC small business everyday documented on Wednesday, citing 5 unidentified persons at important Russian banks.

UnionPay did not react to a Reuters ask for for comment.

China approved the central bank’s development of UnionPay as a coalition of banking operators in 2002 to make it possible for domestic inter-bank transactions and settlements throughout distinct platforms.

Funded by the government and China’s largest professional lenders, UnionPay clears and settles payments straight with financial institutions and accredited lenders by issuing debit, credit history and pay as you go cards.

It has 87 shareholders which includes affiliates of the People’s Bank of China, business loan providers this sort of as Industrial and Industrial Bank of China Ltd (601398.SS) and China Design Lender Corp (601939.SS), and rural credit history companies.

It relished a monopoly right before China permitted overseas payment networks to set up onshore operations in 2020, and in latest years has promptly expanded overseas.

UnionPay rated very first by number of cards in circulation throughout the world as at the finish of 2021 with 9.4 billion, showed information from researcher Nilson. Visa had 3.7 billion and Mastercard 2.5 billion.

Increased Chinese tourism spurred UnionPay to establish offshore ties with banking institutions and merchants, first in Hong Kong in 2004 and United States in 2005.

In 2012, UnionPay launched abroad arm UnionPay Global which has fashioned partnerships with over 2,500 establishments around the world, making the card accepted in 180 territories, UnionPay’s website confirmed.

UnionPay cards are issued in over 70 nations around the world and locations, it reported.

Its growth has included numerous European fiscal corporations which include HSBC Holdings PLC (HSBA.L), Barclays PLC (BARC.L), Travelex and Moneycorp. UnionPay card holders can withdraw sterling in Britain from Barclays and Travelex cash devices.

Holders of UnionPay playing cards issued by HSBC can also make withdrawals from that bank’s dollars devices in Britain.

UnionPay is quick catching up with world-wide rivals in absolute volume processed, benefiting mainly from the growing buying ability of Chinese prospective buyers domestically and overseas.

About 40% of international card purchase transaction quantity was via Visa in 2020, but UnionPay is a shut next at 32%, followed by MasterCard at 24%, Nilson details confirmed.

In excess of 55 million merchants globally settle for UnionPay playing cards as of March 2021. Acceptance protection is 95% in Russia wherever around 1.6 million level-of-sale terminals help UnionPay QuickPass payment engineering, UnionPay statements showed. Extra than 4 million UnionPay cards have been issued in Russia, it stated.

The higher penetration rate has prompted Russian banking companies to change to UnionPay following Western nations imposed an array of sanctions.

National Bank of Ukraine (NBU), a UnionPay associate, publicly asked UnionPay to prevent processing transactions in Russia and all those involving playing cards issued by Russian banking institutions and made use of abroad.

“We kindly ask you to make a contribution into restoring peace in Ukraine and stop your operation in the Russian Federation,” NBU Governor Kyrylo Shevchenko mentioned in a March 17 assertion.

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Reporting by Selena Li in Hong Kong Further reporting by Sinead Cruise in London Modifying by Sumeet Chatterjee and Christopher Cushing

Our Benchmarks: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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