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Credit cards: National Australia Bank and China UnionPay form new bond

13th September 2006
By Emily Tonkin

National Australia Bank and China UnionPay have entered into new a card alliance.

National Australia Bank and China's dominant bank card scheme, China UnionPay, have signed a deal allowing CUP customers to use their cards in Australia. The cards can now be used at NAB's 1,300 ATMs and the POS network will be adjusted to allow usage by the end of 2006. This is further evidence of CUP's globalization strategy and the potential rich pickings for partners willing to get onboard.

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Securing this new deal with a 'big four' bank ensures cardholders of China's leading payment card scheme will have comprehensive access to services across Australia. This new partnership will benefit existing CUP cardholders that reside in or visit Australia and NAB's CEO, Ahmed Fahour, stated that the main beneficiaries will be the 81,000 Chinese students in Australia (not to mention NAB itself).

Mr Fahour also suggested that Chinese visitors to Australia - the number of which is expected to increase at a rate of 20% per year, to reach one million per year in five years - will benefit. Prior to this tie-up, both students and visitors needed to use cards branded with an Australian-accepted card scheme such as Visa or MasterCard. Visa, MasterCard and Australian issuers will cease to profit from issuing cards to these consumers as they can now use their CUP card.

This partnership reflects CUP's strategy to be accepted throughout the world and follows a recent deal with a Swiss company Telekurs Multipay, which is the largest merchant network for credit, debit and value cards in Switzerland. The Swiss deal has resulted in CUP holders being able to withdraw cash and make electronic payments in 21 nations.

This rapid expansion of CUP's acceptance across the globe threatens the major schemes, Visa and MasterCard. In addition, local issuers will miss out on profiting from the world's largest population as they travel abroad for holidays or education brandishing their own payment cards.

With this in mind, and with the fact that CUP's globalization strategy seems to involve a partnership with just one acquirer in each country, potential partners would be wise to get in early. This way, those who dare will find themselves reaping the benefits of being the only local player profiting from merchant and ATM fees on transactions made by a customer base originating from the planet's most populous nation.
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