UnionPay entices Chinese travelers with digital booking, payments

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UnionPay's collaboration with United Airlines and Planet Payment is the latest salvo in a race among Chinese companies to cater to overseas travelers.

The partnership, announced Tuesday, enables UnionPay acceptance with United Airlines for ticketing purchases online and through call centers. The first phase supports UnionPay credit cards with debit cards expected to follow.

United offers direct flights between about half dozen U.S. and Chinese cities. Planet Payment will provide international and multi- currency processing.

Chinese payment companies have made it a focus to serve the large market of Chinese citizens traveling overseas. About 120 million Chinese tourists traveled outside of the country in 2015, spending nearly $200 billion, according to the World Tourism Barometer.

UnionPay recently launched a card for payments at European retailers, partnering with Six Payment Services and Bank of China. The payment company has worked with FIS to issue a gift card for travelers in the U.S. UnionPay additionally launched in Canada in the past year.

At the same time, Alipay has added services for travelers, working with companies such as First Data and Verifone to serve the U.S. market, while expanding access at airports. It's added Australia, the U.K. and is planning to add access in South Korea. Alipay is operated by Ant Financial as the payments affiliate of e-commerce giant Alibaba.

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