UnionPay, Worldline extend European deal as payments spike

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China's massive card network UnionPay has signed a merchant acquiring agreement with Worldline to bring acceptance of UnionPay cards into 40,000 merchant locations across northwest Europe.

The new agreement makes UnionPay contactless and chip-card capabilities available across Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg and into other European countries by the end of 2019.

The collaboration is potentially lucrative, as the number of UnionPay transactions in Belgium alone increased by 11% in 2018 over the previous year, with Worldline reporting it processed four of every five UnionPay transactions.
UnionPay and Worldline, which also focuses on e-commerce payment services, have partnered on merchant acquiring projects since 2013. The companies believe the new agreement will boost UnionPay acceptance rates to 90% of all Belgian merchants and more than 70% of Dutch merchants. In addition, UnionPay and Worldline provide contactless equipment for more than 70% of Belgian merchants.

UnionPay is concentrating on tourist-heavy merchants, such as shopping malls, duty free shops, hotels and restaurants. "Yet, as we expand our cardholder base in Europe, it is important to grow our network of merchants to every sector," said Wei Zhihong, market director and head of the European branch for UnionPay International, in a Tuesday press release.

UnionPay landed a similar arrangement with Barclaycard last month to initiate UnionPay card acceptance at 110,000 merchant locations in the U.K.

As of the end of 2018, UnionPay statistics show 65% of European merchants accept UnionPay cards, covering 3.3 million merchants in 40 countries. It represented a 30% increase compared to 2017.

UnionPay reports it has more than 7.5 billion cards issued worldwide, making it the largest cardholder base in the world. Its global network has 174 countries and regions, with 53.7 million merchants and more than 2.86 million ATMs.

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Payment processing Retailers China UnionPay Europe