China’s UnionPay is bringing its mobile payment system to North America, starting with a launch today in Canada. The UnionPay International subsidiary of China’s interbank network in China, which creates a unified debit and credit card payment network for the country’s banks. UnionPay is actually the third-largest payment network in the world, behind Visa and MasterCard, owing to its reach, and is also increasingly accepted broadly beyond China.
The launch today brings UnionPay’s QuickPass mobile payments system to a number of “daily-spending” merchants in Canada, which is the first North American availability of the system. People can pay either with their QuickPass EMV chip cards, or with smartphones that are QuickPass-enabled. Payment limits cap out at $100 CAD without signature or PIN with both credit and debit cards.
It’s not clear how many merchants in Canada will be able to accept QuickPass at launch, but UnionPay says that over 70,000 merchants in the country accept UnionPay, and Canada’s payment infrastructure means that a good percentage of merchants are already equipped to accept contactless payments, so the number could be a decent percentage of that 70,000.
The launch is Canada-specific for now, but UnionPay has a very large addressable audience, and its mobile payments offering could be a quietly powerful competitor to the likes of Apple Pay.