China UnionPay Co (中國銀聯) and Apple Inc have reached a preliminary agreement to introduce Apple Pay in China through UnionPay’s point-of-sales network, people familiar with the matter said.
Details of the agreement are yet to be finalized, pending feedback from banks that issue cards, said the people, asking not to be identified as the matter is private.
Shanghai-based UnionPay, the nation’s largest payment and clearing network, aims to introduce Apple Pay as soon as next year, one of the people said.
Apple’s mobile-payment system might help UnionPay and Chinese banks fend off rising competition from third-party payment service providers including Alibaba Group Holding Ltd (阿里巴巴) and Tencent Holdings Ltd (騰訊).
Alibaba’s Alipay (支付寶) affiliate controlled 83 percent of China’s third-party mobile payment market last year, while Tencent’s Tenpay (財付通) held 10 percent, according to market-research firm iResearch.
Both UnionPay and Apple declined to comment.
Utilizing so-called near-field communication (NFC) technology, Apple Pay enables users to pay for purchases by tapping iPhones or Apple Watches with pre stored bank card information on a device at cash registers. Through the UnionPay accord, the system could be rolled out to more than 5 million point-of-sale machines that are NFC-enabled in China.
Still, the two companies have yet to sign agreements with any Chinese banks on linking local bank cards to Apple’s payment service, one of the people said. Some domestic banks are concerned about fees charged by Apple Pay and the low number of users the service has, the people said.
One year after its introduction, the system accounts for only 1 percent of all retail transactions in the US, researcher Aite Group said last month.
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