Standard Bank Launches the First SHYFT UnionPay Card to South African and Chinese Clients

While thousands of South Africans travel to China each year for leisure and business purposes, transacting in the country can be a frustrating experience. The limited acceptance of other international bank cards forces travelers to first convert Rands to Renminbi and then carry that foreign currency in cash. While some credit card facilities are available, charges are north of 3%.

To address this inconvenience, Standard Bank has launched the UnionPay card – available in both virtual and physical form on its Shyft app – to South African account holders.

The Shyft app allows for pre-loaded Rands to be exchanged into multiple currencies and then loaded onto either a physical UnionPay card. Cardholders can fix their exchange rate before travelling, which eliminates rate fluctuation, and can top-up when their funds run out. Transactions can be made virtually or physically either at South African merchants or in China. If the physical card is lost or stolen, it can be cancelled within a few steps on the app.

Travelers no longer need to worry about exchanging foreign currency at a physical branch or risk carrying cash on them to make purchases – they simply transact virtually or with a swipe of their Standard Bank UnionPay card. Standard Bank’s Shyft app is free to download, and while charges apply for certain transactions, they are lower than what travelers typically pay when making purchases with the few cards that are accepted in China.

As UnionPay hosts most card transactions in China, the introduction of their card is set to significantly improve the way South Africans pay for items and services in the Asian country and neighbouring regions.

The launch forms part of wider efforts by Standard Bank – in partnership with UnionPay – to facilitate seamless transacting for Africans travelling throughout China and vice versa.

Luping Zhang, General Manager of the UnionPay International Africa branch, says the payments company is excited to be working with Standard Bank, which is the first African bank to receive the license to issue UPI cards in SA.

According to the World Travel Organisation (WTO), around 68 613 South Africans travelled to China in 2013. Forecasted to 2018, this yields 90 901 SA travelers to China. Around 15% of these people travel for business purposes.

As China holds the status as world leader in terms of manufacturing products across a broad spectrum of industries, many of these individuals may be there to purchase products for their business needs and, while on the trip, will use a credit card for personal use.

“With the UnionPay card, transacting in China becomes both easier and safer for South African tourists and visitors on business,” comments Ethel Nyembe, Head of Card Issuing at Standard Bank. “They can go about their activities and purchase goods from suppliers, for example, in a cashless manner – reducing some of the previous risks involved.”

She adds that the UnionPay card is accepted through most mobile payment apps, which are hugely popular in China. “We are seeing increased use of mobile payments locally, and now, with the UnionPay card, travelers can continue to reap the benefits of the efficiency of this infrastructure while in a foreign country.”

Ms. Nyembe says Standard Bank values South Africa’s relationship with China as a trade partner and believes that “the signed agreement with UnionPay will allow for further expansion of the Africa-China capabilities corridor”.
With a deep understanding of emerging markets and evolving consumer demands, Standard Bank is working to support and grow the number of transactions through tools and partnerships while, at the same time, increasing accessibility to the Africa-China corridor.

UnionPay International (UPI) is a subsidiary of China UnionPay focused on the growth and support of UnionPay’s global business. In partnership with more than 2000 institutions worldwide, UnionPay International has enabled card acceptance in 177 countries and regions with issuance in 58 countries and regions. UnionPay International provides high quality, cost effective and secure cross-border payment services to the world’s largest cardholder base and ensures convenient local services to a growing number of global UnionPay cardholders and merchants.

So far, the UnionPay global acceptance network has expanded to 177 countries and regions, covering over 56 million merchants and over 4.6 million ATMs. Outside the Chinese Mainland, UnionPay is accepted at over 28 million merchants and more than 1.7 million ATMs. About 8 billion UnionPay cards are issued in 58 countries and regions, among which over 130 million are issued outside mainland China.