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31 July 2013

China UnionPay Introduces Mobile Wallet, Though Not Yet Supporting NFC

Chinese payment card network China UnionPay has launched its own mobile wallet for Android phones and the iPhone, enabling users to add their payment cards and loyalty cards, coupons and eventually e-tickets.

Contrary to published reports the past week, however, the UnionPay “Wallet” does not support NFC, at least not yet.

Users can link their UnionPay branded bank cards to the wallet apps and to load coupons, loyalty points and other offers. According to descriptions of the apps and wallet Web site, users would show clerks the coupons or other offers for visual inspection and swipe their physical bank cards at the point of sale. Later, users apparently could also download movie and other e-tickets, and it’s expected they would be able to make online purchases with the card accounts they load into the wallet.

There is no mention, however, of users being required to get NFC SIM cards from China Mobile or other Chinese carriers or to put the banking applications on any other secure elements, which would be required with NFC. There is also no mention of users tapping the phones on UnionPay’s large base of Quick Pass contactless point-of-sale terminals in China.

That could come later, as UnionPay continues to expand its contactless and NFC mobile-payment push. The payment network has said at least 1.2 million Quick Pass terminals have been deployed in China, though it’s not clear if all are activated.