Barclaycard and Alipay expand partnership for UK payments

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UK payments processing company Barclaycard announced a new partnership with Alipay on Thursday that will allow retailers to accept the Chinese payment app in stores across the country. The move will allow more merchants in the UK to tap into the growing number of Chinese tourists and their spending power.

Under the agreement, Barclaycard merchants will start accepting in-store Alipay payments without replacing their existing point-of-sale (POS) system. Alipay users will be able to search for retail outlets near their location to find out information such as opening hours, directions, and discount offerings.

Barclaycard first launched a pilot with Alipay transactions in 2017, testing the POS payment solution in eight retail stores across the country. The payment services provider processes nearly half of credit and debit card transactions in the UK and has over 110,000 merchants in its network. Earlier this month, it inked a similar deal with UnionPay International, a unit of China UnionPay, which has a virtual monopoly on in-country card payment processing.

“Our new agreement with Alipay gives retailers a vital tool to help them seize the revenue opportunity posed by the growth of Chinese visitors to the UK,” Rob Cameron, CEO and global head of payment acceptance at Barclaycard, said in an announcement.

The UK is forecasting around 483,000 visits from Chinese tourists in 2019, a 43% increase compared with 2017, according to VisitBritain, the national tourist agency. Chinese tourists are expected to spend more than £1 billion this year, making China one of the biggest inbound tourism markets for the UK. The Chinese tourist boom is also reflected in the number of Alipay users in the UK, which, according to Alipay, doubled in 2018.

Additionally, official figures show that there are around 488,000 Chinese residents and students in the UK, which means China is becoming an increasingly important customer segment for retailers in the UK.

Chinese payment giants Alipay and WeChat Pay have been planning their international expansion in recent years, hoping to capture a share of the tourism market’s lucrative growth.