Global Wrap: Russia Offers Card Brand Alternative, Citi Guts Loyalty Benefits In Australia

GlobeThree

This week’s reports—from Russia, Taiwan, Australia, China, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Canada— show the continued shifts in payments strategies across the globe.

  • Russian Banks Issue First Payment Alternative To Visa, MasterCard

The move on Tuesday (Dec. 15) reveals the Mir card, which translates to “peace,” “world” and “Bite me, U.S. card brands.” According to a story in The Rakyat Post, Mir was issued “by a string of banks, among them Gazprombank, Rossiya bank and others blacklisted by the West following Moscow’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine last year.”

About 35 banks are participating in the payment system, and seven have issued the card during the initial pilot. The new cards are colored blue and green.

  • Alipay Tries Out New Mobile Wallet in Taiwan

Ant Financial, the Alibaba financial service affiliate that operates Alipay, that nearly 3,500 Taiwan businesses, which include department stores, supermarkets, street vendor associations, chain stores and telecom firms, have signed up for its mobile wallet service since its official launch on Dec. 1, according to a report in Yibada.

About 3.22 million mainland tourists visited the island last year, an annual increase of 47 percent, the report said. “This year, the number of tourist hit 3.11 million in the first nine months.”

Many Taiwanese, though, still prefer cash and in-store shopping. “The digital payment market in Taiwan is of great potential as about 70 percent of transactions here are still through cash,” said Ray Gu, director of Ant Financial Global Business-Taiwan.

  • UnionPay Launches QuickPass In China

The mobile payment launch, announced in Beijing, was done in partnership with 20 commercial banks. A UnionPay statement said the new offering supports NFC, HCE, TSM and tokenization.

The statement said that QuickPass will be accepted at more than 10,000 “locations of 25 franchise chains in mainland China, including Carrefour, McDonald’s, Watsons, FamilyMart, and COSTA, with exclusive offers for QuickPass users. More merchants are expected to come onboard soon.”

UnionPay’s statement also rattled off some of its prior mobile efforts: “Prior to QuickPass, UnionPay has successively launched a series of mobile payment products and services such as SWP-SIM, eSE embedded solution and wearable payment devices in cooperation with telecommunication operators, mobile manufacturers and wearable device manufacturers.”

  • In Australia, Citi Guts Loyalty Benefits

After Visa and MasterCard slashed the fees they pass along to bank partners in Australia, CitiBank became the first major issuer to peel back the rewards on its loyalty programs. Among the changes: abolishing points on payments to the tax office and tripling the fee to $30 to opt for direct redemption of rewards from Qantas, according to a report in The Sydney Morning Herald.

“Other banks are expected to follow suit, with bigger reductions expected once the Reserve Bank of Australia’s plan to cap these so-called interchange fees and to regulate American Express companion cards comes into force,” the story noted.

A spokesman for Citi told the paper: “”Due to the external repricing of interchange rates, effective November 1, the revenues that Citi receives from individual credit card transactions has significantly decreased. As a result of this change, Citi has advised customers that its credit card rewards program will be amended from March next year.”

  • Visa Rolls Out First Token Service For Asia Pacific

The cardbrand on Monday (Dec. 14) its first regional token with United Overseas Bank, as part of the bank’s UOB Mighty mobile wallet.

“Consumers are increasingly attached to their smartphones which have become an indispensable lifestyle device. With the Visa Token Service, UOB is able to offer Singapore customers the option of making contactless payments, with tokenised security, through their smartphones at the point of sale – whether it is in a supermarket, coffee shop or at a petrol station,” said Mr Dennis Khoo, Head of Personal Financial Services, Singapore, UOB, in a statement issued by Visa.

  • In China, XiaomiReverses Course On NFC And Now Embraces It

When Xiaomi rolled out its Mi4 flagship smartphone, it opted to forego NFC support, pointing to internal studies showing that barely one percent of users bothered to use NFC on phones that did offer it. But the phone manufacturer has opted to give NFC—and nFC-support mobile payments—another shot, according to a report in Phone Arena.

“A document released by China UnionPay lists 32 phones that will offer its Cloud Lightning Pay mobile payment service. The feature requires that those 32 handsets support NFC. Among the phones on the list is the Xiaomi Mi 5,” the report said. “This would appear to be a pretty good sign that NFC is coming back to Xiaomi on its new flagship phone.”

  •  Sri Lanka-Based Social P2P Payments Firm Kashmi Lands Almost Half-Million Dollars In Seed Funding

The Kashmi team, based in Sri Lanka and Singapore, received the S$700,000 (US$497,000) funding by a group led by Akbar Group Sri Lanka and VAMM Ventures, a Dubai-based venture capital firm, according to a report in TechInAsia. Those investors were in addition to several “angel investors and corporates from Singapore, Sri Lanka, and Thailand. Kashmi will use the funds to continue working on its product, expand its reach in Southeast Asia, and beef up its sales and marketing,” the story said.

The story pointed out the popularity of P2P, especially in the Singapore area. “The startup enters a busy space, particularly in Singapore where both startups and larger companies are looking into P2P payments. Fastacash enables payments within apps like WhatsApp and Facebook, and has worked on premier Singapore bank DBS’ mobile payments app Paylah. Singaporean telco SingTel, in collaboration with Standard Chartered, has its own similar offering called Dash,” the report noted.

  •  After Cutting Off Singapore Taxis, Visa Relents And Returns

Given the importance of mobile payments in taxis, car services and other public transit, it’s an important move from Visa to return to world of Singapore taxi payments. This report from The Straits Times on Wednesday (Dec. 16) tells the tale.

“Payments through Visa cards will be re-introduced in ComfortDelGro taxis from next month, almost three years after Visa started phasing out its service from all cabs in Singapore. But, as with the use of all other brands of credit cards in taxis, Visa-swiping passengers will have to pay a 10 percent levy, which is the surcharge that Visa had wrangled with cab firms to remove in the past,” the story said. “This led to Visa payment services being stopped in ComfortDelGro, Trans-Cab and Prime taxis in July 2013, with Premier and SMRT following suit.”

The story quoted Ooi Huey Tyng, Visa’s country manager for Singapore and Brunei, saying that the Singapore taxi landscape has changed because of “the popularity and availability of third-party cab booking apps such as Uber Taxi and GrabTaxi.”

  • Vancouver-Based Authentication Firm Trulioo Gets $15 Million In Funding

The dollars come from American Express Ventures, which joined existing funders BDC Capital, Blumberg Capital and Tenfore Holdings, according to a report in The Vancouver Sun.

This investment is a vote of confidence that we can help support the banking industry in meeting the increasingly complex requirements of cross-border compliance,” said Trulioo CEO Stephen Ufford. Ufford said that his company’s GlobalGateway product is a service used by companies in ecommerce, finance, insurance and social media to provide identity verification for more than four billion consumers in more than 40 countries.

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