Standard Bank has launched the UnionPay card – available in both virtual and physical form on its Shyft app – to South African account holders. Photo: File

DURBAN - Standard Bank has launched the UnionPay card – available in both virtual and physical form on its Shyft app – to South African account holders.

Standard Bank is the only South African issuer of the UnionPay card.

The Shyft app allows for pre-loaded rands to be exchanged into multiple currencies and then loaded onto 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.

Travellers 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 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 China and Asia.

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.

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

She adds that the UnionPay card is accepted through most mobile payment apps, which are hugely popular in China. She said, "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". 

Nyembe said that 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".

BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE