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  • Thierry Spanjaard

Beijing throws a stone into the QRcode vs. NFC pond

Beijing metro authorities just announced they will start accepting QRcode based payment systems like Alipay from beginning of May. Alipay and WeChat are probably the largest payment systems in the world by their number of users. They rely on displaying QRcodes and an always online approach.

Form early May, all entrance gates to subway stations in Beijing will be equipped with QR code readers. The next step in the evolution of payment systems at Beijing metro is that they will stop supporting NFC altogether.

According to its supporters, the core advantage of Chinese QRcode systems is that they work on any phone that is connected to an electronic payment system like Alipay or Tenpay (WeChat).

Until now, around 15% of the 10 million daily passengers on the Beijing Metro are using one-way tickets, an inconvenient media fare for the user and a costly operation for the subway system. Mass transit operators worldwide aim at proposing more flexible solutions for occasional passengers. A major innovation milestone occurred when Transports for London (TfL) started to accept contactless banking cards at its gates, a technology now adopted by many transport systems in the world. Beijing Metro is just adapting to its payment environment by supporting the most widely accepted payment method in China.

At the same time, China UnionPay, the Chinese interbank payment network, which competes with Alipay and Tenpay, is executing its international expansion plan. Already, China UnionPay has issued more than 100 million cards outside the Chinese mainland, which can be used in the company’s overseas network covering more than 23 million merchants in 168 markets. Now, China UnionPay announces a partnership with ACI Worldwide, a US-based e-payment provider that has 5,100 institutions and merchants as its clients, which is expected to boost the international development of the organization.

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