Moneris and UnionPay team up to help Canadian merchants attract Chinese tourists by Leslie Emmons

May 12

Moneris and UnionPay team up to help Canadian merchants attract Chinese tourists by Leslie Emmons

There’s a good chance you’ve heard of Moneris—it’s one of the largest debit and credit card processors in Canada, and according to the company 1 in 3 retailers in Canada accept its cards. But have you heard of UnionPay? It claims to be one of the world’s largest cardholder groups, and has issued more than 4.6 billion credit cards and debit cards worldwide—more than Visa and MasterCard combined. Based in China, the company has teamed up with Moneris to offer Canadian merchants the ability to accept its UnionPay cards, thus opening up Canadian stores to millions of visiting tourists who use this payment method back home. So how will this help you, the the independent retailer? We spoke to Rob Cameron, Chief Product and Marketing Officer at Moneris to find out.

Tell us about Moneris

At Moneris our job is to help retailers accept debit and credit card payments. We’re a Canadian company so we’re really focused on what will make a difference to Canadian retailers in terms of making it easier for them to do business and easier on their consumers. We saw a gap in the market where Chinese tourists were coming over and their local credit card wasn’t accepted here. We’re the first ones to enable the acceptance of UnionPay in Canada by merchant.

How exactly did Moneris discover this untapped market?

When we travel with our MasterCards and Visas we just assume that they’ll be accepted everywhere, but in China the card that you get is a UnionPay card. So we looked at these huge numbers of tourists coming over, and we started talking to UnionPay about what it would take to offer our merchants the exact same settlement and all the things they’re used to, but to accept UnionPay cards.We started those conversations and then brought it to market this year, which is very exciting.

What were Chinese visitors using to make purchases before this partnership?

What would frequently happen, is they’d come over with either cash, or they would use the ATM network. So they could take cash out but there’s limits…and sometimes currency control. What we found is Chinese tourists will actually seek out places that accept UnionPay because it doesn’t bump up against their other spending limits that are in place for them. There’s no currency restrictions, it’s done directly back to their bank in China. They don’t have to convert it [money] to Canadian dollars and then spend it and there’s no limit on what you can spend, whatever is in your account you can spend.

What do merchants need to know to get in on the ground floor and attract these tourists who want to buy Canadian?

It’s really easy—it’s with existing terminals—so they call up and they just ask to add UnionPay.There’s no cost to them, they get a lovely sticker for their window and something to put on their counter to let people know it’s accepted, and that’s it. The cost of accepting a UnionPay card is in line to less than accepting a domestic Visa card. There’s no additional foreign card fees.

We did this launch at Brooks Brothers, put a sticker in the window, and we were supposed to do the first transaction with the CEO of UnionPay who flew over, and people had saw the sticker in the window came in and said, “Oh can we actually use this card here? ” and scooped us. It’s a great benefit to those card holders and again there’s a half a million of them that visit Canada. So it’s not like we’re talking about a small subset of tourists, this is the high spending tourist in Canada. They spend a lot…what’s really telling is nearly 80 % of what they spend is actually on retail and luxury goods.

How do you see this partnership helping independent retailers?

It gives them a way to encourage these foreign tourists to come into their stores and shop, and it’s just really easy for the consumer. From the merchants standpoint the card settles just the same as if they’d accepted a credit or debit card.

How does Moneris plan on marketing this service to independent retailers who don’t have this option in their stores yet?

We’re actually doing outreach to a lot of our customers.  We reached out to 140,000 of our small business customers recently to let them know that it was now available and we could add it if they wanted it. We’re also actually seeing a lot of other merchants convert to Moneris just to get this service.  Because we’re a Canadian company we’re really thinking about what could help Canadian merchants do business better. It costs the same to less than a domestic card.

Do you see other card processors following suit?

Typically we’re a year ahead of the market—so I think we’ve got a lead in the market. I think what will happen,  is it will take our competitors a year or two to offer this to their merchants, but in the meantime we’re happy to help merchants switch to us and get it now.

Any final words ?

Moneris is really focused on what will help them do more business and better business down the way. In this case it’s bringing them new customers and hopefully incremental sales. In other cases we want to save them time. This is just a great win for our customers.

The other thing I’ll mention is UnionPay is actually doing promotion now to Chinese tourists coming to Canada, to look for [stores that use] Moneris. When we launched UnionPay at Brooks Brothers it was not very exciting to Canadian media, but in China we were picked up by the three largest news networks.

For more information, visit the Moneris website.