Everything You Need To Know About Union Pay

Alexa Fang

Alexa Fang

Last updated 03 July, 2018

How to use it, and how to use it to save big.

The world is advancing at lightning speed – well, not precisely, but fast enough. Here’s one example: These days, we can afford to walk around without a cent in our pockets because we can pay for stuff with our smartphones and, of course, our credit cards. While this may be the norm today, the first credit card came into existence only in 1950. Before that, cash was king. Rewind even further back to about a century ago B.C. (before cash), our ancestors used a system of barter trade with live stocks, weapons, jewellery, etc… The Chinese, in particular, used cowry shells. Can you imagine? Well, things have really evolved, haven’t they?

Back to credit cards. Everyone knows Visa and MasterCard. But UnionPay? You’ve probably heard of it, but do you what it does and how you can use it?

In a nutshell, UnionPay was founded in 2002 as a payment method in China. Today, UnionPay is the new giant in credit card payment processing scheme next to MasterCard and Visa. Why do you need to know about it now? For one, it’s so big, it is the official payment brand for this year’s Great Singapore Sale. We have cottoned on. So, if you’re clueless about UnionPay, wise up.

close up of credit cards -SingSaver

What is UnionPay?

First, take a look at the credit cards you currently own. Bet you 50 bucks that at least one of them has a MasterCard or Visa logo on it. And there you have the simple answer: Just like MasterCard or Visa, UnionPay is a digital payment method. It processes the transactions carried out on credit cards from banks, and merchants (aka the shops you buy from).

Before UnionPay came about, Chinese tourists had a notorious reputation for making high-end purchases in cold hard cash. One reason is because they are averse to debt (so credit cards aren’t exactly popular). Another is because they didn’t really have a choice, since China was still a largely cash-based economy outside of major cities. Furthermore, international payment methods were only accepted to a limited degree.

Fast forward to today. UnionPay is recognised everywhere in China (which is huge). Beyond its shores, its global presence has become extensive, too. UnionPay is now accepted in 168 countries and regions, covering 51 million merchants and 2.57 million ATMs. On top of that, it has several international partners from UOB to Barclays.

How and where can you use UnionPay?

Contrary to popular belief, using UnionPay is not as complicated as you might think. It’s no different than how you would use your credit cards — be it for online or offline purchases –– the same rules and best practices apply for UnionPay.

All ATMs or POS terminals labelled with the UnionPay logo accept UnionPay Cards. In Europe, UnionPay logo is only shown on the screens of the ATMs so it would be wise to keep a lookout. See more information here.

Why use UnionPay?

As a consumer, you might be wondering, “so, what is the difference between MasterCard, Visa and UnionPay?” Some factors to consider would be: How widely accepted this payment method is, the foreign-currency exchange fees when you use your card abroad, and the benefits of using one over the other.

For frequent travellers to China, it makes sense to use UnionPay, since many merchants there still do not accept Visa and MasterCard.

For everyone else who is not yet on board, now may be the best time to consider. In case you didn’t know, UnionPay has collaborated with Singapore Retailers Association (SRA) this GSS as our annual shopping event’s official payment brand to bring in more rewards this year. What does this mean for you, the consumer? Exclusive discounts and promotions, big treats and savings.

Other perks include global offers and privileges at airport duty free outlets as well as dining, shopping and entertainment merchants worldwide.

Union Pay Cards in Singapore

Now that you’re better acquainted with UnionPay, here are some options to consider.

  •       UOB UnionPay Platinum Card

If you are someone who likes fuss-free rewards, this card could very well be your type. Enjoy 2% cash rebate on all local and overseas spend and better yet, movie buffs, you’ll be thrilled to know that there’s 1-for-1 movie tickets at all Shaw Theatres daily (yes, including weekends and public holidays). Bonus: There is a waiver of annual fee for the first three years. Further details here.

  •       ICBC UnionPay Dual Currency Credit Card

Do you fly between Singapore and China regularly? To make that all that jetsetting seamless for you, this card could be the solution since it’s only the most accepted credit card in China. You will also accumulate greater savings as there are no charges for all transactions made in Chinese Yuan (CNY) with this card. Offering low cash-advance rates in addition, this could be helpful in times of emergency where cash is king. There is also an annual-fee waiver for the first three years. More details here.

  •       DBS UnionPay Platinum Debit Card

Earn up to 5% cashback in CNY. Plus, cardholders can withdraw money directly from local DBS accounts at ATMs in China –– without incurring the charges on overseas withdrawals. Does that matter? Well, each charge could cost you a bowl of delicious la mian — and perhaps more — in China. You do the math. The best part about this card is that since this is a debit card, there is no income requirement on application  More details here.

Interested to see how UnionPay cards compare to the other credit cards? Head over to SingSaver for a credit card comparison based on your preferences.


Alexa FangBy Alexa Fang

Alexa is a pop-culture vulture. She lives to read, write and travel, and decided long ago that life is stranger than fiction. When she's having croissant, she thinks in French. "31 Rue Cambon" is her favourite address, and she believes that money one enjoyed spending is never money wasted.



Alexa is a pop-culture vulture. She lives to read, write and travel, and decided long ago that life is stranger than fiction. When she’s having croissant, she thinks in French. “31 Rue Cambon” is her favourite address, and she believes that money one enjoyed spending is never money wasted.


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