On July 6, under the witness of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Bulgarian Prime Minister Borisov, UnionPay International and the Bulgarian National Card Scheme signed a Memorandum of Understanding Agreement (MOU) in the Bulgarian capital Sofia, aimed to initiate a project for enabling POS and ATM terminals in Bulgaria to accept UnionPay chip card and support UnionPay contactless payment service as well. The two parties also consider potential cooperation for issuance UnionPay-Bcard co-badge cards to support members of Bcard Scheme to achieve wider international acceptance. This cooperation is reached in the context of the increasingly deepening collaboration between China and Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries, and is listed in the results of the China-Bulgaria bilateral agreement.
Since the establishment of the China-CEE Cooperation Mechanism (“16+1 Cooperation”) in 2012, cooperation between China and CEE countries in different fields including investment, trade and tourism has witnessed rapid growth. In line with this trend, UnionPay International has cooperated with major institutions in the region to expedite its business expansion. So far, UnionPay is present in 12 of the 16 CEE countries. In Bulgaria, one of the leading countries in the “16+1 Cooperation”, UnionPay cards are accepted at some of the local merchant POS terminals, covering shopping malls and specialty stores frequented by tourists.
Bcard National Card Scheme of Borica AD operates since 2016 and functioning separated and independent from the Card Payment Processor. All Payment Service Providers in Bulgaria are Members of the Scheme. Brand Bcard as a Bulgarian national payment card is accepted at all possible locations (ATM/POS) on the territory of Bulgaria. The main mission of the Scheme is migration of cash and paper to digital channels through development of new electronic services in the public and private sectors in Bulgaria. Positioning the wide range of Scheme products through new local business and price models is expected to have a positive impact on the economy of the state and to change radically the payment methods in Bulgaria. The business line of the Scheme follows the following main directions: First, creating equal conditions and unified product and technological rules for interoperability in the country. Second, creating new products and services to provide cheap, adequate and convenient solutions to meet the needs of different sectors of the economy and business. Third, cooperating with other national/international schemes for technology transfer and expanding the acceptance of the brand outside the country.
With the establishment of this cooperation, the two parties’ efforts are focused on significant breakthroughs in three aspects: First, UnionPay to achieve comprehensive acceptance in Bulgaria in a feasible period of time. UnionPay cardholders visiting Bulgaria will be able to pay and withdraw cash using UnionPay cards, and when possible in future to activate UnionPay mobile QuickPass service via the “UnionPay” mobile app to make tap-and-go payments. Second, the two parties may jointly issue UnionPay-Bcard co-badge cards locally, expanding the use of Bcard cards from Bulgaria to 169 countries and regions covered by the UnionPay acceptance network. Third, the two parties may further cooperate in promoting innovative payments including online payment, QR code payment and e-wallet products.
UnionPay International management introduced that the company attaches great importance to the CEE region. On the one hand, UnionPay is working on accelerating its acceptance and issuance business development to support economic and trade exchanges and mutual visits between China and CEE countries. On the other hand, taking advantage of its network, products and technology, UnionPay actively participates in the infrastructure construction of payment industry in the region, to promote technical standards cooperation and realize the interconnection and upgrading of payment networks. The cooperation is of great significance: First, UnionPay cards will be comprehensively accepted in Bulgaria, which will guarantee smooth payments between the two countries; Secondly, the issuance of the UnionPay-Bcard co-branded cards will expand the acceptance scope of cards that previously can only be used domestically in Bulgaria to overseas countries, significantly improving the convenience of local residents' daily consumption and international travel; Thirdly, UnionPay will promote innovative payment cooperation under UnionPay standard and contribute the level of electronic payment in Bulgaria.
In recent years, UnionPay has made positive progress in Central and Eastern Europe: In Hungary, UnionPay is accepted at more than half of the local merchants and ATMs. In the Czech Republic, UnionPay is accepted at 50% of ATMs and tens of thousands of merchants. In Serbia, the local bankcard switch network DinaCard plans to adopt the UnionPay standards to upgrade its system; and the UnionPay chip card standard has become the unified technical standard for DinaCard acceptance and issuance business.