UnionPay Targets American Travelers with Gift Card

Building on a partnership that began three years ago, UnionPay announced that U.S. travelers headed to China have a new payment option—UnionPay Gift Cards. The cards, which will be available through banks and credit unions, are issued by The Bancorp Bank and FIS is the processor. Both companies helped UnionPay launch its first U.S. product, a prepaid travel card, in 2013.

UnionPay Gift Cards are accepted at about 34 million merchants worldwide, including all Chinese merchants that accept payment cards, according to the Shanghai-based payments network. Though travel cards typically are reloadable, the UnionPay Gift Card is a single-load card that can be loaded with up to $1,000. Upon return from China, cardholders can use remaining funds on the card at “millions” of U.S. merchants, according to UnionPay.

The new UnionPay Gift Card is “another step forward in establishing the UnionPay brand in North America,” noted Miriam Park, general manager of UnionPay International America. More than 3 million Americans are expected to visit China this year, with that total doubling by 2020, UnionPay said, citing Statista data.

In related news, China UnionPay, which operates China’s national interbank clearing and settlement system, recently signed with Visa a Memorandum of Understanding to collaborate on payments security, innovation and financial inclusion.

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Wirecard Makes Scandinavia Play with Paygoo Pact

Wirecard’s flurry of activity continues as the German payment services and technology firm joins with Norway-based program manager Paygoo to launch a reloadable prepaid MasterCard, to be distributed through one of Europe’s largest convenience store chains, Reitan Convenience. Issued by Wirecard Card Solutions—Wirecard’s issuance arm—the new card builds upon Paygoo’s existing MasterCard gift card program, which was launched earlier this year through Reitan’s convenience store network, including 7-Eleven, Shell and Narvesan stores in Norway and Sweden. The new prepaid card is available now in Norway, with a Swedish rollout expected soon, according to the announcement.

Wirecard said a key target audience for the card will be foreign workers, which represent a high-opportunity market segment in Scandinavian countries, where populations tend to be highly banked. Meanwhile, the European Union’s Revised Payment Services Directive (PSD2), which was approved late last year, is expected to level the playing field in the European payments industry by opening more opportunities for smaller, third-party payments and financial services providers to compete with established banks for market share.

The Paygoo deal is the latest for Wirecard, which earlier this month announced as issuance agreement with Curve, a London-based startup that produces a smart card that serves as a conduit for multiple payment and loyalty cards. The company also recently launched mycard2go, a Visa-branded prepaid card available throughout Germany, and made a pair of acquisitions to grow its international footprint, snapping up Romanian processor Provus Group and Brazil-based payments services provider Moip Pagamentos S.A. earlier this year.

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PayPal Will Shut Down in Turkey After Regulators Reject New License

PayPal will shut down its business in Turkey on June 6 after regulators there denied the online payment processing service a new license.

PayPal told consumers about the development in a Turkish-language notice on the Web and a spokesperson confirmed the details to Paybefore. The closing stems from Turkish rules issued by national financial regulator BDDK that require IT infrastructure to be based in Turkey. PayPal operates its IT via global servers and other distributed technology, but does not operate an information center in Turkey and doesn’t wish to concentrate its technology in any one country, the company says.

PayPal customers in Turkey will continue to have access to their accounts to transfer money to Turkish financial institutions. The closing reportedly impacts thousands of businesses and hundreds of thousands of consumers, though no fixed numbers were immediately available.

As PayPal prepares to leave Turkey because of local regulations, executives from the company eye geographic and product expansion. At Money20/20 Europe earlier this year, PayPal Europe CEO Rupert Keeley said the company has “a vision to provide a much broader range of payments,” including direct deposit, credit, checks, P2P, bill pay, in-store payments and international remittances.

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Report: Asian Banking Hacks Linked to North Korean Software Code

Software code used in recent attacks on banks—including a high-profile Bangladesh attack that resulted in the theft of approximately $81 million—comes from the North Korean government, according to security experts quoted in the New York Times. Researchers from digital security vendor Symantec told the newspaper that “a rare piece of code” used in three bank hacking attacks were also employed in the December 2014 hacking incident involving Sony Pictures and 2013 attacks on South Korean financial institutions and media firms. Authorities in the U.S. and South Korea have said that code originated in North Korea.

Among the Asian bank attacks were one in October targeting a financial institution in the Philippines, one in December against a bank in Vietnam, and one in February against the central bank of Bangladesh. That Bangladesh bank hacking resulted in a theft of approximately $81 million.

SWIFT CEO Gottfried Leibbrandt announced a five-part customer security program that could better defend against bank hackings and theft. In announcing the plans, which covers such areas as information sharing and “payment pattern controls” to identify suspicious behavior, he used the Bangladesh hack as a backdrop.

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The Buzz: Kozlowski Takes Helm of The Bancorp; Green Dot Makes Repairs, Apologizes; More

hottopics_shutterstockSee what’s hot on Paybefore.com from last week, including The Bancorp’s new leadership, the latest on Green Dot, the future of prepaid and more:

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