Uber’s recent focus on China continued today as the company revealed it’s making life easier for Chinese people going overseas.
Uber is doing this by allowing its Chinese customers to pay for rides using Alipay, China’s top epayment service, wherever they are in the world. Previously, a Chinese tourist would have to pay with a credit card that permitted foreign currencies.
Alipay – a partially owned subsidiary of Alibaba – first joined forces with Uber in 2014, shortly after the US startup launched in the country. However, payment was previously restricted to rides within mainland China.
The Uber-Alipay global rollout starts with Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan ahead of Chinese New Year, which begins February 8. It will be extended to other countries at a later date.
The move comes after Uber made its two biggest expansions in China. The car-hailing service will soon cover 55 Chinese cities as it ramps up the battle against homegrown Didi Kuaidi.
Uber’s global push with Alipay allows the service to steal a march on its arch-rivals Didi, Grab, Ola, and Lyft who recently formed a global alliance. The mega partnership makes their apps interchangeable for global travellers, so a Chinese businessperson in India could use Ola through the Didi app, or a Chinese holidaymaker in Thailand can similarly use Grab via the Didi app.
However, the so-called anti-Uber alliance hasn’t yet come up with a solution for epayments when someone is in a foreign country. That’s a huge barrier to usage.
A Didi representative told Tech in Asia this afternoon that it and Lyft “will start rolling out their cross-border products from Q1 and throughout this year.” That will allow a Chinese person to use their familiar payment methods, such as WeChat Wallet, even when they’re in the US. “More cross-border products with Didi’s other partners will follow, and eventually get linked up to cover more geographies and population,” added the rep.