Uber is making play in the Asia Pacific that could drive it miles ahead of its largest rivals in the region.
The ride-hailing company on Monday announced an expansion of its partnership with mobile payments company Alipay, which will allow Chinese customers to pay for Uber rides outside of China using their existing Alipay accounts.
Before the expansion, Uber users from China who were travelling abroad had to link a dual-currency credit card to the Uber app and pay for their rides in US dollars.
“Chinese travellers know and love how easy it is to request and pay for Uber rides at home; now we’re excited to bring this experience to them wherever they are in the world, right from the Alipay app, said Eric Alexander, Uber’s head of business in the Asia Pacific.
The move effectively creates a seamless app experience for Chinese customers who would otherwise have to deal in the local currency where they’re travelling, and be charged in US dollars when using the Uber app. Eric Jing, president of Ant Financial — the company that operates Alipay — explained why its expanded partnership with Uber is so important. “You don’t have to worry about whether you have enough local cash to pay for your rides. All you need is to open your Uber app, find a ride and pay with Alipay in renminbi,” China’s official currency.
Uber users in China have been able to use Alipay to cover their Uber rides on the mainland since 2014. Users in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau have had access to it since the beginning of 2016. The expanded integration with Alipay allows those same users to pay in Chinese currency in the more than 400 cities in which Uber operates around the world.
Uber has been fighting for market share in China, where another ride-hailing service, Didi Chuxing (formerly Didi Kuaidi) has been focused on raising funds that could push its valuation as much as $25 billion, The Wall Street Journal reported last month. The China-based ride-hailing company was worth $6 billion just last year.
Uber in February said it was losing $1 billion per year in China.
Along with the Uber/Alipay expansion comes an agreement to feature Uber more prominently on the Alipay app. Alipay users can now find an Uber button within the Alipay app that makes even easier to request rides, and gives Uber another edge in its quest for world domination.