The New York-based payments company has successfully applied to start clearing payments made in China using its iconic branded cards, Bloomberg reports, making it the first foreign firm to gain access to the country’s enormous consumer market.
AmEx will perform the service as part of a joint venture set up with LianLian, a Chinese fintech company, according to China’s central bank, who approved AmEx’s application.
International card operators have previously been able to issue credit cards in conjunction with mainland Chinese banks, but a lack of direct access to China’s card-clearing market has been a persistent frustration for overseas firms. Instead, foreign operators must work through state-backed UnionPay’s clearing system, a practice ruled in 2012 by the WTO as violating its rules.
Despite steady growth in China’s payment-clearing market, AmEx will face steep competition against mobile platforms WeChat Pay and AliPay, which currently process the majority of Chinese consumer’s transactions.