Unified Payments Interface (UPI), which is India’s most used digital payments method, cornering over 60 percent of the market, has been making headway in other countries in recent months. If the international adoption goes as well as the National Payment Corporation of India (NPCI), the company that runs UPI, expects, Indians should in the near future be able to scan QR codes and pay using their PhonePe or Google Pay app while travelling in Europe or receive money from bank accounts in Singapore by sharing their UPI ID.
Note: This article was last updated on November 13, 2023, with updates to the UPI integration in Sri Lanka.
As of now, banks and payment companies in the following countries and regions have partnered with NPCI International Payments Ltd (NIPL), the international arm of NPCI, to accept UPI and RuPay in one form or the other:
- Europe (Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, and France to start with)
- Hong Kong
- South Korea
- Sri Lanka
Keep in mind that these countries are in various stages of integration and it might be a while before Indian travellers can actually pay using UPI or RuPay.
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Who are the partners in these countries and what payment options will be accepted?
Europe: On October 11, 2022, NIPL announced it has partnered with France-based Worldline to expand the acceptance of UPI and RuPay by merchants in Europe. “Currently, customers from India pay through international card networks. However, the hugely popular United Payments Interface allows multiple bank accounts to be accessed through one single mobile application. […] India is one of the most important tourist markets for Europe with an estimated 10 million Indians travelling to the region each year prior to the pandemic, according to Schengen Visa. Now, as the impacts of COVID-19 begin to subside, that number is expected to significantly increase,” NIPL stated.
This will be facilitated by Wordline QR, which is the company’s product for the acceptance of all QR-based payments. The first regions to start accepting Indian payment methods will be BENELUX (Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg) and Switzerland, the press release stated.
Oman: On October 4, 2022, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between NIPL and the Central Bank of Oman (CBO) to enable the acceptance of Indian RuPay cards at all OmanNet network ATMs, POS, and e-commerce sites as well as real-time cross border remittances between India and Oman using UPI rails.
UK: NIPL in August 2022 partnered with payments solutions provider PayXpert to facilitate the acceptance of UPI and RuPay in the UK. The collaboration will make the Indian payment solutions available in the UK on all PayXpert’s Android point-of-sale (POS) devices for in-store payments.
“Every year over half a million Indians travel to the UK including over one hundred thousand students. Over the next few years, this number is expected to grow exponentially. This partnership will provide Indian travellers with a familiar and convenient way to make payments in the UK. The UPI and RuPay payment options are set to benefit both consumers and retailers across the UK while providing a welcome boost to commerce across the retail, hospitality, and tourism sectors,” NPCI explained in its press release.
UAE: In April 2022, UPI went live in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on NEOPAY terminals. “With the acceptance of BHIM UPI in the UAE, Indian tourists can now make seamless payments through BHIM UPI across NEOPAY-enabled shops and merchant stores,” NIPL noted. Additionally, in August 2021, NIPL announced a partnership with LuLu Financial Holdings to offer real-time remittances to India from the UAE.
“The UAE is consistently one of the top source markets for Indian travellers and our collaboration with NIPL will enable thousands of Indian tourists who visit the UAE every year to enjoy safe and seamless transactions.” — Vibhor Mundhada, CEO, NEOPAY
On July 15, 2023, the Reserve Bank of India and the Central Bank of UAE (CBUAE) signed a MoU:
- Linking UPI with Instant Payment Platform (IPP), which is UAE’s Fast Payment Systems (FPS)
- Linking the respective Card Switches (RuPay switch and UAESWITCH)
- Exploring the linking of payments messaging systems i.e., Structured Financial Messaging System (SFMS) of India with the messaging system in the UAE
4. The UPI-IPP linkage will enable the users in either country to make fast, convenient, safe, and cost-effective cross-border funds transfers. The linking of Card Switches will facilitate mutual acceptance of domestic cards and processing of card transactions. The linkage of messaging systems is aimed to facilitate bilateral financial messaging between the two countries.
Singapore: In September 2021, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) announced that it is partnering with the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to link the two country’s respective fast payment systems: Unified Payments Interface (UPI) and PayNow. “The UPI-PayNow linkage will enable users of each of the two fast payment systems to make instant, low-cost fund transfers on a reciprocal basis without a need to get onboarded onto the other payment system,” RBI noted. This integration was targeted for launch in July 2022, but it still hasn’t gone live.
“When implemented, fund transfers can be made from India to Singapore using mobile phone numbers, and from Singapore to India using UPI virtual payment addresses (VPA). The experience of making a PayNow transfer to a UPI VPA will be similar to that of a domestic transfer to a PayNow VPA,” MAS explained in its press release.
As for which currency the settlement will take place in, Reserve Bank of India Deputy Governor T Rabi Sankar explained to the Business Line that it might be “euro or dollar or these two countries decide that we need each other’s currency in any case and maintain that.”
“If, for example, there is a lot of demand for Indian currency in Singapore and vice-versa, there may not be any need to convert into a third currency and settle these transactions,” Shankar explained. “But, in all likelihood, it will go through a convertible currency at least in the initial stages for eventual settlement.”
North and South-East Asia: In September 2021, NIPL announced a partnership with Liquid Group, a cross-border digital payments provider, to enable UPI QR-based payments acceptance in 10 countries across North Asia and Southeast Asia. Liquid Group integrates an extensive network of merchant acquiring partners in the 10 markets of Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan.
“The collaboration between NIPL and Liquid Group will enable BHIM App users to make UPI QR- based payments at over 2 million merchants progressively across North Asia and Southeast Asia from early 2022,” the press release stated.
Malaysia: In August 2021, NIPL joined hands with Merchantrade Asia to enable Merchantrade and its Network to facilitate remittance to beneficiary banks in India via UPI IDs. “Today’s inward remittances are processed via payment modes such as NEFT/IMPS/RTGS. This partnership will help International partners to push funds to beneficiaries on-boarded on UPI apps which means anyone from the Merchantrade network is able to do real-time remittances to India. The solution will assist with Beneficiary name matching and facilitate all the requisite compliance checks in a safe, secure, and convenient manner,” the press release stated.
France: In June 2022, NIPL signed an MoU with France’s Lyra Network to enable Indians to make payments via UPI and Rupay cards at Lyra terminals and machines.
The Indian government in July 2023 announced that the payment mechanism with Lyra is in its last phase of production and will go live by September, 2023 with the Eiffel Tower in Paris as the first merchant in France to accept UPI.
Bhutan: In July 2021, NIPL announced the adoption of UPI QR code-based payments in Bhutan in collaboration with the Royal Monetary Authority of Bhutan. “RMA will ensure that the participating NPCI mobile application through UPI QR transactions is accepted at all RMA-acquired merchants in Bhutan. The launch will benefit more than 200,000 tourists from India who travel to Bhutan each year,” the press release stated.
Nepal: In February 2022, NIPL partnered with Gateway Payment Services and Manam Infotech to enable UPI in Nepal. While the above examples have all been for accepting UPI in foreign countries, in Nepal these partners will implement UPI for domestic usage in addition to enabling cross-border transfers and allowing Indians to pay for goods and services.
Worldwide cross-border and QR-based payments with TerraPay: In January 2022, NIPL partnered with TerraPay to “allow Indians with an active UPI ID to receive real-time, international payments into their bank accounts” via TerraPay’s payments technology.
“India is the largest recipient of cross-border remittances, receiving over US$ 80 Billion per annum. This partnership with TerraPay is aimed at enabling seamless and convenient cross-border remittances experience powered by UPI platform’s best in class real-time capabilities.” — Ritesh Shukla, CEO, NIPL
Later in September 2022, NIPL announced another partnership with TerraPay that will allow merchants in India with an active Unified Payments Interface ID (UPI ID) to make and accept cross-border payments and Indian customers to pay at QR locations enabled by TerraPay, globally.
Sri Lanka: On November 10, teams from Sri Lanka’s LankaPay and India’s NIPL demonstrated successfully how a UPI-enabled payment app PhonePe could scan a LankaQR code and make a payment, LankaPay CEO Channa de Silva shared on LinkedIn. This integration will allow Indians travelling to Sri Lanka to pay using UPI at 450K+ locations that support LankaQR.
Update (July 17, 2023, 10:35 am): Added updates to France and UAE
Update (July 24, 2023, 10:40 am): Added updates to Sri Lanka
Update (November 13, 2023, 11:10 am): Added updates to Sri Lanka
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