China UnionPay will issue debit and credit cards in Europe from this month as its eyes global expansion to compete with Mastercard and Visa.

The state-controlled Chinese firm teamed up with Tribe Payments, a UK-based back-office technology start-up.

This partnership also allows banks to offer branded cards to customers.

China UnionPay has issued more than six billion cards in China.

Tribe founder Suresh Vaghjiani was quoted by Financial Times as saying: “This agreement shows UnionPay’s intent to compete with the major card schemes in Europe.

“This is the first time European institutions will be able to put UnionPay cards into the hands of people on the street.”

So far Tribe has two undisclosed clients that have expressed interest in UnionPay’s services. One is for a virtual card in Europe and the other for a debit card in the UK.

Vaghjiani added: “European corporate clients that do business in China will now be able to use UnionPay cards there, while Chinese businesses in Europe will have a consistent payment method at home and abroad.”

Set up in 2002, UnionPay rules the bank card payments landscape in China.

It has reportedly issued more cards than Visa and Mastercard put together in China.

In the recent years, the Chinese firm has been expanding in overseas markets, primarily in Asia.

Over 41 million merchants and two million ATMs spread out in 170 countries accept its cards.

UnionPay in Europe head Zhihong Wei was quoted by the financial publication as saying: “We have the largest cardholder base in the world, working with issuers through Tribe is important to our growth.”