Airwallex CEO Jack Zhang says the Australian "unicorn" sees itself as a global bank for SMEs. Image by (AAP Image/SUPPLIED)

Financial Services

Airwallex partners with Visa on cards

2020-02-06 07:05:05

Melbourne-based cross-border payments provider Airwallex has launched a partnership with Visa that will let customers generate multi-currency virtual payment cards instantly.

The single or multi-use Airwallex Borderless Cards could be used by Airwallex’s small and midsized business customers to pay suppliers in seconds while taking advantage of Airwallex’s leading foreign exchange rates, the company says.

“It’s actually fairly difficult for a business to get a card from the banks,” Airwallex chief executive and co-founder Jack Zhang told AAP.

It can take weeks and the limit is very low, he said.

Airwallex will be the principal issuer for these cards, and is getting its own Issuer Identification Number, the six-digit number at the start of a credit card that identifies the financial institution.

The cards will let Airwallex users spend money held in their Airwallex account – funds they have deposited from a bank account or received as a payment from a customer.

Within a few months Airwallex users will have the ability to set spending limits and access reporting and reconciliation features, Airwallex said.

By the end of the March quarter, Airwallex customers should be able to generate their own physical corporate cards that employees could use to pay expenses such as flights, hotels and meals when travelling overseas.

“Airwallex customers will be able to generate individual corporate cards instantly, bypassing traditional processes that require extensive paperwork, hefty annual fees and bank queues,” the company said.

The cards will be available in digital form later in the year, the company said.

Visa regional president Chris Clark said that cross-border business-to-business payments “remain a cumbersome and costly affair, which can impact small businesses and corporates who are time-starved and need to keep a close eye on their cashflow,” which this partnership should help solve.

One of a handful of Australian “unicorn” startup tech companies that have a valuation of over $US1 billion, Airwallex is one of Australia’s most successful fintechs.

It has opened international offices across Hong Kong, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Beijing, Singapore, London, San Francisco, Tokyo and Bangalore since being founded in Melbourne in 2015.

An integration with Xero, the ASX-listed cloud accounting firm, is set to go live at the end of February, with Airwallex transactions automatically transferred into Xero’s platform.

“More and more we see ourselves as a global SME (small and medium enterprise) challenger bank,” Mr Zhang said.

For the moment, though, Airwallex has no plans to apply for a banking licence, Mr Zhang said.