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How your foreign customers pay on vacation

How your foreign customers pay on vacation

Updated: 12 April 2023 • Reading time: 5 minutes
foreign customers pay on vacation

When we think about the most common digital payment methods, almost certainly credit cards, PayPal and perhaps other payment solutions like Revolut and Klarna come to mind.

These are the most used payment methods in the UK, but if we expand our view beyond to the rest of the world, we cannot say that is always the same for all countries. Especially in recent years, when new alternative payment solutions, that are often designed for the omnichannel customer, have been proliferating.

Today, there are hundreds of alternative payment systems, the penetration of which can vary significantly, from an individual region to the entire world. The capacity to receive payments with these methods is becoming increasingly strategic for the businesses.

Especially in the world of tourism, restaurants and luxury fashion, foreign customers are increasingly seeking to pay with alternative instruments, and in some cases being able to meet this demand means taking advantage of an opportunity, perhaps by doing so before competitors.

Let’s look at the most common payment systems in the main countries of origin of foreign tourists.


Most foreign tourism comes from Europe. European citizens have quite similar purchasing habits: they most commonly use credit and debit cards, prepaid cards and PayPal. However, new platforms are also gaining a foothold and, although they were founded primarily for online purchases, tourists are increasingly requesting to use them in stores as well. MyBank, Sofort by Klarna and iDeal, for example, make it possible to pay by bank transfer with all of the benefits typical of an online payment, facilitating the tracking of orders and reconciliation.


Many of the most used payment systems worldwide were founded in the United States, such as credit cards, which first appeared in 1950 and in the beginning could be used for payments only in a limited group of restaurants and hotels. Today, the offer of US payment methods is highly fragmented, but the most common ones are: credit cards like Visa, Mastercard, Discover and American Express; PayPal, Cash App, Venmo (PayPal’s digital wallet) and Zelle, to name just a few. Many of them require the payer and the payee to be the US residents, therefore, they are instruments that foreign merchants cannot currently integrate. On the other hand, PayPal is available everywhere and thanks to software solutions that are easy to integrate, today it is also possible to offer it for in-store payments.

”77% of online sales are already made using a local or alternative payment method".¹

- PPRO Financial


Russians are still very attached to cash especially in the light of recent events, although, at the same time they also gravitate towards technological innovations. With a smartphone penetration of 82%, higher than anywhere in the Eastern Europe, and with more than 88% of the population regularly accessing the internet, digital payments have found there fertile ground for expansion. Aside from using cash and credit cards, especially in the bigger cities, in Russia it is common to pay with, an instant payment system, QIWI Wallet and YooMoney, born in 2002 from a joint venture by the most widely used search engine Yandex in Russia and Sberbank, one of the largest banks in the Eastern Europe.


The digital revolution has triggered a significant acceleration in the payments realm in China as well. UnionPay credit cards are the most traditional payment system; they work alongside digital wallets, which have the same origin: the evolution of platforms meant for purposes beyond payments.

There are Alipay, a spin-off of the Ecommerce giant Alibaba, WeChat, initially simply the Chinese alter ego of WhatsApp, and Baidu Wallet, the digital wallet of the most used search engine in China.

The integration of Alipay and WeChat, certainly the two most widespread methods along with UnionPay cards, and can now provide an advantage to the UK merchants as well, especially in major cities and tourist areas. In reality, the use of these platforms is growing considerably in cities with larger Chinese communities, like London, Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle upon Tyne and Birmingham, where second generation immigrants are even more eager to use these methods to exchange money and make payments.


Japan, the third largest economy in the world, is one of the countries with the lowest cash use, which reached just 50% in POS payments in 2022.² The Japanese culture has two apparently contradictory characteristics, which in reality live together harmoniously: one represents a strong link with tradition and the other a propensity towards innovation, especially technological. The most common alternative payments amongst the Japanese also fit into this context. Consider for example Kombini, which takes its name from the typical Japanese mini-markets where people need to go to finalise a payment that actually originated online. Naturally there are also credit cards; aside from those from the most recognised payment schemes, there are also cards issued by JCB, Docomo, Pay Easy and Line Pay, which are fundamentally all digital wallets.

Completing the worldwide scenario, there are of course other platforms that are making significant investments to become leaders in a sector, that of online and in-store payments, which is becoming increasingly complex and fragmented. Apple Pay, Google Pay and Amazon Pay lead a long list of alternative payments which, with the strength of their customer base, are revolutionising an ecosystem which until just a few years ago was the exclusive prerogative of banks.

In conclusion, although it is increasingly more complicated to sort out the payment ecosystem, knowing how to choose the methods most suited to the needs of foreign customers can become a significant differentiating element in competitive advantage, loyalty boost and sales increase.


Report of PPRO Financial Ltd


2022 Global Payments Report, FIS 2022

TagDigital paymentsPayment methods
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