Photo of Philip Chronican Chief Executive Officer, Australia giving a keynote speech at the AMCHAM lunch in Melbourne  on Wednesday April 4, 2012. AFR  / LUIS ENRIQUE ASCUI

Phil Chronican: UnionPay deal a boost for customers. Photo: Luis Enrique Ascui

ANZ has signed a tentative agreement with China UnionPay, one of the world's largest payments system operators, allowing its customers to tap into UnionPay's extensive networks in the Asia-Pacific region.

The Asia-focused bank is playing catch-up against its big four rivals in allowing UnionPay cardholders - nearly all of China's bank customers and a key source of tourism revenue - to access its ATM and merchant network in Australia.

NAB and Commonwealth banks both have agreements with UnionPay - the third-largest bankcard issuer in the world after Visa and MasterCard - allowing Chinese cardholders to spend cash with merchants of their networks.

As reported by BusinessDay last year, key entertainment and shopping destinations including Crown Casino, The Star in Sydney and Phillip Island have switched their transactional banking services to NAB to gain access to UnionPay cardholders.

ANZ chief executive, Australia, Philip Chronican said the partnership with UnionPay would ''make it easier for our customers to make payments as they travel and conduct business through the region''.

Chinese tourists are visiting Australia in record numbers and it is the most important growth market. They are also some of the biggest spenders.

Victoria's China Tourism Strategy has identified the accessibility of financial transaction facilities for Chinese visitors as one of its key objectives.

Banks apparently need to invest considerable resources to upgrade systems to accept UnionPay cards.