Spoiled for choice for e-payments in Hong Kong

The Octopus card is widely used to make payments at convenience stores, bakeries and cafes in Hong Kong.
The Octopus card is widely used to make payments at convenience stores, bakeries and cafes in Hong Kong.ST PHOTO: JOYCE LIM

HONG KONG - Hong Kongers are spoiled for choice when it comes to cashless payments.

Whether it is paying for groceries, a cup of coffee or a meal in a restaurant, most places provide payment options using the Octopus card, mobile e-wallets and credit cards.

The city was one of the first in the world to implement a cashless payment system when it launched the Octopus card in 1997. The card has since grown into a widely used payment mode for all public transport and purchases in shops, from convenience stores, supermarkets, to parking meters, car parks and other point-of-sale applications such as service stations and vending machines.

There are now 32 million of the cards in circulation - nearly four and a half times the population of Hong Kong, reported South China Morning Post.

China Daily Asia reported last September (2016) that Octopus had daily spending of HK$173 million (S$31.3 million).

To stay ahead in the race to a cashless society, last year the Hong Kong government approved stored-value licences for 13 e-wallet providers, including PayPal, Optal, UniCard, Alipay Wallet, Tap&Go by PCCW's HKT, Tencent's WeChat Pay and TNG Wallet.

In response, last November (2016) Octopus launched O! ePay, a smartphone app carrying out peer-to-peer payments and topping up Octopus cards.

Following the launch of Apple Pay last July, Android Pay introduced its touchless payment system at more than 5,000 locations in the city, after Singapore and Australia.

Hong Kongers can use the system with Visa or MasterCard cards issued by least six banks in Hong Kong, and there is no limit on the number of cards users can add.

A report by research firm Statista estimated the total value of digital transactions in Hong Kong will reach US$13.85 billion (S$19.45 billion) this year(2017) and with an annual growth rate of 16 per cent, it is expected to hit US$25.1 billion (S$35.2 billion) in 2021.

Last year(2016), the value of total retail sales was HK$436.6 billion (S$78.9 billion).

The report defined digital payments to include payments for goods and services made over the internet, mobile payments for point-of-sale made over smartphone applications and cross-border peer-to-peer transfers between private users.

The Hong Kong Monetary Authority does not have statistics on transactions using cashless payment other than credit cards.