Shoppers in Hong Kong can store up to HK$3,000 (US$385) on their contactless Octopus cards from December, a threefold rise from the existing limit, as competition heats up on electronic payment in the city.
The operator of the electronic payment system, Octopus Cards, had floated the plan three years ago when it renewed its licence on stored value facilities. It said on Friday the move aimed to cater to customers’ changing needs.
“From a fast electronic way to pay fares on public transport, the Octopus payment system has expanded to encompass the retail sector covering all walks of life including entertainment, bill payment, charity, online and offline,” CEO Sunny Cheung Yiu-tong said.
Under the scheme, customers can also make payments of up to HK$3,000 at designated Octopus merchants, including Sogo, ParknShop and Wellcome Supermarket.
Cheung had said in 2016 that the legal limit could be boosted to HK$3,000 per card when the company was set to renew its licence that year.
At the time, the card issuer, launched in 1997, had not decided when to take advantage of the new cap as it needed to iron out technical problems and consider consumer protection issues.
But as the e-wallet trend took off in Hong Kong, WeChat Pay under Tencent Holdings and Alipay, operated by Ant Financial Services Group, from mainland China gradually gained prominence in the city and spiced up competition with the 22-year-old local payment system.
Ant Financial is an associate of Alibaba Group Holding, which owns the Post.
Francis Fong Po-kiu, honorary chairman of the Hong Kong Information Technology Federation, believed Octopus had its own concerns when planning implementation of the new limit, saying the cards were initially for small payments only.
He said the change was to contend with the competition from the launch of other e-payment systems, while the upgrade could bring advantages for the company in retail business.
“It’s easy to spend more than HK$1,000 these days when using Octopus cards. It will benefit their businesses,” he said.
It’s easy to spend more than HK$1,000 these days when using Octopus cards
Francis Fong, Hong Kong Information Technology Federation honorary chairman
From Sunday, the stored value limit of all newly issued Octopus products would be set at HK$3,000. Those who own a Smart Octopus, a digital card stored in a designated mobile device, issued before October, could upgrade the limit via its mobile application or its service points.
Others who have an Octopus product issued before December 1 could do the same.
More than 36 million Octopus cards and products are now in circulation and the payment system handles 15 million transactions a day, with an aggregate value of HK$220 million.
The card can be used at 30,000 retail outlets, covering public transport, parking, retail, self-help services, schools and leisure facilities, and for access to residential and commercial buildings.