Hong Kong Payment Wallets Deserve Our Attention

By on October 5, 2017

Hong Kong is a remarkable plastic economy. No, I am not referring to the plastic bags that cost 50 cents when we go grocery shopping. I am referring to the plastic we carry around the entire day. Sitting in our wallets and flashed at the stores we frequent. In fact, HK has remarkable statistics on credit cards ownership and spending.

Hong Kong averages close to 3 credit cards per citizen

Collective spending on credit cards in Hong Kong was HK$ 600 mil in 2016 alone!

Yet, for all its benefits (read miles, supermarket vouchers, cash back etc.), credit cards do not solve a basic need – peer to peer exchange. It is not surprising then, that payment wallets have become a rage all over the world, from Nigeria to China – from Australia to Brazil. While the world is breaking new grounds, our own beloved city has not really been at the forefront of this trend and is slowly innovating in this field.

Hong Kong Payment Wallets

Nonetheless, the past months have opened my eyes to few options that come close to solving issues around peer to peer money exchange. We have all been in situations where we are out for a meal with a big group, one person uses their credit card (yes, usually me), another takes out a calculator to count the per head cost and then frantic exchange of money follows, or is promised in the future – sometimes being completely forgotten. Well, my friends and I have found a solution – after 7 years of struggle, that is.

HK’s Payment Apps

And the answer to this problem lay in our pocket as well – the other one that is. The App stores (both Google and Apple) now come with different payment apps that resolve peer-to-peer exchange issues. As someone obsessed about tracking money since childhood, this has been an amazing discovery.

 

I have tried 3 of these apps – HSBC PayMe, Citi JetCo and JetCo Collect. There are some minor differences to note before you venture. JetCo Collect and Citi JetCo apps are mutually exclusive, i.e., you can only have 1 of them ‘active’ at the same time (implying only one can collect money at one time). Also, I believe JetCo Collect can only be used to collect money right now, instead of paying others, but I am sure that will change in the future.

Personally, HSBC PayMe works best for me – allowing me to link up of a non-HSBC credit card, pay even non-HSBC A/C holders, and transfer money from my PayMe wallet to my HSBC A/C. However, CitiJetco is a great app for JetCo users as well. Bear in mind that this list is not conclusive, and probably there will be better apps in the market in due course, but I am encouraged by the progress I have seen.  

Benefits over bank transfers

I have found my experience to be remarkably smooth, safe and importantly, error free. After inputting one’s information details, bank A/C or credit card to the app, all one needs is their friend’s phone number to send a transfer. Every transfer has a 7 day deadline, post which, the money automatically returns to the senders account. The other benefits lie in the minimum size of transfers (HK$0.01) and free transfers across banks (remember, there is no need to know anybody’s bank details). This means monetary and security benefits over ATM transfers, especially across bank networks (HSBC to JetCo, and vice versa). For me, it also means I don’t have to wait weeks for money transfers, or sometimes a complete loss as both parties forget about it.

These are reasons enough to look beyond the bad ratings, which seem to have been hampered by earlier issues. I believe the banks have tried to improve the customer experience and you should try the apps for yourself to see how it works. I am purely speaking from my experience – and am not being paid by these banks (as much as I wish I was).

Sukrit Khatri
Sukrit Khatri is a banking research and strategy analyst, covering 100 financials during 7 years at a reputed global investment bank. He currently works for a FinTech start-up in Hong Kong. The opinions expressed in the article are his own.
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