Consumers get new option to pay without cash

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 28 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 28 March, 2013, 4:50am

In addition to tapping their Octopus cards on a reader, consumers will soon have other cashless payment methods like the e-wallet, the Monetary Authority said yesterday.

The authority announced it was setting new standards and guidelines to enable usage of the new technology.

The e-wallet, or "mobile wallet", bears some similarities to the Octopus card. In the case of HSBC, which introduced the service at the end of last year, consumers can make purchases of up to HK$500 by waving their iPhones at a Visa payWave reader. The phones must be inside a special case with an embedded chip.

So far, only HSBC has rolled out the service, but several other banks might have their own versions ready by the end of this year, the authority said.

But e-wallets are unlike an Octopus card in that credit is not added in advance; the bills are paid later, like credit cards.

The authority suggests that banks set the ceiling per transaction at HK$500.

A consultant with the authority has completed a draft set of guidelines that establish the freedom to download multiple "cards" onto the same phone and to have common readers for all payment cards.

"The benefit of adopting common standards is that users will be able to use multiple cards on a single phone," Peter Pang Sing-tong, the authority's deputy chief executive, said. It will be like carrying several credit cards in a real wallet.

The new operating guidelines will include security measures to lock the e-wallet when a user loses the phone. Users will also be able to set a password to open the e-wallet and authorise each transaction.

A working group would be formed under the Association of Banks to finalise the guidelines by the second half of this year, Pang said.