Mobile messaging

Octopus app will make cash transfers to friends easy as sending WhatsApp message

New app will allow users to transfer money to friends and family using stored-value cards

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 05 March, 2014, 4:04am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 21 April, 2015, 11:14am

Hongkongers used to quickly sharing messages and pictures on their smartphones with apps such as WhatsApp will soon be able to do the same with their money, thanks to the latest big idea from Octopus Cards.

The company that has transformed how Hongkongers pay for things since the stored-value card was introduced by the MTR Corporation in 1997 will introduce a cash-transfer app in the second quarter of this year. With it, users will be able to transfer up to HK$1,000 per day to friends or relatives.

"The roadmap for the development of Octopus Cards started from [purely] transportation to retail, then to mobile and online, while the last missing piece is P-to-P [person-to-person] transactions," said Sunny Cheung Yiu-tong, chief executive of Octopus Cards, yesterday .

The new app requires the user to register their card with the company using their smartphone, so transactions with other registered users can be completed online and payments taken from, or added to, the balance on the card.

"It could be used for a wide range of situations from mahjong playing amongst relatives and friends or pocket money handed down from father to son," said Sammy Kam, technical director at Octopus. "In simplified terms we just 'WhatsApp' the money from one to another."

Monetary Authority rules limit transactions to HK$1,000, but the authority is reviewing daily transaction limits for stored-value and retail-payment systems and could increase the limit to HK$3,000, Octopus said.

But Michael Gazeley, managing director of internet security firm Network Box, said the new app could prove an attractive target to hackers, although the low transaction limit would reduce any damage.

"New technology can easily become a target for hackers, especially if it is money-related," Gazeley said. "The more popular they are, the more hackers would want to exploit their loopholes."

Some 24 million Octopus cards have been distributed in Hong Kong, about three for every resident.

Octopus kicked off its online payment service two weeks ago in partnership with Alibaba's Taobao, the mainland's biggest e-commerce player, and Alipay. The company said it would expand its partnership to other online retailers.