Hong Kong moved a step closer to becoming cash-free yesterday as credit card giant Visa launched a swipe-card system to allow customers to make payments of up to $200 without signing for them or using an identification number. The Visa Express Payment system was launched in the Broadway cinema chain and is expected to extend to fast-food chains, car parks and toll stations. The system potentially puts Visa in competition with the Octopus card system, which has already been extended from rail and bus networks to 7-Eleven stores, vending machines, photo booths and even a school, where it is being used to check attendance in a trial. The next move is expected to put Octopus machines in taxis. Visa's scheme extends the range of cash-free options in Hong Kong, which has already been credited by Far Eastern Economic Review magazine as having 'the closest thing to an electronic-cash system anywhere in the world' with its Octopus cards. Some consumers who tried out the Visa system yesterday questioned its security. Broadway patron Stefanie Wong said she was worried it would be easier for thieves to use her card without the need for a password or signature. 'I wouldn't use the system again. I only tried it because you get free popcorn during the promotion period,' Ms Wong said. Visa merchant acceptance director Lawrence Chan Ming-yu brushed off the worries, saying thieves rarely used credit cards to purchase non-resaleable items such as film tickets or food. Since August last year the system has operated in Japan, Korea, Singapore and Thailand, and the fraud rate had been 'nil or negligible', Mr Chan claimed. Rob Noble, chief executive of Octopus operator Creative Star Limited, said its cards tended to be used for small transactions. 'Our average transaction is $7, but people tend to prefer credit cards for medium or larger purchases,' Mr Noble said. 'There may still be some overlap, but healthy competition is a good thing. Our cards are more convenient and faster because you don't even have to take them out of your purse.' Vincent Chiang Wai-sam, card centre general manager for Visa's partner in the scheme, the Dao Heng Bank, said the system would also target small cash transactions and provide business opportunities in different markets. 'Small-dollar transactions are still dominated by cash payment in various service sectors, which means there is ample room for expansion of credit card usage,' Mr Chiang said. Seventy per cent of people who tried the Visa system in a trial at cinemas last week said they were happy with it. But the security concern may put potential customers off. Surveys have found Hong Kong people were unwilling to shop over the Internet because of security fears.