In a ground-breaking programme starting today, some 2.5 million Shenzhen-issued debit cards will allow mainlanders to withdraw cash and pay for purchases in Hong Kong. The experiment is a small step towards relaxing China's strict capital controls and may help blur the financial boundary between Shenzhen and Hong Kong. But analysts doubt organisers' claims that the programme will boost spending in the SAR. The pilot programme is a joint undertaking between China UnionPay, a Shanghai-based company specialising in bank card services, and its Hong Kong counterparts Joint Electronic Teller Services (Jetco) and Electronic Payment Services (EPS). Under the scheme, debit cards issued by five of UnionPay's 17 Shenzhen member banks can be used on more than 600 automatic teller machines throughout Hong Kong. Eligible debit cards must be linked to HK dollar or other hard currency accounts at the banks, with no over-draft allowed. Card holders will have to register with their identification cards, two-way passes or passports, UnionPay said. To curb foreign currency flight, cash withdrawals will be subject to US$500 or HK$5,000 daily limits, with no restrictions imposed on consumer spending. The first stage of the programme involves the Agricultural Bank of China's Shenzhen branch, China Merchants Bank, Shenzhen Development Bank, Shenzhen City Commercial Bank and Shenzhen Rural Credit Co-operative. 'Basically, it means you can avoid [carrying] a big bag of cash,' said Bank of China International analyst Anthony Lok. 'But does it actually mean you are going to spend more? Maybe a little.'