Mobile payments

Hong Kong’s JETCO latest to offer cashless payments with smartphone-based platform

City has been slow to adopt electronic payment systems, unlike the boom in mainland China

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 08 February, 2018, 10:59pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 08 February, 2018, 10:59pm

Hong Kong cash machine network operator Joint Electronic Teller Services (JETCO) has joined the rush of companies offering cashless payments with the launch on Thursday of a smartphone-based merchant payment system.

Customers will be able to pay retailers with their smartphones by scanning QR codes, a feature of mainland competitors Alipay and WeChat Pay, which dominate the mobile payment market in China.

JETCO’s platform joins old-fashioned credit cards, the prepaid Octopus card, Apple Pay, Samsung Pay as well as the mainland Chinese operators in an increasingly crowded cashless payment world in Hong Kong. The company had already launched a peer-to-peer money transfer service in April 2016.

“We want to achieve a cashless society in Hong Kong by penetrating the small cash-and-cheque stores, which still represent 40 per cent of the city’s shops, such as cha chaan teng [tea restaurants],” said Angus Choi, chief executive officer of JETCO.

Hong Kong lags behind mainland China in the adoption of cashless payment methods, in part because of a higher percentage of credit card holders in the city and the popularity of the Octopus card among retailers.

“It’s going to take a while,” Choi said. “The key priority is to educate Hong Kong consumers in using cashless payment methods.”

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Cardholders of eight banks, including Bank of East Asia and Bank of Communications (Hong Kong), can download the JETCO mobile application and pay any seller by scanning its QR code, either an electronic one on the screen or a sticker.

Customers will also be able to use the payment option in online shopping, by choosing it when settling bills and entering a password in the JETCO Pay application. Touch ID and Face ID will be available to complete transactions in the coming months, Choi said. More member banks are set to join later this year.

The daily maximum transaction amount for the app is HK$5,000 (US$640), a limit set by the Hong Kong Monetary Authority for internet banking accounts.

“[It is] not enough and we are talking with the authority to increase that limit, because payments are very different from peer-to-peer transactions,” Choi said.

JETCO operates about 3,000 ATMs in Hong Kong, Macau and mainland China. The network has around 30 member banks, include Bank of China (Hong Kong), Bank of Communications (Hong Kong), Bank of East Asia, and Citibank.