How to use an ATM and keep your money safe

Knowing how to use a banking service is one of the most important parts of adulting. Here's what you need to know

Joshua Lee |

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Most ATM cards in Hong Kong can be used to make payments in shops.

Knowing how to use a banking service is one of the most important parts of adulting. But, if you’re a student who has only ever used cash or Octopus cards before, you might still be confused about how bank cards work.

Here’s a quick guide on how to use your automated teller machine (ATM) card to access ATM services in Hong Kong:

What is an ATM, and what can I use them for?

ATMs are self-service banking machines which allow you to access your bank account without having to line up and speak to an actual person.

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They have many functions, but you can mostly use them for either taking money out of your account (making withdrawals), putting money into your account (making deposits), or transferring money to other accounts. Most machines can only perform one of these functions, but some large machines can perform all three.

Which ATMs can I use with my card?

If you’re banking with HSBC or Hang Seng Bank, you can only use ATMs run by either of these banks. Their machines run on a separate network from the other banks in Hong Kong.

Most other banks in Hong Kong use the Jetco ATM network. This means that if your bank card has the Jetco logo and you simply want to withdraw cash, you can do so from any Jetco machine, no matter which bank that machines belongs to. You cannot use HSBC or Hang Seng Bank ATM cards in Jetco machines. Likewise, Jetco cards will not work in HSBC or Hang Seng Bank machines. If you do use them, you may be charged additional fees.

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Can I pay for things with my ATM card?

Most ATM cards in Hong Kong can be used to make payments in shops. This is done through something called Electronic Payment Services (EPS). You can tell if your card supports this function if there is an EPS logo on the card. Shops that display an EPS sticker or logo will also accept this form of payment, including most major supermarkets, convenience stores, and larger shops.

To use EPS, you insert your card into the small card machine on the shop’s checkout counter and put in your personal identification number (PIN). You can then return the machine to the cashier to complete the transaction. When you pay using EPS, the money is instantly deducted from your bank account.

Is there a difference between an ATM card and a credit card?

When you open a bank account, you will be issued an ATM card by the bank, which is directly linked to your account. If you withdraw or deposit any money, your account will be immediately updated – which means you can only spend however much money is currently in your account.

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A credit card, meanwhile, does not link directly with your bank account. When you pay using a credit card, you are borrowing money from a bank or lender, which you need to pay back later.

The longer you take to pay back the full amount, the more interest – extra money you pay the bank or lender for using money that isn’t yours to begin with – you have to pay.

How can I keep my details safe when using an ATM?

Your ATM card is protected by a PIN which you need to type into an ATM to access your account. You’ll need to remember your PIN – but don’t let anyone else know it, and try not to keep it written down anywhere.

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Sometimes, criminals attach illegal devices to ATMs, like tiny cameras or card skimmers, that can record your card data or PIN. When you use an ATM, look out for any suspicious devices on the machine. When you enter your PIN, cover the keypad with your hand to avoid anyone else seeing your number.

If you lose your card, call the bank right away to cancel the card and order a new one.

Edited by Charlotte Ames-Ettridge