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Hong Kong’s Octopus Introduces Contactless Cards For Chinese Transit

Octopus, a smart card operator in Hong Kong, is introducing transit cards for public transportation users in more than 300 Chinese cities, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported.

Under the company’s offshore expansion plan, Octopus transit card users will be able to cover payments for public transportation on buses, rails, and ferries in mainland China by the end of 2021 or early 2022, according to Octopus CEO Angus Lee Chun-ming, per SCMP.

“We have applied to join the China T-Union, the nationwide one-card payment system led by the Ministry of Transport. That will enable Octopus physical cardholders to pay for public transport fares in mainland China,” Lee added, per the news outlet.

China T-Union, operated by Beijing China Communications Gold Card Technology, is a system that uses a single prepaid card for commuters to use, that doesn’t store personal data. The Octopus card will initially have a maximum top-up value of HK$3,000 (US $386) and can be upgraded to digital Octopus cards in a phase two launch.

The company also has plans to work with digital payment companies in other countries in Asia in a move to launch an interconnected technology platform. The technology offering would give its Hong Kong eWallet users the chance to pay for small transactions and services in Macau, South Korea, Singapore, and Thailand.

Expansion efforts by the company come as competition from rivals like Alipay and WeChat Pay are being tapped by more Hong Kong residents as digital payments expand into more areas. For example, Alipay in January partnered with MTR Corp to roll out QR code tickets on MTR Mobile and AlipayHK at all 93 transit stations.

The company’s top executive said he’s aware that the technology Octopus uses was seen as being innovative more than two decades ago. Over the coming years, the company plans to “match our competitors in the areas of technological development and e-payment services” and also will upgrade eCommerce offerings, Lee said, per SCMP.

China and Hong Kong completed the first cross-border test of the digital yuan earlier this month, in collaboration with the Hong Kong Monetary Authority and the People’s Bank of China. About 80 percent of 65 banks surveyed by the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), have a digital currency in the works.

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