Hong Kong’s Octopus Card extends reach into mainland

Cardholders will soon be able to ride public transport in over 300 cities across China.

Photo from CFP

Photo from CFP

By ZHANG Xilong


Octopus Card, a smart card used in Hong Kong for making payments online and offline on the daily basis, is preparing to launch its business in the Chinese mainland in Q2.

Octopus can be used to pay for a range of government and other services in the SAR. These include public transportation, groceries, tuition and hospital fees.

There are more than 20 million active Octopus Cards in the city, that’s more than the population of Hong Kong.

Rita Li, sales and marketing director of Octopus, said cardholders will soon be able to ride public transport in over 300 cities in the mainland. All payments will be settled in HK dollars.  The plan was supposed to be carried out last year, but trials were postponed because of the pandemic.

Octopus CEO Angus Lee has spoken of mainland transit cards being accepted in Hong Kong, but no schedule has been made set for this expansion.

The smart card company released an app in 2020, just as tourism dwindled to its worst levels because of the pandemic. Li said since Covid travel restrictions had been lifted between Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland, the download volume of the app has tripled.

Easy to obtain, easy to use

In September 1997, the Octopus fare collection system was launched in Hong Kong. At the time, the system was revolutionary, eliminating the need for travelers to find the exact change and allowing them to travel across all public transport modes with a single card.

Octopus became a deposit-taking company in April 2000, allowing expansion into a wider range of different applications, especially in the retail sector.

In 2022, Octopus introduced UnionPay QR codes, allowing people to use the app while shopping in more than 300 million shops that are members of the UnionPay network.

The Octopus card requires no real name or mainland phone number from users.