Sorry, Apple: Hong Kong Way Ahead with Mobile Payments

Flickr user Danny Choo

Travel, eat and park – all with the Octopus card.

I experienced the mobile payment future last year on a 10-day trip to Hong Kong — but it was with the Octopus Card used to access the city's subway and rail system, not a smartphone with near-field communications like the “Apple Pay” introduced with much hype yesterday.

The Octopus Card, launched in 1997, looks and works like a Washington Metro SmarTrip card with one key difference: You can use the Octopus to buy your morning coffee, lunch and dinner with one easy swipe by card readers installed at retail outlets throughout the city.

There are 20 million Octopus cards in circulation — nearly three times the population of the city — and they are also used to pay for parking and provide access control to apartments as well as to pay fares on the cities’ numerous ferry systems and to shop at supermarkets and department stores.

No credit card is needed (though you can use one) to buy, load or top off the cards — fill-up machines around the city still take old-fashioned cash.

When will the Washington Metro turn its SmarTrip into a mobile payment card?