Tap-beep-go: Apple Pay hits HK with full array of partner brands

July 21, 2016 17:55
We tried to buy some snacks at a 7-Eleven store with Apple Pay but after many attempts, we had to switch back to Octopus. Some shop assistants are still not familiar with the new service and  transactions may be occasionally rejected. Photos: EJ Insight

Throw away your Octopus card (and also your bulging wallet) next time you jog. If you need to grab a bottle of water from a 7-Eleven outlet, just wake up your smartphone or wearable with one light tap and within seconds a beep confirms the payment.

Sounds chic? Hong Kong techno-geeks are rejoicing because Apple Pay is now in town.

Extraordinary lineup 

From Wednesday, you can pay with your iPhone or Apple Watch at the 1,000 plus 7-Eleven stores across the territory.

Other big names accepting Apple Pay include Starbucks, McDonald’s, KFC, Pacific Coffee, Watsons, Mannings, ParknShop, Wellcome, Maxim's Caterers, Pizza Hut, Genki Sushi, Fortress, Sa Sa, Lane Crawford, Cathay Pacific, Uber and many others.  (The full list of participating brands is on Apple’s official website.)

Now it’s safe to say the Cupertino, California-based tech giant wants Hongkongers to forgo their wallets, forget all the previous e-payment offerings and switch to its own killer solution with a formidable lineup of launch partners.

Virtually all the city’s leading retail chains, from catering, supermarkets, convenience stores to health and beauty centers have come on board.

The iPhone-maker says more are set to join the bandwagon.

The city is the seventh market of Apple Pay after the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, China and Singapore.

But so far Hong Kong boasts a very comprehensive array of partner stores thanks to its tiny territory and fully fledged retail and telecom infrastructure.

By contrast, Apple Pay’s treks to the UK and China have been far from triumphant: there are just eight participating brands in Britain so far while rumor has it that China’s Alipay deftly requested its partners to boycott the US rival, which explains Apple Pay’s still low penetration north of the border.

Discounts, offers and bugs

Supposedly, it’s a breeze to set up and use the near-field communication technology.

To get started, simply add the credit card from your iTunes account to the Wallet app. Tap the plus sign and follow the onscreen instructions to add more cards.

For Apple Watch, open the Watch app on your iPhone, tap “Wallet & Apple Pay”, and then “Add Credit or Debit Card”.

To pay, hold your iPhone near the contactless reader with your finger on Touch ID. To pay with Apple Watch, double-click the side button and hold it up to the reader.

A gentle tap and a beep confirm your payment. You cannot check your record of payments made with Apple Watch, though. 

Apple assures users of security with PIN and fingerprint-based authorization.

Local participating banks and platforms include HSBC, Standard Chartered, Hang Seng, Bank of East Asia, Citi, DBS, Bank of China Hong Kong, American Express and HKT’s Tap & Go.

Indeed, huge ads are splashed across local newspapers sporting titles like “HSBC welcomes Apple Pay”.

A new race is on among banks and retailers to lure the city’s iPhone users, considered to be more willing to spend than their Android counterparts.

HSBC offers HK$10 cash rebate for every three transactions of above HK$30 each, while Standard Chartered clients can enjoy 25 percent cashback on card spend with Apple Pay.

You can enjoy HK$3 off for any item of over HK$30 at 7-Eleven and HK$5 off for every HK$50 spent at Maxim’s and Pacific Coffee.

Despite the fanfare, though, it seems some leading partners are not yet ready for the launch.

The writer failed to add his own credit card, issued by HSBC, to Apple Pay after the latter’s Wednesday launch and the bank’s customer and IT service ambassador, after numerous failed attempts to pinpoint exactly what went wrong, regrettably told me to wait as the bank’s servers “may be overwhelmed by the sudden spike in new registrations and transactions or there are still some bugs”.

An HSBC IT programmer told us they are swamped with similar complaints when customers could not load card data onto their iPhones.

To accommodate Apple Pay’s new security technology, banks need to upgrade their card and verification configurations, on top of replacing nearly 15,000 credit card terminals installed in offline stores, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reported earlier.

Apple commands a huge loyal following in the city and Hongkongers are obsessed with the novelty of gadgets and technologies.

The service stands to gain solid mileage, especially when Hong Kong is a dismal laggard in cashless payment compared with the mainland, and there’s no dominant player yet on the local market.

Anyhow, who wouldn't want to replace plastic money with a more secure, chic and convenient way to pay?

– Contact us at [email protected]


Read more:

Why the city’s iconic Octopus card is so yesterday

Press the Touch ID fingerprint censor and hold your iPhone close to a reader and the payment will be done almost instantly. Photo: Apple
You can also use your Apple Watch to pay, even if it is not connected to your iPhone or WiFi. Photo: Apple
List of Hong Kong chain stores and shops that accept Apple Pay. Photo: Apple
It appears there is always a store near your home or office where you can use your iPhone or Apple Watch to buy everything from a cup of coffee to shampoo. Photo: Apple

EJ Insight writer