Use of Visa Inc.’s payWave contactless-payment service in Hong Kong has more than doubled over the past year, the card company announced last week.

Total sales generated with payWave-enabled cards during the first half of this year reached US$69.3 million, up 147% from US$28 million during the same period in 2009, Visa says. Transaction activity also surged 148%, to 5.6 million purchases from 2.3 million. The average payWave transaction this year was about $13, the company disclosed.

As of June 30, financial institutions in Hong Kong had issued 700,000 payWave cards, up 146% from 285,000 cards a year earlier. Visa launched payWave in Hong King in 2008.

As of June 30, some 2,800 Visa payWave merchant outlets had installed 7,400 contactless readers in Hong Kong, including Starbucks, Van Go, Botanize, Disc Plus and New World Ferry Service.

Consumer use of contactless payment is most popular at supermarkets and grocery stores, beauty and personal care stores, fast-food chains and convenience stores, Visa says, citing the results on online survey of 651 Visa credit cardholders between the ages of 18 to 50 in Hong Kong the company conducted in December for the card company. Among the respondents, 401 owned a Visa credit card equipped with the payWave feature.

In Hong Kong, cardholders can pay for transactions of up to HK$500 (US$64 or 48 euros) without having to sign transaction slips.

However, Visa is far from being the dominant contactless card player in Hong Kong, a position held by Octopus Card Holdings Ltd. Octopus is a rechargeable contactless prepaid smart card consumers use to transfer electronic payments in online or offline systems the Octopus network operates.

Launched in 1997, Octopus was the first contactless smart card system to launch globally and has since grown into a widely used payment system for virtually all public transport in Hong Kong.

More than 2,500 service providers, including public transport, parking, retail, vending and kiosks, schools, and leisure facilities, which deploy a combined 50,000 Octopus readers, accept the Octopus card.

More than 20 million Octopus cards and products are in circulation, and the system handles more than 11 million transactions per day valued at more than HK$100 million (US$13 million), according to the company.

 

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