HK Airport Express won’t get credit card payments until 2026

Hong Kong’s MTR network is switching to credit card and smartphones for digital ‘tap and go’ payments.

By David Flynn, January 9 2024
HK Airport Express won’t get credit card payments until 2026

Although Hong Kong’s MTR network has now begun accepting selected credit/debit cards and smartphones as alternatives to the Octopus transit card for touch-and-go payments, the Airport Express train connecting HKG and the city won’t see that upgrade “until 2026 at the earliest.”

A spokesperson for the MTR Corporation has also advised Executive Traveller that for now, those card-based payments are restricted to Visa credit cards and debit cards, in both physical and smartphone/smartwatch versions.

Cards from Visa rivals such as Mastercard and American Express “will be accepted for payment in the third quarter of 2024,” the spokesperson added.

“The Corporation also aims to upgrade the entry/exit gates of the Airport Express and launch contactless bank card payment in 2026 at the earliest.”

Every ‘heavy rail’ metro station on the Hong Kong network is now equipped with at least two entry/exit gates supporting Visa cards, alongside the conventional Octopus cards, with additional gates at those stations frequently used by tourists: just look for the gates clad in light blue with a special card reader at the front.

Over 2,400 of these gates will eventually be rolled out across the island-spanning MTR network, with the new design also offer a wider thoroughfare for passengers.

The new wider MTR station gates.
The new wider MTR station gates.

The current MTR smartphone and smartwatch app for Apple and Goole Android already supports a virtual card – with the ability to transfer the balance across from your old physical card – and can be used for NFC-based contactless travel.

Also read: How to use your Australian passport in Hong Kong airport’s time-saving e-Channel lanes

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Sep 2018

Total posts 153

Finally catching up with London!

Etihad - Etihad Guest

06 Jul 2019

Total posts 1

In fairness, MTR pioneered the contactless payment system with Octopus. And that is accepted almost everywhere (except taxis) is pretty cool... 

The rest of the world is catching up which is a great thing! 

03 Nov 2023

Total posts 8

I agree that MTR pioneered contactless with Octopus, especially with how it could be used at lots of places like convenience stores, however a stored value card that you need to keep topping up, is antiquated compared to just accepting instant payments with any Visa/Mastercard credit/debit card. 

I actually really liked the idea of the octopus card when I first came across it in the early 2000s. The idea that a child could have money loaded onto it and shop at a convenient store or fast food or anywhere which accepted an octopus card. I found it super easy. I could travel around and use it to pay for most my daily consumption needs. Now being in Sydney with tap and go payment on our public transport network I can see how we are further ahead than an older system like Hong Kong. But for the kids I still prefer the octopus card.

QFF

12 Apr 2013

Total posts 1529

I cannot stress how much I hate when they asked me tap my credit card and go letting them to decide how much to charge me. I utterly hate Myki in Melbourne - thanks God I do not need to use it much. In HK system already good enough with versatile way of travel. And if someone like promiscuously using their CC go for it. I rather use more traditional methods.

22 Jun 2017

Total posts 6

This is welcoming news!!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 Oct 2014

Total posts 692

Great for 'Visa' card holders, but what is sadly missing is 'Mastercard' (and Amex) access. C'mon HKG MTR - get with the 20th century .. or even the 21st !

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

24 Feb 2022

Total posts 6

I have already traveled using my MasterCard, so I don't know why they say just Visa???

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 Oct 2014

Total posts 692

@david - many thanks for following up on this. A 2 year implementation for this project is a bit disappointing but at least the HKG MTR is now moving with the times. I appreciate your attention to detail and asking the relevant questions. Kudos.

Some years ago, Visa had a significant hold on the European market and Mastercard was the preferred choice in the USA. With the growth of the internet and digitization combined with bank / cc acceptance rules and competition, the global market has roughly equalised between the two primary card brands - and AMEX discovered (and exploited) 'loyalty' rewards. So the market acceptance of touchless transactions became a true 'thing'. 

The Octopus card will remain popular for regular / consistent travellers, but the age of having funds tied up on dedicated transport cards (Oyster GB, Octopus HKG, Metrocards NYC, Presto cards YYZ etc are relics of the past for many visitors.

My 2c, and this is just a theory, is that this Visa 'exclusivity' is part of some commercial tie-up between Visa and MTR. Visa invests X amount of resources including software and hardware or capital, and in return gets six months of 'exclusivity' before MTR flicks the switch to allow MasterCard, AMEX etc. There is no way they would design this system to ONLY accept Visa, and there is no technical difference between Visa and other cards, so I suspect we are just seeing MTR & Visa having an exclusivity period before the gates are opened to other cards.

Cathay Pacific - The Marco Polo Club

20 Jun 2013

Total posts 58

A great update, amazed that it's not available for the airport express. the first point of call call for those arriving into HK !

12 Dec 2012

Total posts 1025

I'd rather keep using the Octopus card.

05 Mar 2015

Total posts 407

I'm also going to keep using my Octopus card, it's so handy and convenient, but this is clearly a move for tourists instead of frequent visitors like us.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

24 Feb 2022

Total posts 6

It is always good to have options!

I use my Octopus APP because you can add money in seconds and use it almost everywhere.

I have also used my credit card, just to try to out! BTW, I used my Mastercard

03 Nov 2023

Total posts 8

I was in HK last week and I couldn't use any Mastercard (I tried 2) at the MTR gates at Kowloon West. The lady at the gate said I needed Visa, so I found my debit card in my Apple Wallet which was Visa and it worked straight away.

30 Aug 2013

Total posts 5

So backward… no reason why tap and go should take this long Octopus is a relic 

03 Jun 2019

Total posts 27

Transportation system needs to adjust its fare and zone system to move to open loop transporatiton before it can support EVM contactless payment. HK already pioneered decades ago by having Octopus and using Sony's FeliCa, for which the response time is about 100ms, way faster than EMV. And since when can you buy food with your transporation card outside HK, TW and JP, hah?


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