Hong Kong's Octopus Card


The Octopus card is a smart card that is used to make payments in Hong Kong. It first appeared in 1997, shortly after Britain's ex-colony returned to China, as a form of payment in trains, subways and buses. In the past 15 years the Octopus Card has expanded and can now be used to pay in stores, supermarkets, restaurants and many other services in Hong Kong. According to the company that operates the card there are about 20 million Octopus cards in circulation , about three times the population of Hong Kong.

There are three types of cards: for children, adults and older people. The Octopus Card is a contactless smart card. You can pay by simply placing it near or waving it over a card reader. The reader identifies the card with a beeping sound and deducts the amount from the balance of the card. The Octopus Card is like money. When it gets lost, so does the money you have loaded onto it.


You can add money to the Octopus card in many ways. There are machines that accept cash and transfer it to the card. Banks, gas stations, post offices and other shops can add value to the card as well. The card accepts a value of up to 1000 Hong Kong dollars, about 130 US dollars.

The Octopus card has become so popular that about 95% of the city’s population between 15 and 65 use it. As a result, many people do not carry much cash with them, but use the card as often as possible. Octopus Cards Limited, the owner of the card, claims that the card is used 12 million times a day for payments worth 18 million US dollars.


Recently the company has been able to embed the Octopus technology inside smart phones to expand usage even more. Octopus cards have also reached mainland China. They are used in Shenzhen, north of Hong Kong, and Macau, an island to the east.




Related Topics



  • accept = take
  • according to = as said by
  • amount = sum
  • appear = show up, to be used
  • as a result = that is why
  • balance = the money you have on the card
  • beep = a short high sound
  • cash = banknotes and coins
  • circulation = here: used by the population
  • claim = to say that something is true
  • colony = country that is controlled  by another, more powerful country, usually far away
  • contactless = you don’t have to pull it through a machine
  • deduct = to take away from a total
  • embed = put into
  • expand = grow, spread out; make bigger
  • identify = to recognise something
  • load = add to
  • mainland China = Communist China
  • operate = control; to be the owner of
  • owner = here: company that operates the card
  • payment = paying for something
  • place = put
  • popular = liked and used by many people
  • population = people of a country
  • recently = a short time ago
  • service = help or work that a company does
  • smart card = a small plastic card that has information on it
  • usage = how something is used
  • value = here: money
  • wave = move an object back and forth with your hand