A man using a smart phone to pay for goods on a beach. Photo: iStock
A man using a smart phone to pay for goods on a beach. Photo: iStock

Throw away your credit cards, Hong Kong people, because WeChat Pay and Alipay are fighting hard to lure you away. First it was Tencent subsidiary WeChat Pay HK, which claimed a 44% increase in registered numbers in February when it decided to get into the Hong Kong market.

The move came with some costs, estimated to be about HK$35 million (US$4.47 million), which would be significant for some but peanuts for the internet giant with one billion WeChat users.

WeChat Pay subsidized HK$10 for every McDonald’s meal of more than HK$25 for two weeks last month and gave away about HK$10 million worth of red packets over the Chinese New Year.

The red packet war between WeChat and Alipay saw the two internet giants give away 1.2 billion yuan (US$190 million) for the favorite annual game during the Chinese New Year.

Now all eyes are watching how Alipay Hong Kong, which is 50-50 owned by Alibaba Group and CK Hutchison, on Thursday unveil a special campaign expected to popularize the mobile payment system in Hong Kong.

Mobile payments are still in the infancy stage in Hong Kong compared with China, where mobile payments can settle bills from almost everything from dining to rides. Some have even suggested users could pay beggars or prostitutes through this person-to-person payment system.

The mobile payments are simply the most convenient way to pay in a vast country whose highest value note is 100 yuan ($15.79) and the credit card, not the debit card, is an almost unknown form of payment.

But in Hong Kong, where credit cards rule, there may be a revolution because Alipay and WePay decided to go big there. There are also other local operators like Octopus, whose stored value cards are most commonly used in transport and retail merchants.

A survey this week by JD Power, a global marketing information services provider, showed that while WeChat Pay may be loved by people, it seemed to lose out to Apple Pay when it came to usage.

The 2018 Hong Kong Retail Banking Satisfaction Study showed that WeChat marginally edged Apple Pay in user satisfaction by scoring 7.7 points out of 10, but only 8% of the 2,371 respondents had used WeChat Pay.

By comparison, almost 30% used Apple Pay, the highest among all mobile wallets.

But things will change now that Tencent and Alibaba are eyeing the market. Pull up a chair and watch the fight.