5 February 2018

Survey Findings on Use of and Views about Payment through Mobile Phones in Hong Kong Released by Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies at CUHK

A telephone survey was conducted from 19 to 24 January 2018 by the Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies, The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) to study public views on mobile wallets payment services using mobile phones in Hong Kong. 731 respondents aged 18 or above were successfully interviewed, with a response rate of 38.8%. The sampling error is estimated at plus or minus 3.62 percentage points at a confidence level of 95%. 

Major findings are summarized as follows:

Hong Kong was a front-runner in the world to adopt contactless and cashless payment services. However, Hong Kong seemed to trail behind in adopting new payment services using mobile phones like mobile wallets which had swept mainland China in recent years. Hong Kong peoples’ lukewarm reception to mobile wallets inflamed heated debates on whether Hong Kong could still sustain its leading status in technology and innovation. The Chief Executive particularly unfolded government policies to promote use of innovative payment technologies in her 2017 Policy Address. The survey intended to benchmark the use of mobile wallets in Hong Kong, to reveal the reasons behind the lukewarm reception, and to indicate public views on the mobile payment services. 

A majority of the respondents never used mobile wallets. Though 36.8% of the respondents were impartial to payment either by cash or by non-cash, 36.5% of them still opted for payment by cash, higher than those opted for payment by non-cash (25.6%). Except for the few cash-only payers, close to 80% of the respondents “seldom” (19.8%) or “never” (59.9%) paid through mobile phones. Around a tenth (11.4%) used it sporadically and only 7.9% used it regularly. 

Mobile wallets were used more frequently by the younger than by other age groups. Among respondents below 30, about two thirds (65.2%) had experiences of using mobile wallets, including those who used the services regularly (8.7%), sporadically (24.3%) or rarely (32.2%). The respective proportions for the respondents aged between 31 to 50 and 51 or over were 54.9% and 18.3%. 

Among the respondents used the services before, the top three reasons for the undertaking included “no need to carry along cash or credit cards” (39.8%), “privileged discounts or affiliated benefits” (20.1%), and “recommendation by close friends or family members” (12.0%). Moreover, 58.8% of them were “satisfied” (52.5%) or “very satisfied” (6.3%) with the smoothness of the transaction and the convenience of using the services in Hong Kong. 

Among the non-users, the top three reasons of not using the services included “concern about privacy leakage/no confidence/lack of security” (33.6%), “being unfamiliar with the use (32.9%), and “being accustomed to use cash, credit cards or Octopus” (23.0%). When asked if they would attempt to a tryout in Hong Kong, 27.8% affirmed, 37.1% declined, and a third (32.4%) said “in-between”. 

Though mobile wallets had been becoming ubiquitous in mainland China, 93.1% of the respondents “seldom” (2.7%) or “never” (90.4%) used the services outside Hong Kong before. Those who used mobile wallets outside of Hong Kong sporadically (4.0%) or regularly (1.8%) were scarce. Among those who used the services outside of Hong Kong, 72.6% of them used it in mainland China and only 8.1% in other places, and 19.4% in both. 

The majority upheld their faith in the convenience and security of using physical credit cards or Octopus. Two thirds (64.8%) of the respondents “agreed” or “strongly agreed” with the sufficient convenience of using physical credit cards or Octopus, and 56.8% of them “agreed” or “strongly agreed” the security of using physical credit cards or Octopus could be better than that of using mobile wallets. However, many respondents still backed the promotion of mobile wallets in Hong Kong. 39.1% of the respondents “agreed” or “strongly agreed” that an advanced city like Hong Kong should have more application of mobile payment services. Concurrently, 43.8% of the respondents concurred that it was the responsibility of the government to promote use of the services. 

Among those favored government promotion of mobile wallets, the top three policy propositions included “to enhance security and reliability of the services” (63.7%), “to create a level-playing field for services suppliers” (24.4%), and “to advocate local Fintech development” (21.9%). 

The definition of mobile wallets used in the survey included both methods of payment using either mobile phones equipped with chips for near-field communication (NFC) or using downloaded mobile phone apps to scan quick response (QR) code in transactions.