Launched in 1997, the Octopus Card system was the first contactless smartcard system in the world and fast became an integral part of Hong Kong’s everyday life. The Octopus Card is basically a value-stored contactless smartcard and is supposed to make life, shopping and payment not only more convenient and easier, but also more hassle-free. Consider this: How often have you been looking for the right coins to pay at a cashier or for purchasing a subway ticket, just to find out that you don’t have the right coins and still have to go the service counter to exchange some notes to coins. Even if you spend just a few days in Hong Kong it is worthwhile to consider getting one since there are incredible versatile. Simply swipe or “wave” the card over the fare deduction processor when you enter the MTR station and swipe it a second time when you arrive at your destination at the exit gate. The fare will be automatically calculated and deducted from your stored-value Octopus card.
The naming of this product is quite interesting as well. Although named after an Octopus with 8 tentacles, which represent the ability to use the card in different types of transactions, it also reflect the 8 different public transportation systems (MTR trains, KCR, Airport Express, Trams, Peak Tram, Star Ferry, outlying island ferries and the different buses). Furthermore, in Chinese and especially in Hong Kong’s dialect Cantonese, the number 8 represents “getting rich”.
Furthermore, other applications include vending machines, supermarkets, parking machines, paying at kiosks and convenience stores like 7-11 or Circle-K, or restaurants such as McDonalds, Starbucks, Café de Coral etc. An overview of retails who accept Octopus payment can be found here.
For Tourists there are two different kinds of Octopus Cards:
On-Loan Octopus Card
The On-Loan Octopus Card is basically lent to you by the Octopus Card Company and requires you to make a deposit that covers the cost of the card in case of loss or damage as well as a possible negative value accumulated on the card. Currently, there is no personal information, details or registration needed to purchase an On-Loan Octopus Card (except the personalized ones). The Octopus Card Company offers three kinds of On-Loan Octopus Card:
1.) ADULT – cost: HK$ 150 (initial stored value= HK$ 100 plus HK$50 deposit)
2.) CHILD (Age 3-11) – cost: HK$ 70 (initial stored value= HK$ 20 plus HK$50 deposit)
3.) ELDER (Age 65 or above) – cost HK$ 70 (initial stored value= HK$ 20 plus HK$50 deposit)
The On-Loan Octopus Card can incur a negative value up to HK$ 35. Please be aware that if you accumulate negative value on your card, the card cannot be used for further transactions and you need to top-up or recharge your card.
Sold Octopus Card
The MTR Corporation offers the Sold Octopus Card for special occasions (Chinese New Year, to commemorate certain dates, or simply to introduce the MTR Octopus card to Hello Kitty fans). These cards are not only interesting to local collectors, but also for tourists. The fee is varied from HK$50 to HK$168 which make it quite appealing to keep it as a piece of special memory since these cards are a unique in design and mostly limited. The key difference between the Sold Octopus Card and the On-Loan Octopus Card is that the Sold Octopus Card usually don’t have a store value included in the purchasing price and since no deposit have been made the balance of the Octopus card cannot drop below zero.
Validity and Recharging, adding value or topping-up the Octopus Card:
The Octopus Card is valid for 1000 days and will deactivated if within this period of time no further amount of value is added. You don’t need to worry if you didn’t use your card for 3 or more years. You simply can re-activate it at any MTR service center.
Value can be added in steps of HK$ 50 and HK$ 100 up to maximum of HK$ 1000. You either can recharge your card in any MTR customer service center, add-value machines or numerous retailers, supermarkets, convenience stores and restaurants such McDonalds, KFC, 7-11, Circle-K, Wellcome, etc.
The Octopus Card can be purchased at:
♦ Every MTR station at the MTR Customer Service Centre (except Racecourse station)
♦ Light Rail Customer Service Centres: Ferry Pier Terminus, Leung King, Town Centre, Yuen Long Terminus, Tin Yat, Siu Hong and Tin Shui Wai stations
♦ KMB Customer Service Centre in Sha Tin Central Bus Terminus
♦ New World First Ferry Octopus Service Centres: Piers of Cheung Chau, Mui Wo, Peng Chau, Central Piers 5 & 6
♦ New World First Bus Customer Service Centre: Admiralty (East) Bus Terminus
Any remaining value as well as the paid deposit will be refunded when handing the Octopus Card pack to the service center. Please note that a small handling fee of HK$7 will be deducted if you return your card within 3 months of purchase.
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