How to set up Hong Kong Octopus App for Tourists : It Really Works

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Hong Kong, we are back ! And for this trip, we want to try to use the Hong Kong Octopus App for Tourists ! That means, instead of using a physical Octopus 八達通 card which we have been using for years, we are going digital ! Using the “card” on our lovely iPhones.

This is similar to setting up the Suica on the iPhone when you visit Japan.

The Hong Kong Physical Octopus Card

For the longest time, we have been using the beloved Hong Kong Octopus 八達通 card for travel and purchasing stuff in Hong Kong. And somehow we also love to take photos of the Octopus 八達通 card as part of our photography for the trip. It is almost an Instagram moment in the past (but then we don’t have instagram then…).

For example, this photo of the Hong Kong Octopus physical card was taken on Wed, 25 Feb 2009 17:19:01 GMT using a Canon DIGITAL IXUS 870 IS 🙂

The Hong Kong Physical Octopus Card
The Hong Kong Physical Octopus Card 八達通 Card
Kassia New Launch FREEHOLD Condo at Flora Drive

Why You Cannot Use the Travel Card in iPhone for Hong Kong Octopus Card

Now, if you know about adding Suica card to iPhone, you know that it is pretty easy. Just go to Wallet in Apple iPhone, add a Travel Card, choose Suica and you are done.

If you go to the same steps for Hong Kong Octopus Card, you can SEE the same. But you cannot use it.

Adding Octopus card in Apple Wallet
Adding Octopus card in Apple Wallet

However, this will not work for tourists. You cannot use the Travel card method in Apple Wallet to buy a Hong Kong Octopus Card, if you are a tourist.

This is because, as per the web site for Apple Pay, Octopus, Hong Kong:

A Hong Kong-issued Visa, Mastercard or UnionPay credit or debit card in Apple Pay is required to purchase or top up an Octopus card in Apple Wallet. If you have a non-Hong Kong-issued credit or debit card, you will need to use the Octopus App for Tourists instead.

https://www.apple.com/hk/en/apple-pay/octopus/

So this method will only work for Hong Kong people who has a Hong Kong credit or debit card.

As per the advice, you need to use the Octopus App for Tourists instead.

Bad Reviews on Apple Store

There is just a hiccup. If you go to Apple App Store for iPhone and you search for this app, you will see the bad reviews. Like really bad reviews…

Hong Kong Octopus App for Tourists
Hong Kong Octopus App for Tourists
Bad Reviews for Hong Kong Octopus App for Tourists
Bad Reviews for Octopus App for Tourists

Looking at them, it seemed to be topping up issue.

Bad Reviews for Octopus App for Tourists
Bad Reviews for Octopus App for Tourists

So it might seem to be better off to just buy the Physical Octopus card in Hong Kong 🙂

But then that would NOT be Patnotebook, right 🙂

Patnotebook just have to try….. for my dearest readers…

Setting Up the Hong Kong Octopus App for Tourists

Installing the Hong Kong Octopus App for Tourists and just launching it takes us to the set up screens.

Setting Up the Hong Kong Octopus App for Tourists
Setting Up the Hong Kong Octopus App for Tourists
Setting Up the Hong Kong Octopus App for Tourists
Setting Up the Hong Kong Octopus App for Tourists

You will get expense tracking in the app

Setting Up the Hong Kong Octopus App for Tourists
Setting Up the Hong Kong Octopus App for Tourists

And unlike some “Welcome Suica” card, you CAN get a refund on the deposit value (HKD 50) and the remaining value of the card. We shall test that out at the end of our trip 🙂

Setting Up the Hong Kong Octopus App for Tourists
Setting Up the Hong Kong Octopus App for Tourists

Welcome to Hong Kong. And I am setting it up with my Apple ID.

Setting Up the Hong Kong Octopus App for Tourists
Setting up Card

This next screen will be fun if you have already got a physical Octopus card (I don’t) which meant you can probably “migrate” your old Octopus card (that you never return at the end of the trip for a refund) to this app. Interesting.

Setting Up the Hong Kong Octopus App for Tourists
Setting Up the Hong Kong Octopus App for Tourists

Funding the Hong Kong Octopus App for Tourists

Here’s the magic moment. Time to “fund” the Hong Kong Octopus App for Tourists for the very first time. Apparently you can use the “Apple Pay” to do so.

Funding the Hong Kong Octopus App for Tourists
Funding the Hong Kong Octopus App for Tourists

And you would notice you cannot use HKD (Hong Kong Dollar) to fund the app. That makes sense right.. this is a TOURIST app.. so no way to earn Foreign Currency miles :). So I would choose SGD (Singapore Dollars) to fund the app and be at the mercy of the app for exchange rate spreads.

Funding the Hong Kong Octopus App for Tourists with SGD
Funding the Hong Kong Octopus App for Tourists with SGD

I would always start with the lowest amount. So in this case, I try HKD 100. That

Funding the Hong Kong Octopus App for 150HKD
Funding the Hong Kong Octopus App for 150HKD

So I started off with 150 HKD (50 HKD Deposit and 100HKD Funds) and it cost me SGD 27.43. The same amount on Google Finance is SGD 25.88.

Ouch.

Of course, the purpose is to see if it works or it is as bad as the reviews. I choose my DBS Women’s Card (yes, it is available to men and it earns 4 miles per dollar on online transactions).

Funding the Hong Kong Octopus App for Tourists
Funding the Hong Kong Octopus App for Tourists

You can then choose to add to your iPhone or your Apple Watch. I choose the former.

iPhone or Apple Watch
iPhone or Apple Watch

And you know it works (when the transaction is completed) and this screen appears ! This means the card has been added to your wallet and you can even set it up as a Express Transit Card.

IT works. I can fund the Hong Kong Octopus App
IT works. I can fund the Hong Kong Octopus App

And you also know it works when going BACK to the Hong Kong Octopus App for Tourist, you can see your HKD 100 balance ! YIPPEEEE..

How to set up Hong Kong Octopus App for Tourists : It Really Works
It works !!

You can also now see the card in your iPhone Wallet.

 八達通 Octopus in Wallet
 八達通 Octopus in Wallet

What is the Apple Express Transit Card

Apple’s Express Transit Card is a convenient feature within Apple Wallet that allows users to streamline their public transportation experience. Here’s how it works:

  1. Contactless Payments: Express Transit Cards are virtual versions of physical transit cards or payment methods like Apple Pay credit cards. They are designed specifically for use with public transportation systems, such as subways, buses, and commuter trains.
  2. No Authentication Required: What makes the Express Transit Card unique is that it doesn’t require authentication via Face ID, Touch ID, or a passcode. You can simply tap your iPhone or Apple Watch on the designated card reader, and the payment or access is processed instantly.
  3. Efficiency: This feature is particularly handy for commuters as it speeds up the boarding process. There’s no need to unlock your device or open the Wallet app. Just tap, and you’re on your way.
  4. Security: Even though it doesn’t require authentication for transit purposes, Express Transit Cards are designed with security in mind. They use a combination of hardware-based security features and tokenization to protect your payment and personal information.
  5. Availability: Express Transit Cards are available in select cities and regions where transit agencies have integrated with Apple’s technology. Not all locations support this feature, so it’s essential to check whether your area or the place you plan to travel to offers it.
  6. Customization: Users can set a default Express Transit Card in their Wallet for their most frequently used public transportation system. This makes it even more convenient when navigating daily commutes.

Adding to Express Transit or Travel Card

If you go to Settings > Wallet & Apple Pay > Travel Cards, you will see the words “Multiple” for my case.

Express Travel Card
Express Travel Card

This is because I have TWO Express Travel Card.

The new Hong Kong Octopus App for Tourists and the Suica Card for Japan. I have HKD 100 for the Hong Kong Octopus App for Tourists and JPY 799 for Suica. Oh I miss Japan.

Active Travel Card for Hong Kong Octopus App for Tourists
Active Travel Card for Hong Kong Octopus App for Tourists

This will make it very easy when we are in Hong Kong to buy stuff or use in on MTR without the need for Face ID authentication.

Topping Up Hong Kong Octopus App for Tourists

Now in order to top up the Octopus 八達通 card, you need to use the Hong Kong Octopus App for Tourists to do so. Let me explain.

If you go straight to Apple Wallet and try to top up, it will not work. Unlike the Japan Suica Card, it cannot allow you to top up in the Apple Wallet itself. You will get a “Add Payment Method” message. This make sense as we never really use the Apple Wallet to natively “add the travel card”. We used an app to add it to Apple Wallet. Or probably the Apple Wallet requires you to have a HKD credit or debit card.

Cannot top up Hong Kong Octopus card in Apple Wallet
Cannot top up Hong Kong Octopus card in Apple Wallet

Does not matter. We are tourists. We follow the rules. Instead, go BACK to the Hong Kong Octopus App for Tourists itself. There, you can add more funds by clicking on the ORANGE “TOP UP” button.

Topping Up Hong Kong Octopus App for Tourists
Topping Up Hong Kong Octopus App for Tourists

And now I am adding (topping up) the Hong Kong Octopus App for Tourists by HKD 100. That would cost me SGD18.29. The same amount on Google Finance is 17.25 SGD.

Topping Up Hong Kong Octopus App for Tourists
Topping Up Hong Kong Octopus App for Tourists

And this time, in Apple Pay, I choose Citibank Rewards Credit Card. It also offers 4 miles per dollar (up to SGD1,000 a month) for online transactions. More importantly, it is to let you know it works with Citibank.

Topping Up Hong Kong Octopus App for Tourists
Topping Up Hong Kong Octopus App for Tourists

You can then see the new balance in the app. This time it is 200 HKD.

Latest Balance in Hong Kong Octopus App for Tourists
Latest Balance in Hong Kong Octopus App for Tourists

All gooood. Not as bad as the reviews said 🙂

Using the Hong Kong Octopus App for Tourists

I used the Hong Kong Octopus App card for MTR rides…. easily…. without any issues.

How to set up Hong Kong Octopus App for Tourists : It Really Works
Using Hong Kong Octopus App card for MTR Rides

I used the Hong Kong Octopus App card to also pay for my tea at a Cha Chaan Teng. There is an Octopus machine at the counter and I just tap my iPhone at it. Viola !! You can definitely use it for shopping at Citygate outlet mall where Silveri Hong Kong-MGallery hotel is.

How to set up Hong Kong Octopus App for Tourists : It Really Works
Using Hong Kong Octopus App card for paying for Food

And there is a list of the transactions in my app.

How to set up Hong Kong Octopus App for Tourists : It Really Works
Hong Kong Octopus App card List of Transactions

All good.

No issues. At all.

Refunding the Hong Kong Octopus App for Tourists

Okay. End of trip and I am not sure when the next visit is. I decided to refund my deposit and my un-used funds in the app.

Go back to the app. Go to SETTINGS (I know.. weird).

You will see the REFUND CARD

How to set up Hong Kong Octopus App for Tourists : It Really Works
Refunding the Hong Kong Octopus App for Tourists

Apparently the refund will go back to your credit card and it will take 6-8 weeks. HOLY COW.

Refunding the Hong Kong Octopus App for Tourists
Refunding the Hong Kong Octopus App for Tourists
Refunding the Hong Kong Octopus App for Tourists comes with Handling Fee
Handling Fee !!

And that’s not all. THERE IS A DAMN HANDLING FEE. Just like returning the Octopus 八達通 card at the airport if you return it within 90 days of buying it (which we do, usually as tourists).

A Handling Fee of HK$11 or 1% of any remaining value, whichever is higher, for any such Octopus returned if it meets any one or more of the following criteria:

if its remaining value exceeds HK$1,000; and/or

if it is returned within 90 days from the date of issue; and/or

if such Octopus has only been used for five (5) payment transactions or less from the date of issue (excluding any bill payment transaction or donation transaction)

https://www.octopus.com.hk/en/consumer/customer-service/refund/index.html

Now noticed I am getting back SGD40 for HKD 239 (HKD 250 – HDK 11).

As per google finance, 239 Hong Kong Dollar equals 41.23 Singapore Dollar. So here I am, losing money again when I get a refund 🙂

A better way is just to use up the value in the App… pretty easy as there are Octopus readers in almost every shop you visit 🙂

Conclusion on Hong Kong Octopus App for Tourists

I am so glad I took the gamble (despite the bad reviews) to install and fund and top up the Hong Kong Octopus App for Tourists. It worked very well for me in Hong Kong and just like the Japan Suica Card, makes life really easy. You can use it almost everywhere and you can also top up everywhere. Without going to the train stations etc.

If you don’t mind the exchange rate amounts when you top up and when you refund….. a small price to pay for convenience depending on how you look at it.

But the original 八達通 card has always been and is still super cool and part of our memories in Hong Kong.

Always.

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