Local Currency in Hong Kong

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Currency in Hong Kong

The Hong Kong dollar (港幣 or HKD) is the territory's official currency and is the unit of currency used throughout this travel guide. In Chinese, one dollar is known formally as the yuen (圓) and colloquially as the men (蚊) in Cantonese. You can safely assume that the '$' sign used in the territory refers to HKD unless it includes other initials (e.g. US$ to stand for US Dollar). The HKD is also widely accepted in Macau in lieu of their home currency at a 1:1 rate.

The official exchange rate is fixed at 7.80 HKD to 1 USD, although bank rates may fluctuate slightly. When exchanging currency at a big bank, be prepared to pay a small fixed commission, usually about $40 per transaction. If exchanging large amounts, this commission will have a negligible impact on the transaction. If exchanging small amounts, it may be advantageous to exchange at one of many independent exchange shops found in tourist areas. Although their exchange rates compared with big banks are slightly less favourable for you, most do not charge a commission. They may also be more convenient and faster ways to exchange (no queues, located in shopping centres, open 24 hours, etc.). However, be wary of using independent exchangers outside banking hours because, without competition from big banks, their rates may become very uncompetitive.

Avoid changing money at the airport as well as the hotel since the rates there are extremely uncompetitive.

Many tourists opt to use their ATM debit cards instead of carrying cash or traveller's cheques. Using this method, the exchange rates and fees are comparable to exchanging cash at big banks. However, some smaller banks do not accept ATM cards from overseas customers. The best banks for foreign tourists to use are HSBC, Hang Seng and Standard Chartered, and ATM machines from those banks are widespread. Also, be mindful of withdrawal limits imposed by your bank.

The Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) issues the new purple plastic $10 notes while the rest are issued by three banks (the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation, also known as the 'Hong Kong bank', Standard Chartered Bank and Bank of China). The old green paper $10 notes issued by HSBC and Standard Chartered Bank remain legal tender. The style of notes varies a lot between banks though the colour and size are about the same for notes of the same denomination. The larger the denomination, the larger the size of the banknotes. Banknotes come in denominations of:

  • $10, green or purple (paper or plastic).
  • $20, dark blue or light blue (old or new).
  • $50, purple or green (old or new).
  • $100, red.
  • $500, brown.
  • $1000, gold.

Some shops do not accept $1000 notes due to counterfeiting concerns.

The coins come in units of

  • $10, in bronze/silver, circular.
  • $5, in silver, circular, thicker.
  • $2, in silver, wavey-circular.
  • $1, in silver, circular, thinner.
  • 50¢, in bronze, circular, larger.
  • 20¢, in bronze, wavey-circular.
  • 10¢, in bronze, circular, smaller.

varying in a descending size (except $10 coin).

Since September 1997, the use of the small coins and change has been reduced due to the innovation of the Octopus card. Originally used just for fare payment for the MTR and buses, it now is used all over the city, for purchases in any amount at convenience stores, fast food restaurants, pharmacies, vending machines, etc.

Automated Teller Machines (ATM's) are common in urban areas. They usually accept VISA, MasterCard, and to certain degree UnionPay. Maestro and Cirrus cards are widely accepted also. They dispense $100, $500 or rarely $1000 notes depending on the request. Credit card use is common in most shops for major purchases. Most retailers accept VISA and MasterCard, and some accept American Express as well. Maestro debit cards however are not widely accepted by retailers. Signs with the logo of different credit cards are usually displayed at the door to indicate which cards are accepted. For small purchases, in places such as McDonalds or 7-Eleven, cash or Octopus Card is the norm though some of these outlets can accept credit cards for smaller purchases. Sometimes, the merchant can give you a choice of whether to charge your credit card purchase directly to your home currency or Hong Kong dollars. Choosing which currency to directly charge the purchase to won't matter for small amounts but for larger purchases it may be worth it to consult your credit card's policy on them converting foreign exchange transactions.

Merchants will require that the credit cards be signed and will compare your signature with the card and do not ask for picture ID. The 'chip and pin' system for credit card authorisation is not used in Hong Kong.

Foreigners may open bank accounts in Hong Kong, though a proof of address is required. As your passport usually does not show your address, you should also bring something that shows your address such as an ID card or a bank statement.

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