How Apple Pay Saved My Butt in Hong Kong
Visiting another country is always an interesting money experience. Even when traveling to places I’ve been to before, it seems I never know what to expect. That’s why, in the past, I’ve made sure to touchdown in each nation with at least a few dollars of local currency already in hand and armed with a Visa card so I’d be ready for whatever may come. However, my latest international travel brought upon an unforeseen challenge: the exclusivity of contactless payments.
This past week, my wife and I were in Hong Kong for the opening of a new attraction at Hong Kong Disneyland. The morning after our arrival, we headed down to a Starbucks located just a few steps from our hotel. After placing our order (a hojicha tea latte and an azuki blossom latte), I went to pay with our Uber Visa Card. That’s when something strange occurred.
As I looked for a place to insert or swipe my credit card, I came across nothing. I thought perhaps it was just my jet lag that was causing me to miss obvious things but, alas, there was no such port. Instead, the terminal only accepted payments via near field communication (NFC) technology — something most American cards still lack even though a few issuers are starting to roll them out.
Luckily, despite my physical credit card lacking NFC capabilities, I did have my Visa available in Apple Pay. Sure enough, this option worked like a charm, much to my relief. However, this wouldn’t be the last time I needed to bust out my phone to make a payment in Hong Kong. On the other side of the mall from the Starbucks was a grocery store where my wife and I would pick up snacks, beverages, and some instant ramen. It turns out that this store also only accepted contactless credit card payments, again necessitating Apple Pay. To be fair, there were some other locations where chip cards were accepted but, even in these cases, Apple Pay was much faster and easier.
While I can’t speak to why we Americans are so behind on credit card technology (why did we even bother with chip cards again?), I’m sincerely glad that I had Apple Pay set up before my travels. Heck, I think I used it more during my week in Hong Kong that I have in the past year stateside. So until the U.S. catches up and makes NFC credit card standard operating procedure, it might behoove you to have Apple Pay, Google Pay, or another contactless payment option set up ahead of your international travel just in case.