Hong Kong taxis to join modern world as digital payment platform wins approval from Transport Department

Hong Kong taxis to join modern world as digital payment platform wins approval from Transport Department

Hong Kong taxis to join modern world as digital payment platform wins approval from Transport Department

Hong Kong fintech company Wonder has won approval from the city’s Transport Department for its effort to bring digital payments to Hong Kong’s 18,000-odd taxis, the vast majority of which only take cash.

Taxi Pay x Wonder, or Taxi Pay for short, is the first payment gateway platform to be approved by the HKSAR Transport Department, Wonder announced on Tuesday. Wonder is a subsidiary of Bindo Labs, a 2010 start-up that provides online payment systems for the food and beverage industry.

The system will allow Hongkongers to use 18 different local and international payment options to settle taxi fares, either by scanning a QR code to pay via their mobile phone or tapping their phone or payment card on a terminal.

The company hopes to shake up the taxi industry in Hong Kong, one of the few major cities where cash is still king for taxi fares unless a commuter prepays to book a taxi via an app like Uber. Widespread adoption of digital payments would enhance Hong Kong’s reputation as a global hub of innovation and a forward-thinking international city, the company said.

Chau Kwok-keung, chairman of The Hong Kong Taxi & Public Light Bus Association, demonstrates Wonder’s payment system in Sham Shui Po on November 2, 2023. Photo: Edmond So

“We aim to boost the adoption of digital payments and enhance the overall taxi experience for both local riders and international visitors,” Jason Ngan, founder and CEO at Wonder, said during a press conference at Hong Kong Science Park on Tuesday.

Wonder’s system works as an upgrade to the taxi’s meter system, allowing it to accept different payment methods like Visa, Mastercard, Alipay and UnionPay. Alipay is associated with Alibaba, which owns the Post. Each fare incurs a 3.5 per cent surcharge.

To get the technology, each taxi will need to install a smart taximeter and a smart payment terminal, valued at HK$5,800 and HK$2,800, respectively. The company is offering the equipment for free as an early-bird incentive for the next six months. It is also waiving the transaction fee for certain payment methods during a three-month promotional period.

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Government statistics show that there are 18,163 taxis in Hong Kong: 15,250 urban taxis, 2,838 New Territories taxis and 75 Lantau taxis. The vast majority do not offer digital payment options.

Some drivers have avoided digital payment systems up until now due to a delay incurred in the settlement of payments. Through Wonder’s collaboration with Acorn, a prominent Asia-Pacific private debt investor, Taxi Pay is able to overcome this by introducing instant settlement, which enables taxi drivers to access the earnings immediately after each trip.

In addition, Wonder announced it is set to launch a taxi-order app called “Driver Assistant”. The app matches drivers with nearby orders based on GPS location and allows taxi drivers to pick up orders. Drivers can also manually select orders from a pool of available options, providing flexibility in managing their workload, the company said.

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