Summary List Placement
Hong Kong is giving 5,000 Hong Kong dollars, or $643, to every citizen and permanent resident aged 18 and above.
It’s all part of Hong Kong’s $7.2 billion gambit to boost its economy. The city’s financial authority estimates that a surge in retail spending will bump its GDP up by at least 0.7 percentage points.
Hong Kong’s shopping voucher scheme differs slightly from the US’ stimulus checks, which can be saved or used to pay off debt. In Hong Kong, the money is being distributed through four stored-value wallets: AliPay HK, Octopus, Tap & Go, and WeChat Pay HK, and Hong Kongers can only spend the cash on retail items from there.
An initial payout of around $250 (HK$2,000) in retail vouchers was distributed on August 1. This sent Hong Kongers flocking to stores to hit their spending targets, which is a prerequisite to get the remaining vouchers.
The scheme operates on a sign-up basis and applies strictly to retail spending within the city. According to a blog post by the city’s financial secretary Paul Chan, as of July 18, the government had received more than 6.1 million registrations for the vouchers.
Insider spoke to 12 people living in Hong Kong to find out what they’re spending the vouchers on.
Banking executive Cindy Chen, 25, is using her vouchers to buy a new iPhone.
“I think I will choose the iPhone mini. I’ll have to supplement around HK$2,300 ($295), but it’s definitely what I need right now,” Chen said.
“The scheme will definitely help to stimulate spending in Hong Kong,” Chen said. “Of course, for most Hong Kongers, the more cash that’s given out, the better.”
Law student Martin Chau, 23, plans to use the initial payout to buy an iPad.
“I haven’t exactly been saving for an iPad, but now that we have the government vouchers, I plan to get it. It’s going to help me a lot with my studies,” he said.
Designer Janet Ng Wing Yan, 26, spent the first retail vouchers on a pair of Libratone wireless earbuds.
“The vouchers came at the right time because my wired earbuds have been faulty. It’s been on my wish list for quite a while, and the voucher provides an incentive to buy it,” said Ng. She spent close to $250 on the earbuds, and says she plans to get birthday presents for her mother and sister with the remaining vouchers.
Y.K. Lam, who works in marketing, said the vouchers are helping him offset the cost of a HK$25,000 ($3,216) Canon camera.
“I’ve planned to upgrade my camera for a long time, and I do use it at work. I wouldn’t use the cash on beauty products and food anyway,” Lam told Insider.
Freelance photographer Cheung Wui-mun, 33, said he’s eager to get some new lighting equipment and a tripod.
“I haven’t had the time to look into it, but now that the vouchers are being released, it’s a good time for me to upgrade my lighting equipment. Sometimes, the lights flicker at the worst times and it does mess up my shots,” he said.
Cheung added that he might also use part of the money to get a new 85 mm lens for portrait photography, which he estimates will probably max out his voucher limit, and require him to fork out around $150 worth of his own money.
Jacky Choi, 29, who works in quality assurance, is using the money to replace his air-conditioning system.
“We checked the price and it’ll cost us around HK$12,000 ($1,543) to replace an air-conditioning system, so the sum will help to offset the total cost,” Choi said. “We used our old system for 20 years and it’s time to buy a new one.”
Winnie Cheng, a 32-year-old events planner, also has air-conditioning in mind.
She told Insider her family of five combined their first set of vouchers — totaling HKD$10,000 ($1,286) — to replace their home air-conditioning system.
“The aircon units in our house were due to be replaced, so we all agreed to just chip in and use this to get the aircon replacement,” Cheng told Insider, saying she will likely buy a new phone with the rest of the vouchers.
Fung Ka-kit, 21, is using his voucher to buy his brother new shoes.
Fung wants to use part of his cash to get his 16-year-old brother Ka-wing a pair of volleyball shoes.
“I know my brother loves this pair of red-and-black sports shoes, but we haven’t been able to afford it. He’s worn out his old pair and I want to get him a replacement. This can be his birthday present,” said Fung, who is studying for an engineering diploma. The pair of Asics kicks that his brother has his eye on cost HK$1,690 ($217).
Fung told Insider that he is thinking of getting himself a gaming keyboard with the remaining chunk of cash.
“This is giving us a chance to get things that we want but haven’t been able to afford,” Fung said. “I wouldn’t normally splurge on things like gaming equipment since I earn just enough to get by from my part-time tutoring job.”
Marketing manager Jimmy Kwok Chun-ting, 28, said he used his vouchers to buy furniture.
“I got a mattress for my refurbished room. It was something that I would have had to buy regardless of whether the voucher was given out or not, though,” Kwok said.
He added that the Therapedic mattress he purchased cost him slightly over $900, so he paid out of pocket for the remainder.
Yeung Pik-wah, 27, is splurging on expensive groceries.
Yeung Pik-wah, 27, who works in the food imports industry, plans to spend her cash on groceries. At the top of her supermarket shopping list are premium Japanese scallops and eel.
“I bought some items at the supermarket on Monday, and because there was this sum to offset the cost, I was more generous with my budget at the checkout till,” Yeung said, adding that the premium groceries she was planning to get were things she loved but didn’t usually have the budget for.
“The sum will be used up really quickly, though, because I’m using it for my daily expenses,” Yeung added.
Ignatius Lee, 67, the general-secretary of an NGO in the city, said he’ll treat himself to some ice cream.
Lee said he’d likely use his vouchers on groceries for his family of three.
“If they gave us all of the money at once I might use it to buy an iPhone. But the first round is only HK$2,000, it’s not much to spend on electronics. I’ll use it to buy maybe some Häagen-Dazs ice cream,” he said.
Chau Kwong Ming, 72, a retiree, told Insider he’s using the money to make his family a fancy meal.
“I like cooking, so it will be good to spend more on some ingredients to make my family a good meal,” Chau said. “I am thinking of buying some expensive seafood like crabs and lobsters, or maybe some beef and chicken.”
He intends to use whatever is left over to charge up his Oyster card (the Hong Kong version of a Metrocard).
“The cost of living is much higher in Hong Kong than you think. The HK$5,000 will help us buy some good food, vitamins, and pay for transportation, which I think is good enough,” he said.