Hong Kong dollar

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The Hong Kong Dollar (ISO 4217: HKD) is the official currency of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China. The Basic Law of Hong Kong and the Sino-British Joint Declaration provides that Hong Kong retains full autonomy with respect to currency issuance. Currency in Hong Kong is issued by the Government and three local banks under the supervision of the territory's de facto central bank, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority. Bank notes are printed by Hong Kong Note Printing Limited. The most commonly used symbol for the Hong Kong dollar is the dollar sign ($).

The Hong Kong Dollar is accepted in southern parts of mainland China and Macau as well as some shopping malls in Singapore. Hong Kong people often call a Hong Kong dollar 蚊 (Cantonese IPA: /mɐn55/). This term possibly originated with the first syllable of "money". In written Chinese, however, Yuan (圓 or 元, pronounced /jyn11/ in Cantonese) is used, particularly in cheques and commercial documents.

Since 1983, the Hong Kong dollar is linked to the United States dollar.


File:Hk money.jpg
Contemporary Hong Kong Coins and Notes
Unit ($) Design on Obverse Design on Reverse
10 cents Numeral 10
20 cents Numeral 20
50 cents Numeral 50
1 dollar Numeral 1 Bauhinia
2 dollars Numeral 2
5 dollars Numeral 5
10 dollars Numeral 10
Unit ($) Colour Landmark on Reverse
10 Purple (Originally green) -
20 Blue The Peak Tower
50 Green (Originally purple -
100 Red Tsing Ma Bridge
500 Brown Hong Kong International Airport; The Peak
1000 Golden HKCEC; Victoria Harbour

The Hong Kong dollar has been pegged to the United States dollar since 17 October 1983 at HK$7.80 per U.S. dollar through the currency board system. A bank can only issue a Hong Kong dollar if it has the equivalent exchange in U.S. dollars on deposit. The currency board system ensures that Hong Kong's entire monetary base is backed with U.S. dollars at the linked exchange rate. The resources for this backing are kept in Hong Kong's Exchange Fund, which is among the largest official reserves in the world.

As of 18 May 2005, in addition to the lower guaranteed limit, a new upper guaranteed limit was set for the Hong Kong dollar at 7.75 to the USD. The lower limit will be lowered from 7.80 to 7.85 in five weeks, by 100 pips each week. The Hong Kong Monetary Authority indicated this move is to narrow the gap between the interest rates in Hong Kong and those of the United States. A further aim of allowing the Hong Kong Dollar to trade in a range is to avoid the HK dollar being used as a proxy for speculative bets on a Yuan (Renminbi) revaluation.

Nowadays, banknotes of legal tender in local circulation include six denominations of $10, $20, $50, $100, $500 and $1,000. The issue of $5 note was discontinued after 1975 when the government replaced it with the $5 regal coin.


The basic unit of the Hong Kong dollar is dollar (圓 for a formal form; 蚊 in spoken Cantonese, perhaps a transliteration of the first syllable of "money", but some suggest that the character is the corruption of ; also 元 for a less formal form). One dollar is divided into 100 cents (仙 on the reverse side of discontinued coins and in spoken Cantonese, a transliteration of “cent”, 分 in Mandarin). Ten cents is called 1 ho in Chinese (毫 on the reverse side and in spoken Cantonese, 毫子 in colloquial speech, 角 in Mandarin). One mil (one-tenth cent) was known as 1 man or 1 tsin in Cantonese (文 or 千 on reserve side of discontinued coins, in spoken Cantonese and Mandarin). The largest denomination of the present-day Hong Kong currency is the one thousand-dollar note, whereas the smallest is the ten-cent coin. (Old coins and banknotes of smallers denomination are still legal tender.)

To express price in spoken Cantonese, for example $7.80, it said as 七個八 (chaad gor baad); in financial terms where integer values in cents exist, e.g. $6.75, it is said as 六個七毫半(luk gor chaad ho buun)(fives in cents is normally expressed as "half", unless followed by another five, such as 55 cents when preceded by a dollar value.); $7.08, 七蚊零八仙 (seven dollars "ling" (zero) eight cents).

Slang Terms

In Hong Kong, the following are slang terms used to refer to various amounts of money:

  • 斗另: 5 cent coins (No long in circulation)
  • 辰砂: cents (lit. cinnabar, a kind of ground (therefore small-size) mineral used in Chinese medicine)
  • 大餅: $5 (lit. big cracker)
  • 草: $10 (lit. grass)
  • 兜: $10 (lit. bowl)
  • 舊[水]: $100 (lit. a piece [of water]; "water" stands for money in Cantonese)
  • 餅: $10,000 (lit. cracker)
  • 皮: $10,000 (lit. hide)
  • 青蟹、花蟹: HKD$10 banknotes (lit. green crab, flowery crab; due to the colour of the old style notes)
  • 紅底、紅衫魚: HKD$100 banknotes (lit. red back, golden thread; due to the colour of the notes)
  • 大牛: HKD$500 banknotes (lit. big bull); because in pre-war notes there was a picture of a bull on the note
  • 金牛: HKD$1,000 banknotes (lit. golden bull; due to the colour of the notes, plus the slang term of the HKD$500 notes)

Interestingly, some of these terms are sometimes used by Overseas Chinese to refer their local currency.


Regal coins

As Hong Kong was established as a free trading port in 1841, there was no local currency existing for everyday circulation. Foreign currencies such as Indian rupees, Spanish and Mexican 8 Reales, Chinese cash coins and British currency were employed as substitutes. Coins particularly issued for Hong Kong did not appear until 1863 when the first regal coins of Hong Kong, i.e. coins with the portrait or Royal Cypher of the reigning monarch, were issued. They were produced by the Royal Mint, London and comprised the silver ten cent, the bronze one cent and one mil, the last being one-tenth of a cent.

Silver trade dollars

File:Morgan dollar.jpg
The Morgan silver dollar of the USA

Foreign currencies continued to circulate along with home denomination, but the majority of these were not up to standard for government payments. Owing to the fiscal loss, the Hong Kong Mint, which was located at Sugar Street established in 1866 was closed two years later. Minting machines were sold to Jardine Matheson, which in turn sold them to the Japanese Government. The Government started producing Japanese yen in Osaka with the equipment bought. As a stand-in for the regal dollar coins, silver trade dollars from the USA, Japan and Britain were used.

Hong Kong Dollar

From 1895, legislation was enacted in attempts to coalesce the coinage. With the release of one-dollar note pursuant to the One-Dollar Currency Note Ordinance of 1935, the Government acknowledged the Hong Kong Dollar as the local monetary unit. It was not until 1937 that the legal tender of Hong Kong was finally unified. The history of local coinage is thus only one hundred and thirty years old. A sum of six coins of different shapes and metal contents with denominations of ten, twenty and fifty cents, one, two and five dollars, have been made available for general exchange in Hong Kong.

It is improbable that paper money was in local circulation as a medium of exchange for daily use prior to the establishment of the Oriental Bank, which was the earliest bank to open in Hong Kong, coming into operation in 1845. Other banks began to set up and issued their own banknotes. However, such notes were not accepted by the Treasury for imbursement of government dues and taxes but were still good enough for transmission in mercantile field. Under the Currency Ordinance 1935, banknotes in denominations of $5 and above issued by the three authorized local banks, namely the Mercantile Bank of India Limited, The Chartered Bank of India, Australia and China (Standard Chartered Bank), and The Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation, were all declared legal tender.

Japanese Military Yen

A 1 Japanese Military Yen bill used in occupied Hong Kong during World War II
main article: Japanese Military Yen

During the Japanese occupation, Japanese Military Yen were the only means of everyday exchange in Hong Kong. When the JMY was first introduced in December 26, 1941, the exchange rate between HKD and JMY was 2 to 1. However, by October 1942, the rate has been changed to 4 to 1. After exchanging for HKD, the Japanese Military purchased supplies and strategic goods in neutral Macao. On 6 September 1945, all JMY was announced to became void. The issue of local currency was now resumed by the Hong Kong Government and the authorized local banks after the emancipation.

Currencies for handover

Starting in 1997, prior to the establishment of the SAR, coins with Queen Elizabeth II's portrait were gradually withdrawn from circulation, and now most of the notes and coins in circulations feature Hong Kong's Bauhinia blakeana flower or other symbols. Coins with the Queen's portrait are still legal tender, but are being phased out.

Because the redesign was highly sensitive with regard to political and economic reasons, the designing process of the new coins could not be entrusted to an artist but was undertaken by Joseph Yam, Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, himself who found in the bauhinia the requested "politically neutral design" and did a secret scissors and paste job.

New designs

After a less-than-successful trial from 1994 to 2002 to move the 10-dollar denomination from the banknote format (issued by the banks) to the coin format (Government-issued), the 10-dollar banknotes are currently the only denomination issued by the SAR Government and not the banks. The older 10-dollar bank notes issued by banks are, although rare and being phased out, still circulated.

Hong Kong coinage

File:Hk money coins.jpg
Hong Kong coins
main article: Hong Kong coinage

The Government issues coins of $10, $5, $2, $1, 50 cents, 20 cents and 10 cents. Until 1992 these coins were embossed with the Queen's head. In 1993 a programme was initiated to replace the Queen's Head series with a new series depicting the bauhinia flower. Commemorative coins and coin sets are sometimes produced for special occassions, for example the opening of the Hong Kong International Airport.

Hong Kong banknotes

File:Hk money banknotes.jpg
Hong Kong banknotes
main article: Hong Kong banknotes

The Government, through the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA), has given authorization to three commercial banks-- The Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC), Standard Chartered, and the Bank of China. The HKMA acquired the note printing plant at Tai Po from the De La Rue Group of the UK on behalf of the Government. The plant has been operating under the name of HKNPL since then. Currency notes in everyday circulation are $10, $20, $50, $100, $500 and $1,000. In 2002, the HKSAR Government issued a new ten dollar note (which is printed directly by the HKMA, and not through the banks) in recognition of a continuing demand among the public for a note in addition to the coin. Various security features are incorporated in genuine Hong Kong banknotes.

Linked Exchange Rate System

main article: Linked exchange rate

The primary monetary policy objective of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority is to maintain exchange rate stability within the framework of the linked exchange rate system through sound management of the Exchange Fund, monetary operations and other means deemed necessary.

The important underpinnings of the linked exchange rate system include the strong official reserves of Hong Kong, a sound and robust banking system, fiscal prudence and a flexible economic structure.

Historical exchange rates

History of Hong Kong's Exchange Rate System
Period Exchange rate regime Features
1863 - 1935 Silver Standard Silver dollars as legal tender
12/1935 - 6/1972 Sterling exchange Standard exchange rate:
  • H1:HK$16 (12/1935-11/1967)
  • H1:HK$14.55 (11/1967-6/1972)
7/1972 - 11/1974 Fixed exchange rate against the US dollar Exchange rate:
  • US$1:HK$5.650 (6/1972-2/1973)
  • US$1:HK$5.085 (2/1973-11/1974)
11/1974 - 10/1983 Free floating Exchange rates on selected days:
1983 - Present Linked exchange rate system
  • US$1=HK$7.80

(for issue and redemption of Certificates of Indebtedness)

  • US$1=HK$7.75 (9/1998 onwards)
(The HKMA undertakes to convert the HK dollars in licensed banks’ clearing accounts maintained with the HKMA into US dollars at the fixed exchange rate of HK$7.75 to US$1. The rate has been moving to 7.80 by 1 pip each calendar day starting from 1 April 1999 ending 12 August 2000.)

See also

External links