Data analytics pointed to the popularity of physical card usage and access to a global payment network.

A homegrown virtual bank licensed by the Hong Kong Monetary Authority has announced the launch of a physical credit card to support its fully-digital banking services.

While WeLab Bank’s services are designed to be 100% accessed from smart mobile phones, a physical card may have wider acceptance and provide added convenience to consumers’ daily lives, such as when making payments at certain merchants or withdrawing cash.

The digital bank partnered with Mastercard to produce a numberless debit card that, unlike traditional bank cards, is available for use immediately (as a virtual card via the WeLab Bank App) a WeLab Bank account has been opened. A physical card would then be delivered later on.

Notable card features

The physical card design adopts a minimalist look containing the cardholders’ name, without the usual card number, card validation code (CVC2) or expiry date. All card functionality can be accessed privately and securely from within the WeLab Bank app.

Other features include: 

  • Hassle-free lost card reporting
    Using the WeLab Bank app to “report lost card” will deactivate the card immediately. New card credentials will be issued to customers shortly thereafter, allowing them to continue making transactions straight away.
  • No hidden fees
    No annual card fee, no reissuance fees for lost card, and no hidden transaction fees.
  • Accepted everywhere – offline or online 24/7
    Users can purchase items offline with a tap of the card, or online by copying the debit card number located in WeLab Bank’s app.
  • Easy access to cash withdrawals
    Users can withdraw cash from any JETCO ATM in Hong Kong, and from CIRRUS ATMs that accept Mastercard cards worldwide.

Ensuring further reliability for local consumers, the WeLab Bank debit card is part of the Deposit Protection Scheme, which means that customers’ eligible savings at WeLab Bank are protected up to a limit of HKD500,000 per depositor.

What spurred the partnership

Analyzing physical credit card transaction figures of the past months, it was noted that over 51% of physical card transactions were for Food & Beverages, followed by 31% for groceries—for a total of 82%. This was compared to online transactions which accounted for just 44% of card activity, spread over the top two categories of Food & Beverage (leading at 31%) and Entertainment (13%).

Beyond local spending, over 30% of online transactions were processed by merchants outside of Hong Kong, driven by the popularity of the global Mastercard network.

Such data insights from consumer behavior led to WeLab Bank’s partnership with Mastercard to offer a physical debit card, to deliver more relevant offers to customers and also to support the bank’s relationships with merchant partners.

Pushing Hong Kong as a smart city

Said Adrian Tse, Chief Executive, WeLab Bank: “We want to empower the Hong Kong people by bringing them a more digital, secure and seamless banking experience, and it all starts with the card. We understand that people don’t want a traditional bank card, but a card that can bring excitement and fit with their daily lives … We hope our customers enjoy using their gorgeous cards just as much as we have enjoyed building it.”

According to Mastercard’s Hong Kong and Macau managing director Helena Chen: “More and more Hong Kong people are adjusting their lifestyles to become technologically savvier.” She said the collaboration will help in “pushing forward the development of Hong Kong as a smart city