New apps offer digital lai see for Lunar New Year, but for many, cash is still king

New apps offer digital lai see for Lunar New Year, but for many, cash is still king

Several new apps let parents and relatives do away with the classic red envelope and just send the money digitally

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The new HSBC app gives people plenty of ways to personalise their digital red packets.

You might be getting some digital lai sees, or red packets, this year, as HSBC has launched an eLaisee function on their mobile banking app.

The app offers a new way of gifting money for the Year of the Rooster, in place of the traditional red envelopes that symbolise good luck. The bank will allows its allows customers to send red packets and greetings digitally to their family and friends from January 19 to February 15.

Senders can give HK$20, HK$50, HK$100, or custom amounts, and include well wishes such as “good health”, “wealthy and prosperous New Year”, and “good luck with your business”.

This provides customers with convenience and is environmentally-friendly at the same time, says Greg Hingston, HSBC’s head of retail banking and wealth management in Hong Kong.


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Other popular peer-to-peer (P2P) payment services with digital lai see options include Tencent’s WeChat and Alipay, launched by the Alibaba Group, owner of the South China Morning Post.

Even overseas players are cashing in, with the US-based PayPal unveiling “red envelope” digital cards for the new year, allowing people in the US to send money to Chinese bank accounts with their service Xoom.

Hong Kong Baptist University student Jessie Pang, 20, said the new eLaisee function was a good idea because it saved the trouble of people going to bank for new notes. “It’s environmentally friendly, too, because every year I see many people waste their lai see envelopes. People tend not to reuse them as everything needs to be new during Lunar New Year,” she said.

But the rush to exchange physical red packets is still in full swing, as Hongkongers queued around the block at certain bank branches this week for new or good as new banknotes for their lai sees.

Young Post junior reporter Clement O’Young, 15, from Sha Tin College, said that he did not like the idea of digital lai sees as he preferred the physical banknotes.

“I love all beautifully-crafted lai sees as they all mean good luck and happiness. Lai sees play a vital part in the tradition which will be lost in the digital way,” said Clement.

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
Year of the Rooster sees digital lai see

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