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Hong Kong currency: A rich history unveiled

Have you ever wondered about the story behind the money you use when travelling? Money isn’t just a means to spend; it’s a piece of history you can hold in your hands. 

Today, we’re taking a closer look at the Hong Kong currency, a fascinating tale of trade, tradition, and transformation.

Whether you’re a traveller planning your next trip or just curious about the world of currency, there’s something intriguing about the journey of Hong Kong’s money. 

So, grab a cuppa, and let’s embark on this journey through time, exploring the rich tapestry of the currency of Hong Kong.

Early beginnings

The story of Hong Kong currency starts in the bustling ports of the 1800s. Back then, Hong Kong was a melting pot of cultures and currencies. 

Traders from across the globe would come here, bringing with them a variety of coins and notes. From the shiny Spanish and Mexican silver dollars to the intricate designs of Indian rupees and even British pounds, 

Hong Kong’s markets saw it all. This mix of money wasn’t just about trade; it shaped Hong Kong’s unique cultural and economic landscape.

In this whirlwind of commerce, there was a need for a common currency. Something that could simplify trade and represent Hong Kong’s growing identity. 

This need led to the birth of the Hong Kong dollar (HKD), a currency that would soon become the heartbeat of the city’s economy. 

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The birth of the Hong Kong dollar

In 1863, a significant chapter in the history of Hong Kong currency began. The introduction of the Hong Kong dollar. 

This bold move was to unify the various forms of money flowing through the city. To establish a stable economic foundation. 

The excitement around this new currency peaked in 1866 when the Hong Kong Mint was established. Imagine the buzz in the air as the first coins bearing the name “Hong Kong” were minted, a proud moment for the city.

However, this excitement was short-lived. The Hong Kong Mint faced challenges and eventually closed its doors, though the spirit of the Hong Kong dollar lived on. 

It continued to evolve, adapting to the people’s and the economy’s needs. This resilience and adaptability have made the Hong Kong currency stand the test of time.

The introduction of the Hong Kong dollar marked Hong Kong’s growing independence in the financial world. Setting the stage for the city’s future as a global economic powerhouse.

Hong Kong dollar's peg to US dollar

The silver standard and currency pegs

After introducing the Hong Kong dollar, the next big step was adopting the silver standard. 

This was like setting the rules of the game where the value of the currency of Hong Kong was tied to silver. This standard brought stability and trust to the Hong Kong currency, making it a reliable player in international trade.

But the world of currency never stays still for long. Hong Kong’s currency saw several changes in its value system. Including being pegged to the British pound and, later, the US dollar

Each peg was a strategic move that shaped Hong Kong’s economic destiny. The peg to the US dollar, in particular, has been a cornerstone. Helping maintain stability in Hong Kong’s financial system.

These changes in currency pegs and standards reflect Hong Kong’s adaptability and resilience in the face of global economic shifts. 

They show how the Hong Kong currency has thrived, crucial to the city’s success as a financial hub.

War and occupation currency changes

Hong Kong’s currency history is marked by resilience, especially during the tumultuous times of World War II. 

When Hong Kong was under Japanese occupation, the currency of Hong Kong underwent a dramatic shift. The Japanese Military yen replaced the Hong Kong dollar, drastically altering the city’s economic landscape. 

After the war, the return to the Hong Kong dollar symbolised Hong Kong’s recovery and determination to rebuild. Its reinstatement brought a sense of normalcy and stability back to the city’s markets and people’s lives.

These shifts in currency during times of war and occupation are a testament to Hong Kong’s adaptability.

Octopus transport card with 10 50 100 and 500 dollar bills. Top up for MTR, ferry, bus and tram with money options for payment

The modern era of currency

The Hong Kong dollar has seen significant evolution, adapting to the needs of a rapidly changing world. 

A new series of banknotes and coins have been introduced. Each with sophisticated security features to combat counterfeiting and ensure the integrity of the Hong Kong currency.

One of the keystones of this era is the decision to maintain the peg to the US dollar. This strategic move has helped stabilise the Hong Kong dollar’s exchange rate. Providing a solid foundation for international trade and investment. 

The modern era has also seen the introduction of innovative payment methods. Such as the Octopus card, which complements the traditional use of Hong Kong currency. 

These advancements reflect Hong Kong’s position at the forefront of financial technology, seamlessly blending tradition with innovation.

Commemorative issues and currency design

Every note and coin tells a story, and this is especially true for Hong Kong currency. 

Over the years, Hong Kong currency coins and notes have featured a variety of designs. Celebrating the city’s rich heritage and cultural diversity. 

Commemorative issues have marked significant events, showcasing the vibrant tapestry of life in Hong Kong.

The design elements of Hong Kong’s notes and coins often feature iconic landmarks, historical figures, and symbolic motifs. 

These artistic details do more than just prevent counterfeiting. They weave the city’s stories into the very fabric of its currency. Collectors and enthusiasts often seek out new currency issues for their unique designs and the stories they tell.

The attention to detail and cultural significance embedded in the design of Hong Kong’s currency highlights the city’s pride in its history and identity. 

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Hong Kong currency in the global financial system

Hong Kong stands tall as a towering figure in the world of finance. And the Hong Kong currency plays a starring role in this success story. 

Hong Kong’s currency has become a beacon for investors and businesses worldwide thanks to its stability and reliability. This global trust is built on Hong Kong’s reputation as a place where East meets West, creating a unique financial ecosystem.

Hong Kong is pivotal in connecting markets and people, fostering economic growth far beyond its shores.

Hong Kong Stock Exchange Charts

Looking ahead: The future of Hong Kong currency

The future of Hong Kong currency sparks curiosity and anticipation. With the digital age in full swing, questions about digital payments and cryptocurrencies are at the forefront.

What currency Hong Kong will use in this new era remains a hot topic. Traditional Hong Kong currency notes and coins continue to circulate. Whilst digital payments are gaining ground, suggesting a blend of old and new.

Regardless of these changes, one thing remains certain. The adaptability that has defined Hong Kong’s currency history will continue to guide its path. 

Whether it’s new Hong Kong currency designs, digital payment systems, or changes in the currency exchange rate, Hong Kong is set to navigate the future with the same resilience and innovation that have marked its past.

Hong Kong Dollar banknotes

Hong Kong dollar notes

Hong Kong dollar notes are fascinating for their design and history. Here’s a brief rundown:


Three commercial note-issuing banks are permitted to issue Hong Kong dollar notes. HSBC, Standard Chartered Bank (Hong Kong), and Bank of China (Hong Kong). The Hong Kong Government also issues its own notes for smaller denominations.


The notes come in denominations of $10, $20, $50, $100, $500, and $1,000. The government also issues the $10 note in polymer form. Older HK$10 notes are becoming rare and are gradually being withdrawn, but they remain legal tender.


The designs on Hong Kong dollar notes often feature iconic aspects of the city’s heritage, culture, and economy. For example, recent series have included themes such as the UNESCO-listed Geopark, Cantonese opera, and modern architectural landmarks.

Security features

The notes include advanced security features like holograms, watermarks, embossed printing, and security threads to combat counterfeiting. Some newer notes also incorporate see-through windows and other innovative elements.


Special commemorative issues and unique designs make certain Hong Kong dollar notes highly collectable. 


While electronic payments are increasingly popular in Hong Kong, cash, and particularly notes, remain widely used for day-to-day transactions. Especially in smaller shops and markets.

hong kong dollar coins

Hong Kong dollar coins

Coins are an essential part of Hong Kong’s currency system, each with its own unique features and uses. Here’s a quick overview:


Coins come in several denominations, including 10 cents, 20 cents, 50 cents, $1, $2, $5, and $10. $1 is divided into 100 cents, like pounds and pence. Each denomination has a distinct size, colour, and design, making them easily distinguishable.


The coins are made from a variety of materials. Including nickel-brass, cupro-nickel, and bi-metallic compositions, depending on the denomination. This not only adds to their durability but also their aesthetic appeal.


The designs on Hong Kong dollar coins often feature symbolic representations of Hong Kong’s culture and heritage. Common motifs include the Bauhinia flower, the emblem of Hong Kong, and other traditional symbols.


The Hong Kong Monetary Authority is responsible for issuing Hong Kong dollar coins. They ensure a steady supply to meet public demand and maintain the quality and security of the coins.

Security features

While coins generally have fewer security features than notes, their unique designs, sizes, and materials help prevent counterfeiting. 


Coins are widely used for smaller transactions across Hong Kong. They are convenient for public transport fares, vending machines, and small retail purchases.


Like the notes, certain Hong Kong dollar coins, especially commemorative and limited-edition releases, are popular among collectors. These coins can celebrate significant events, achievements, or anniversaries in Hong Kong.

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The name of the currency of Hong Kong isn’t as widely known in the UK as the euro or the US dollar. So, it’s common for folks to be unsure about what they’re looking for when they need to exchange money.

People often search for terms like “Hong Kong currency,” “currency in Hong Kong,” and “what currency does Hong Kong use” when, in fact, they’re looking to get their hands on the Hong Kong dollar, the official currency of Hong Kong – A handy tip for your next trip!

Yes! If you want to swap your pounds for Hong Kong dollars, you’ve come to the perfect spot! Get the best Hong Kong currency exchange rate with Manor FX.

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No, Hong Kong and Chinese currency are not the same. Hong Kong uses the Hong Kong dollar (HKD), while mainland China uses the renminbi (RMB), with the yuan (CNY) being the primary unit of the renminbi. 

Each has its own set of notes and coins, and they are used in their respective regions. Despite being a part of China, Hong Kong maintains its own currency system because of its status as a Special Administrative Region.

No. Generally, Chinese currency (renminbi or yuan) is not widely accepted for everyday transactions in Hong Kong. Hong Kong and China’s currency aren’t the same.

Hong Kong has its own currency, the Hong Kong dollar (HKD), the preferred and most widely used currency for all local transactions. 

While some larger retailers, hotels, and tourist-oriented businesses might accept the Chinese Yuan, it’s not the norm, and the exchange rate might not be favourable. 

Use Hong Kong Dollars for transactions in Hong Kong to ensure smooth and efficient payments.

In Hong Kong, the currency in circulation is the Hong Kong dollar (HKD).

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