HKT, Hong Kong’s largest operator, launched Tap & Go, a SIM-based mobile payment service for NFC smartphones that enables purchases at the point-of-sale and also offers money transfers to other users.

The Tap &Go app is offered through a wholly-owned subsidiary called HKT Payment and enables users of HKT’s csl or 1010 services to make payments at point-of-sale terminals enabled with MasterCard PayPass in Hong Kong and overseas locations, as well as make online transactions.

Two of HKT’s rivals, 3 Hong Kong and SmarTone, have already launched NFC-based payment services.

Tap & Go users can also transfer money to friends and families through the PayBuddy feature, although funds can only be exchanged with users of the same service. A transfer is made either by tapping smartphones or is done remotely.

Customers can top up their accounts by HK$10,000 ($1,300) per day and make purchases in store of up to HKS1,000, which HKT claims is higher than any of its rivals.

Users can opt for automatic top-up or top up via cash at csl or 1010 stores, with 7-Eleven stores to follow.

HKT is promising users unspecified “endless dining and shopping privileges” with the new app, as well as participation in MasterCard’s traveller reward programme and the operator’s own loyalty programme.

However, users must apply to join Tap & Go. Users must download the app and fill in a form, and prove Hong Kong ID and address, to process their application. After that, they will receive a welcome SMS carrying the initial PIN for log-in. It is not clear whether every applicant will be accepted.

The app is available first on Android, and later on iOS.