Changing Your Money
For most travellers plastic should do the job, with ATM locations growing surely but steadily in the more sizeable cities. Credit cards are also gaining ground in China, with Visa, MasterCard, American Express (branches in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Xiamen), JCB and Diners Club the most common. Cards can be used in most mid to top-range hotels, Friendship and department stores, but cannot be used to finance your transportation costs. If cards aren't an option then cash will never fail and exchanging currency is relatively easy. Counterfeit notes are a problem so make sure when using cash you examine large denomination notes when given to you as change from street vendors.
Changing Your Money
One of the main reasons why Hong Kong has become a major financial centre is because it has no currency controls; locals and foreigners can bring/send in or take out as much money as they please.
When changing money, avoid the exchange counters at the airport: they offer some of the worst rates in Hong Kong. The rates offered at hotels are only marginally better. Licensed moneychangers such as Cheque point are abundant in tourist areas such as Tsim Sha Tsui and the Shun Tak Centre, from where ferries depart for Macau. While they are convenient (usually open late, as well as on Sundays and holidays) and take no commission per se, the exchange rates offered are equivalent to a 5% commission. These rates are clearly posted, though if you're changing several hundred US dollars or more you might be able to bargain for a better rate. Before the actual exchange is made, the moneychanger is required by law to give you a form to sign that clearly shows the amount due to you, the exchange rate and any service charges. The half-dozen moneychangers operating on the ground floor of Chungking Mansions (Nathan Rd, Tsim Sha Tsui) usually offer good rates. Most will change a basket of currencies as well as travellers cheques.
No foreign currency black market exists in Hong Kong. If anyone on the street does approach you to change money, assume it's a scam.
Hong Kong is not a particularly tip-conscious place and there is no obligation to tip, say, taxi drivers; just round the fare up. It's almost mandatory to tip hotel staff at least HKD10.00, and if you make use of the porters at the airport, about HKD2.00 a suitcase is expected. The porters putting your bags on a push cart at Hong Kong or Kowloon Airport Express station do not expect a gratuity, however. It's all part of the service.
Most hotels and many restaurants add a 10% service charge to the bill. Check for hidden extras before you tip; some mid-range hotels charge HKD3.00 to HKD5.00 for each local call when they are actually free throughout the territory and some restaurants consistently get the bill wrong.
Nothing beats cash for convenience - or risk. It's still a good idea, however, to travel with at least some of it, if only to tide you over until you get to an exchange facility. Banks generally offer the best rates, though three of the biggest banks - HSBC, Standard Chartered and the Hang Seng Bank - levy a HKD50.00 commission for each transaction on non-account holders. If you're changing the equivalent of several hundred US dollars or more, the exchange rate improves, which usually makes up for the fee. Hong Kong is littered with branches of these banks, so you should have no trouble finding one.
The most widely accepted credit cards in Hong Kong are Visa, MasterCard, American Express (AmEx), Diners Club and JCB, and pretty much in that order. When signing credit card receipts, make sure you always write an 'HK' in front of the dollar sign if there isn't one already printed there. Some shops in Hong Kong may try to add a surcharge to offset the commission charged by credit companies, which can range from 2.5% to 7%. In theory, this is prohibited by the credit companies, but to get around this many shops will offer a 5% discount if you pay cash. It's your choice.
Bills are issued in denominations of HKD10.00 (purple and rose), HKD20.00 (grey), HKD50.00 (blue), HKD100.00 (red; a 'red one'), HKD500.00 (brown) and HKD1000.00 (yellow; a 'gold one'). The HKD10.00 note was reintroduced by the government in 2003 with a new crazy pattern based on a Dutch design when they realised the public was hoarding the discontinued green HKD10.00 notes and using them for New Year laisee packets. Except for the HKD10.00 notes, Hong Kong notes are issued by three banks: HSBC (formerly the Hongkong and Shanghai Bank), the Standard Chartered Bank and the Bank of China.
There are copper coins worth HKD0.10, HKD0.20 and HKD0.50, silver-coloured HKD1.00, HKD2.00 and HKD5.00 coins and a nickel and bronze HKD10.00 coin.