The Hong Kong dollar (HKD) is the official currency of Hong Kong. Issued by the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, the HKD plays an important role in the vibrant economy of Hong Kong. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll examine the history, exchange rate, economic role, usage, and other key aspects of the Hong Kong dollar.

A Brief History of the Hong Kong Dollar

The Hong Kong dollar has been the legal tender of Hong Kong since 1894 when the British colonial government ruled Hong Kong. Prior to this, various foreign coins were used for transactions in Hong Kong.

In 1935, the Hong Kong government introduced the Board of Commissioners of Currency and the Exchange Fund. This tied the HKD to the British Pound at the fixed exchange rate of HK$16 to £1.

When the British Pound was devalued in 1967, the HKD was pegged to the US dollar instead at the rate of HK$5.65 = US$1. This peg has remained the same since 1983.

In 1972, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) was established to issue and manage the currency. The HKMA regulates banks, maintains reserves, and stabilizes the exchange value of the HKD against the US dollar.

Since 1983, the linked exchange rate system has been in effect, which pegs the HKD to the US dollar within a narrow trading band. This system provides currency stability and reduces exchange rate risks.

The Hong Kong dollar banknotes are issued in denominations of HK$10, HK$20, HK$50, HK$100, HK$500, and HK$1000. The coins are in denominations of 10 cents, 20 cents, 50 cents, HK$1, HK$2, HK$5, and HK$10.

In summary, the HKD has evolved from foreign banknotes to a stable local currency tied to the USD for over 3 decades. The currency is issued and regulated by the HKMA to maintain monetary and economic stability.

HKD Exchange Rate System

As mentioned earlier, the Hong Kong dollar is pegged to the US dollar under the Linked Exchange Rate System. The HKD is allowed to trade within a narrow horizontal band of HK$7.75 to HK$7.85 against the USD.

The HKMA is obligated to buy or sell the HKD at the edges of the trading band to maintain the pegged rate. For example, if the HKD threatens to move outside the band, say above HK$7.85, the HKMA will conduct open market operations to bring it back within the band by supplying more HKD.

The Linked Exchange Rate system provides numerous economic benefits for Hong Kong:

  • Currency stability – the fixed peg reduces exchange rate fluctuation and volatility
  • Lower inflation – import of US monetary policy keeps inflation low in line with the USD
  • Trade and investment – the fixed rate provides certainty for traders and investors

However, the system also has some disadvantages:

  • Lack of independent monetary policy – HK interest rates follow US rates to maintain the peg
  • Expensive to maintain during speculative attacks
  • Susceptible to economic shocks in the US

Nonetheless, the Linked Exchange Rate has been successful in keeping the HKD stable against the USD since 1983. Periodic market pressures have prompted the HKMA to intervene to protect the peg and restore confidence.

The Important Role of the HKD in Hong Kong’s Economy

As the legal tender and predominantly used currency, the Hong Kong dollar plays several critical roles in the economy:

Medium of exchange – The HKD is used in nearly all monetary transactions between consumers, businesses and the government in Hong Kong. It enables exchange of goods and services.

Store of value – HKD cash, bank deposits and other assets store value over time, providing stability and savings.

Unit of account – Prices of goods, services, stocks, bonds and real estate in Hong Kong are denominated in HKD as a common unit.

Drives economic growth – Total supply of HKD effects interests rates, investment, employment and overall economic growth.

Maintains financial stability – The HKMA regulates HKD supply to influence inflation, exchange rates and prevent financial crises.

Creates exports – The fixed exchange pegs boosts trade competitiveness of Hong Kong’s exports denominated in HKD.

In summary, the Hong Kong Dollar is deeply intertwined with the city’s economic activities. The currency provides the vital functions of money and its stability empowers trade, investment and growth.

Usage and Circulation of the Hong Kong Dollar

The Hong Kong dollar has high usage and circulation both within the economy and internationally. Let’s examine the key uses:

Legal tender – By law, the HKD must be accepted as payment for debts, public charges, contracts, commodities and services within Hong Kong.

Bank reserves & transactions – Banks hold HKD assets as reserves and facilitate domestic transactions/transfers in HKD.

Retail payments – Most stores and merchants in Hong Kong display prices and accept payments in HKD via cash, debit cards, credit cards, mobile wallets etc.

Consumer savings – Households and individuals save cash, bank deposits and other HKD denominated assets.

Local business trade – HKD is used for payment of wages, suppliers, rents and other business expenses in Hong Kong.

Real estate payments – Property sale/purchases, mortgages and rental agreements demand payment in HKD.

Government transactions – The government spends via HKD and collects taxes and duties in the same currency.

International trade – Some overseas trade, like imports or tourism expenditure, involves payment in HKD.

Foreign exchange – HKD is exchanged against major currencies in the global forex markets.

Portfolio investment – Foreign investors can hold HKD deposits and bonds as assets.

In summary, the Hong Kong dollar is highly circulated through a multitude of transactions as legal tender and globally traded currency.

Hong Kong Dollar Banknotes and Coins

The HKMA is the sole issuer of the banknotes and coins used in Hong Kong. The banknotes are printed on polymer substrate for durability and security. Here are the denominations and features:

HK$10 – Purple color. Printed with picture of the Old Peak Tram.

HK$20 – Green color. Picture of the fireworks over Victoria Harbour.

HK$50 – Red color. Picture of the lobby of the Former Central Government Offices.

HK$100 – Blue color. Picture of the observation wheel of the Hong Kong Space Museum.

HK$500 – Purple color. Picture of the Peak Tower and the Sky Terrace.

HK$1000 – Golden color. Picture of the Hong Kong International Airport.

In addition, the coin denominations in circulation are:

  • $10
  • $20
  • 50 cents
  • $1
  • $2
  • $5
  • $10

The coins have the Bauhinia flower on the obverse side while the reverse depicts the denomination. Both coins and banknotes have extensive security features for authenticity – metallic images, holograms, fluorescent prints, etc.

The HKMA often introduces new series and designs to honor important events, buildings or prevent counterfeiting. The vivid colors and intricate details showcase Hong Kong’s culture and make the currency pieces unique and attractive.

The Hong Kong Dollar as a Reserve Currency

Due to Hong Kong’s stature as an international financial center, the HKD is held as a reserve currency by central banks and governments worldwide. There are a few reasons driving this status:

  • Linked Exchange Rate provides stability – The fixed peg to the USD makes the HKD’s value predictable.
  • High liquidity – The HKD forex market has high trading volumes enabling swift conversions to cash.
  • Strong banking system – Assets denominated in HKD can be safely held in Hong Kong’s resilient banks.
  • Gateway for investment in China – The HKD serves as a conduit for investment in the region.

Official foreign exchange reserves held in HKD stood at US$ 87 billion in 2022, representing 1.3% of total allocated reserves globally. In particular, the HKD makes up 6.2% of China’s massive forex reserves worth $3.2 trillion indicating Hong Kong’s strategic importance.

While the HKD may not be a top global reserve currency like the US dollar or Euro, it still accounts for a material share of global allocated reserves. This reflects Hong Kong’s status as an international hub and the HKD’s relative stability.

Should the Hong Kong Dollar Be Unpegged?

The HKD’s fixed exchange rate to the US dollar has been a cornerstone of Hong Kong’s monetary system for decades. However, some economists have suggested that the HKD should be unpegged for greater flexibility. Let’s examine some arguments on both sides:

Reasons to maintain the peg

  • Provides currency stability which supports trade and investment
  • Eliminates exchange rate risk between HKD and USD
  • Historic record of stability through financial crises
  • Maintains low inflation and interest rates
  • Reduces speculative currency attacks
  • Syncs HK monetary policy with the US

Reasons to unpeg

  • Limits ability to respond to economic shocks
  • Reduces autonomy of domestic monetary policy
  • Risk of forcing interest rates unsuitable for local conditions
  • Expensive to maintain peg through market interventions
  • May not counteract effects of Chinese monetary policy
  • Susceptible to fiscal policies and economic issues in the US

On balance, most experts agree that the benefits of the fixed exchange rate outweigh the disadvantages for Hong Kong. The peg provides certainty and stability which has clearly supported growth and prosperity to date. However, political pressures or structural changes in China or US could prompt a re-think of the peg in the long run.

Outlook for the Hong Kong Dollar

The Hong Kong dollar is expected to remain stable due to strong economic fundamentals and the Linked Exchange Rate System with the US dollar.

Here are some positive factors on the outlook:

  • Continued currency stability resulting from fixed peg
  • Healthy levels of HKD liquidity in banking system
  • Limited exposure to global headwinds due to autonomy
  • Prudent fiscal policy and large reserves provide buffers
  • Robust financial regulations to prevent crises
  • Backing of HKMA to maintain currency peg
  • Low public and external debt levels

However, Hong Kong faces some economic challenges:

  • Pressure to raise interest rates in line with the US
  • Slowing trade with China and global growth
  • Impact of Hong Kong political issues on business confidence
  • Falling stock market and property prices
  • Outflow of residents and human capital
  • Declining importance as a global financial hub

Barring any domestic political or banking crises, the HKD is expected to remain an attractive, stable and convertible currency buoyed by strong institutions and reserves. However, Hong Kong’s status as an international financial center could come under threat depending on China’s political and regulatory actions.


To conclude, the Hong Kong Dollar has served as a stable anchor for the city’s prosperous development over the past few decades. The fixed exchange rate peg to the US Dollar implemented by the HKMA has allowed the HKD to thrive as legal tender, a reserve currency and a facilitator of trade.

Moving forward, the outlook for the HKD looks positive due to the currency’s entrenched role in finance and trade in the region. However, any changes in Hong Kong’s relationship with China or the US could have significant implications for the currency’s future path.