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Hong Kong - Banking
The local banks listed can offer English speaking staff and guidance in setting up a bank account. If you are uncertain as to the level of English spoken, approach a larger bank in an area such as Tsim Sha Tsui or Central. It is possible to set up an account from your home country by contacting the bank local in the area you are relocating to and sending off an example of a bill from your home address as evidence of current residence, which can help expats have access to a bank account quickly once there and may save money in transfer fees.
Whilst you will not find many of the everyday UK and US banks in Hong Kong, you will find some such as Citibank, HSBC and Standard Chartered Bank with details listed below. There are a good array of ATMs throughout Hong Kong too, though withdrawal costs may apply if you take out money from an ATM other than the one your account is registered with.
Standard Chartered Bank and Citibank are favoured by expats because of their services. SCB allows for customers to buy currency online during internet banking. They also allow for all bank transfers when done online to be free of charge. Citibanks are open until 7pm which is useful when working; they also issue Visa Debit ATM cards which can be used at any bank, including in other countries.
Typical bank opening hours are 9am-4.30pm on normal weekdays and until 5pm on Fridays. Saturdays are usually 9am-12.30pm. Check bank websites for opening times over national holidays. Banks are closed on Sundays.
All banks’ terms and conditions differ, so it is not one size fits all. Additionally, the information below lists standard bank accounts for the everyday person, rather than specialist wealth management or investment accounts.
A basic savings account is where you place money in the account as your ‘opening balance’. The amount depends on the bank account. For example, SCA offer a minimum opening balance of $1000HKD. You will start earning interest on your savings once you have a certain amount in the account.
Multi Currency Savings Account
This account is designed with expats in mind. The account is available in dollars, Euros or British pounds, including a debit card in US dollars or sterling. It may have a mortgage service where you can take out a mortgage on a UK property through this account if you are a UK citizen. You are able to withdraw in foreign currencies and receive foreign currencies into your account.
Standard bank account with cheques and e-cheques, plus a debit card. It will require an opening balance, will have an overdraft facility and may have overdraft protection if a cheque were to bounce.
Credit Card Account
You may need to already have another account with the company you are applying to get a credit card with. Credit cards differ between banks. Free waivers, gifts and sometimes air miles come with credit card accounts.
What documents do you need?
Residents - if you are living in Hong Kong.
• HKID or Passport
• If you are American and opening an American account in Hong Kong, your social security number is required.
• Proof of address in Hong Kong - utility bill or bank statement
• Some banks may wish to see evidence of employment- work Visa/sponsors letter of employment
Non residents - if you are a tourist or are working temporarily.
• Proof of address from country of residence - utility bill/ bank statement
The banking system is generally considered to be very reliable, organised and with clear communication. However, there are still areas of concern. Examples of such are when opening an an account it not being clear to the customer that their account must contain a minimum amount of money as a ‘float’. If this is not present, there are additional charges in ‘relationship banking’. Also if you regularly transfer money to another account it may be worth sending larger, less frequent sums as each transfer can be charged individual amounts, varying in price. Be watchful of some credit card accounts which are free to join but then will begin to charge after a year has passed with no forewarning.
Do check with your bank as to the terms and details of the use of your debit card online. For example, Citibank does not allow for its Citibank Visa Debit ATM card to be used in any other way than in person. Debit cards and their services do not have the same features expats may be used to back home. It can be a confusing system with Octopus, ATM, Debit and EPS cards. Do check with your bank, ask a friend or coworker.
For transport and small confectionary purchases you can use your Octopus card, which is a card you top up and beep when using the MTR and buses. When in retail shops you can pay using the EPS system, which is a swipe and pin method familiar to debit card users. You can pay bills in shops such as Circle K using EPS too. EPS can only be used in Hong Kong and can sometimes be used for online payments. A debit card can be used for online payments where EPS is not available.
Credit cards and international credit cards tend to be accepted; check for the sticker displayed outside the shop. Cheques can also be used.
Banks in Hong Kong generally have a large amount of energy put into customer service. You will be able to contact your bank on the phone or in person, and either of these methods is a great way to talk through your options. There are many types of overdrafts and loans and it may be necessary to talk through several before you can arrange an option which is bespoke to you. However, if you wish first to have a look online, all of the offers are listed and summarised clearly on banks’ sites. You can also apply for overdrafts online if you feel you are ready. A relationship manager will usually be assigned to you to guide you through the procedure for an overdraft.
Generally any person residing in Hong Kong who is not a permanent resident will struggle to get a loan, although it may vary from lender to lender. Credit history will be checked.
When preparing to take out a loan there is certain documentation you must possess:
• Proof of income - salary slips, company pass books
• Document of residence - utility bill, bank statement, tenancy agreement.
Go into the bank which you are banking with and ask to speak about loans. Bring your documentation and an explanation of your plan for the money. They will advise you based on all of these things. Try your bank before you go to personal money lenders, who may rip you off and charge higher rates.