Looking for the best Hong Kong Banks for foreigners in 2020? Here are 5 of them

Joao Marcos

If you’re a foreigner living, working or studying in Hong Kong, getting a bank account set up will be a priority to help you hit the ground running.

As Hong Kong is a major global financial hub, you’ll have no trouble finding a new bank. But choosing the right one for your needs can be a little harder. This guide gives some ideas about what to look for in your new account - and runs through some of the major banks in Hong Kong to start your research.

We’ll also take a look at how you could save on international payments to and from Hong Kong with Wise. Let’s get started.

Things to consider when selecting your bank in Hong Kong:

Choosing your new bank and account type can be overwhelming. There are many different banks - and even more account products which you can consider.

Here are a few things to think about when you’re deciding which account will suit you:

  • Do you have all the necessary paperwork to prove your eligibility for the account?
  • Does the account come with smart, intuitive online and mobile banking?
  • What are the minimum balance requirements, and what is the fall below fee?
  • Are multi-currency account options available for managing your money across borders?
  • How much does it cost to withdraw from an ATM in Hong Kong and abroad?
  • What does it cost to send and receive money from overseas?
  • What are the interest rates if you’re planning on saving?

How can a foreigner open a bank account in Hong Kong?

The exact process for opening a bank account in Hong Kong will vary according to the bank and account type you choose. You can expect to need a stack of paperwork to get started¹ ², and will usually need to visit a branch to provide your documents and discuss your account requirements.

More or less every bank will ask you to prove your identity and residential address. This is likely to mean showing your passport or Hong Kong ID card, and address proof such as a recent utility bill, rental agreement, letter from your employer or government correspondence. If you’re not a resident in Hong Kong you may be able to provide another government issued document showing your address, such as a driving license.

Aside from the documents, you will be asked to provide personal information which may include:

  • Your nationality
  • Your employment and salary
  • Reason for opening an account
  • Expected level or activity for the account
  • Tax residency information

As long as you have the right paperwork in order, you’ll have a broad choice of accounts open to you. Here are a few of them.

Hang Seng account: fees and rates

Hang Seng Bank has a range of account products in both Hong Kong dollars and other currencies

With Hang Seng Bank, you can open accounts in a range of currencies, including foreign currency time deposit accounts if you want to save and invest. 12 foreign currencies are available - Australian dollar, Canadian dollar, euro, Japanese yen, New Zealand dollar, British pound, renminbi, Swiss franc, South African rand, Thai baht, Singapore dollar and US dollar. Check the eligibility criteria for different account types to make sure you fulfil all the requirements³ ⁴.

Here are some of the key account fees you need to know about⁵:

ServiceHang Seng account fee
ATM withdrawal and balance enquiryHK$20
Send a telegraphic transfer
  • Using e-banking: HK$65
  • Via other channels: From HK$190 - HK$260
  • Additional charges may apply including correspondent bank fees and surcharges for branch TTs initiated after 12 noon
Receive a telegraphic transferHK$65 - HK$300 depending on the detail of the payment
Other account service chargesInactive account service charges are applied if the balance of the account falls below a minimum agreed level, and there is no activity for 2 years
Early closure feeUp to HK$200

BEA account: fees and rates

As well as HKD denominated accounts for everyday use, BEA offers USD accounts, passbook accounts in 11 different currencies, and foreign currency deposit accounts including time deposit and statement savings accounts. The currencies available are Australian dollar, Canadian dollar, euro, Japanese yen, New Zealand dollar, British pound, renminbi, Swiss franc, South African rand, Thai baht, Singapore dollar and US dollar⁶. There are some minimum deposit amounts and fees you’ll need to know about when considering these accounts.

Here are some of the key fees to consider - get the full detail online⁷.

ServiceBEA HK account fee
ATM usage overseasHK$15 - HK$50 depending on the ATM type
Sending a telegraphic transfer
  • In branch: HK$150 handling fee + HK$100-130 cable charge
  • Online: HK$20 + HK$80 cable charge
Including a message in payment details in Chinese charactersHK$200
Commission in lieu of exchange
  • 0.25% of the remittance amount - minimum HK$100, maximum HK$1,000
  • Waived for remittances in HKD/USD to Mainland China
Handling fee if sender wants to pay correspondent bank chargesFees vary, applies to transfers using the SWIFT payment network

HSBC Hong Kong account: fees and rates

As an international banking brand, HSBC is a popular choice for foreigners in Hong Kong, as you can access services locally and in many other global regions.

As well as opening your day to day account in Hong Kong dollars, you can open foreign currency account products including savings accounts. You’ll be able to choose the right account and service level for your needs - including Jade, Premier and Advanced services which are tailored to individuals looking for more account perks, and support with wealth management⁸.

Here are a few of the key fees you need to know about when considering an account from HSBC⁹:

ServiceHSBC account fee
ATM usage overseasHK$20 - HK$40 depending on the network of the ATM
Sending a telegraphic transfer
  • Using online banking: HK$50
  • Via branch: HK$120 - HK$240
  • Additional HK$40 fee for branch TT payments requested after noon on any business day
Receiving a telegraphic transferHK$50 - commission of 0.25% may also be payable depending on the currency involved
Including a message in payment details in Chinese charactersHK$150 - waived if currency being sent is CNY

Standard Chartered account: fees and rates

As you’d expect from a large global bank, Standard Chartered Hong Kong has a full range of account products and services. You can access different service levels depending on how much money you keep in your account and the type of transactions you want to make¹⁰.

Depending on your situation, you may also be able to use the Standard Chartered international services, which give priority banking to customers and their families all around the world¹¹.

Here are a few of the standard fees you’ll want to know about¹²:

ServiceStandard Chartered HK Charge
International ATM withdrawal
  • No surcharge for UnionPay and JETCO ATM usage
  • Up to 1.95% fee for other ATM networks
Sending a telegraphic transferHK$120 - HK$200 + minimum HK$250 for correspondent bank charges
Non-domicile currency transferHK$60 - HK$100 depending on the account type, in addition to fees listed above
Odd currency surcharge (including South Korean won, New Taiwan dollar, and other currencies)HK$200
Chinese character TT codingHK$150
Amendment, cancellation or refund of telegraphic transferHK$250

BOC Hong Kong account: fees and rates

Bank of China has a range of products, from free online accounts which target different types of customers¹³, to private banking solutions for people looking to invest and manage their wealth proactively¹⁴.

Here are a few of the standard costs for services foreigners may use frequently¹⁵:

ServiceBOC HK Charge
Sending a telegraphic transfer
  • Online: HK$65 + SWIFT charges
  • In branch: HK$210 + SWIFT charges
Receiving a telegraphic transferHK$60 for transfers of HK$500 and above - wee waived for smaller transfers
Handling fee for message to beneficiary
  • In branch - up to 10 words or characters is free, HK$100 above that
  • Fee waived for online transfers
SWIFT chargesVary by currency - for example, there is a fee of HK$160 for any TT send in USD, while transfers to the UK cost GBP20
Enquiry, amendment, return or cancellation requestHK$220

Making international transfers from Hong Kong? You could save more with Wise

Getting a local bank account is a smart plan. However, you don’t necessarily want to use your regular bank for all transactions. For example, using a currency specialist like Wise can mean you save when sending and receiving money from overseas.

You can easily see how Transferwise payments compare against major Hong Kong banks, by looking at the comparison table available on the Wise website. Because Wise payments use the mid-market exchange rate with no markup, and charge a low transparent fee, you’ll typically pay less. Check out the example below as an illustration.

A cost example: Sending HKD 5000 from Hong Kong to the UK (GBP)

ProvidersFeesExchange Rate (1HKD=)Recipient will get
Hang Seng BankHK$650.0960554GBP474.03

*Fees and exchange rates correct at time of writing - 2 September 2020. Learn more about how the cost comparison is calculated, here.

As a foreigner living in Hong Kong you’ll certainly want to look into the best ways to manage your money. As an expat, the services you need, and the transactions you make frequently, may change compared to when you lived in your home country. Thinking in advance about how you’ll use your bank account - and any other services you might need - can save you time and money in the long run.

Use this guide as a starting point to help select the right bank for your day to day needs. And don’t forget to compare the prices of using a specialist service like Wise when you’re sending or receiving international payments or need currency exchange, to see how much you can save.

Sources used in the article:

  1. BEA HK - Documents required to open a personal account, pages 1 and 2

  2. HSBC Hong Kong - Points to note for account application

  3. Hang Seng Bank - Foreign Exchange

  4. Hang Seng Bank - Bank Account Opening

  5. Hang Seng Bank - Fees and Charges, pages 3,4 and 6

  6. BEA HK - Foreign Currency Deposits

  7. BEA HK - General Services, pages 6,8 and 9

  8. HSBC Hong Kong - Foreign Currency Account

  9. HSBC Hong Kong - Tariff Guide, pages 11 and 16

  10. Standard Chartered HK - Personal Banking Services

  11. Standard Chartered HK - International Banking

  12. Standard Chartered HK - Service Charges pages 6 and 7

  13. BOC Hong Kong - Salary Earners

  14. BOC Hong Kong - Private Banking

  15. BOC Hong Kong - Service Charge

Sources last checked on 11-September 2020.

Please see terms of use and product availability for your region or visit Wise fees and pricing for the most up to date pricing and fee information.

This publication is provided for general information purposes and does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its subsidiaries and its affiliates, and it is not intended as a substitute for obtaining advice from a financial advisor or any other professional.

We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether expressed or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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