Standard Chartered is one of the banks in Hong Kong. The article will introduce the requirements, process, and types of accounts for opening an account with SC.
Virtual banks offer their products and services to customers without relying on a branch network. Depending on which of the virtual banks in Hong Kong you choose, you’ll be able to open an account, transfer money, make payments, and even get a loan, all via your phone or laptop. No inconvenient opening hours - and no more need to stand in line at a bank branch.
Although virtual banks may be new to the Fintech Hong Kong scene, there are still quite a few to choose from - with more on the way.
This guide runs through the virtual banks open right now, and gives some pointers on how to choose one. As virtual banks tend not to facilitate cross border payments, we’ll also highlight Wise as a smart option for expats and people sending and receiving international payments. Let’s get started.
If you’re eligible to open an account with a virtual bank, the process can usually be done online or using the bank’s app in just a few minutes.
However, the specific requirements and eligibility criteria - as well as the process you need to follow - might vary between one bank and another. For ZA Bank, as an example, you must have a locally issued adult HKID card, and a Hong Kong residential address and mobile phone number to open an account¹.
Which virtual bank and account product is right for you will depend on your personal needs and preferences. However, there are a few things to keep in mind when you’re choosing:
- How easy and intuitive is the virtual bank’s app and website?
- Can you access your bank online or only using an app?
- What are the fees for local transfers?
- Are international payments available - and at what cost?
- Can you get a debit or credit card card for easy spending?
- What are the local and international ATM fees?
- Are there minimum balance requirements or fall below fees to pay?
- Is there a multi-currency account for sending money overseas or travelling?
- What interest rates are on offer for savings and time deposits?
You may need a bank code when making money transfer to a Hong Kong bank. Check your bank code here.
ZA was the first virtual bank to launch in Hong Kong, after virtual banks became allowable by law². ZA Bank offers savings and time deposit accounts, money transfers in HKD, CNY and USD, loans and insurance³. It’s worth noting that although you can transfer in several currencies, you can only make HKD and CNY payments using the FPS system, and USD payments using CHATS can only be made to local accounts. You can open an account as a personal or business customer⁴.
Savings accounts allow customers to add and withdraw money as they need, while time deposit accounts mean you will leave your money with the bank for a fixed period, or pay a penalty charge. Interest rates available vary by currency, but run up to 1.5% for CNY deposits.
As you’d expect with any financial product, there are some fees to pay. Here’s what you need to know⁵:
|Service||ZA Bank Fees|
|Time deposit early withdrawal||Either a cost calculated based on the number of days to maturity or a fee of HK$200, whichever is higher|
|CHATS payment - inward or outward||Fees waived|
|Default interest rate for loans||4% on the remaining principal|
|Late payment for loans||HK$300|
|Early settlement of a loan||2% of remaining principal + any applicable promotional offers|
Airstar is the second virtual bank to be launched successfully in Hong Kong with a range of banking services, savings accounts, time deposits and loans. HKD, USD and CNY products are available⁶.
At the time of research, Airstar is waiving all standard service fees for customers⁷. It’s worth noting however that other banks involved in some transactions - sending or receiving money for example - might have their own charges to consider. It’s also important to realise that these fees may not be waived forever, so you’ll need to keep an eye on the charges as they change over time if you open an account.
Airstar has a headline figure of 3.6% interest for HKD savings accounts. This applies to the first HKD20,000 saved. There are varied savings rates for different currencies and for time deposits.
One of Airstar’s key differentiators is that there is no penalty to pay for early redemption of a time deposit. While this policy may change in time, this is a reassurance to savers who want as much flexibility as possible.
WeLab Bank is a Hong Kong founded virtual bank, with products including time deposits and savings accounts as well as a debit card⁸. You can also access a range of further services through the sister companies to WeLab including WeLend for consumer finance online⁹.
With WeLab Bank you can manage your money easily online, while using your debit card to avoid spending more than you planned to using credit facilities.
There are a few costs to consider if you want to open a WeLab account¹⁰:
|Service||WeLab Bank Fees|
|WeLab debit card annual fee||Waived|
|Foreign transaction fee||1.8% of transaction value|
|Faster Payment System transfer fee||Waived|
|Inbound telegraphic transfer fee||HK$50 - correspondent bank charges if any|
|Paper statements||HK$20 per statement|
|Bank reference letter||HK$200|
To join Livi Bank you’ll need to get an invitation code by clicking a link on the Livi website¹¹. This will take a day or two, but then you can set up an account to save, make local payments, and transfer money¹²𑁦¹³𑁦¹⁴. You can use your account to pay for things in stores and online, and also send money in HKD using FPS and a variety of other payment routes¹⁵.
Livi Bank has no minimum balance requirement and at the time of research has waived all other fees¹⁶. You may still incur fees from other banks - when you send a payment to a different bank for example.
If you’re interested in using Livi to save money, you can get an interest rate of 0.5% on the first HKD500,000 you hold in your account.
Mox is a virtual bank account from Standard Chartered, and has only just launched in Hong Kong. At present only people who have pre-registered on the Mox website are able to join, as part of a phased launch.
For those who are eligible, Mox accounts let you save, spend and manage your money¹⁷. You can get cash back on spending, including launch promotional offers which mean bonus rewards. All that said, there are still some fees to pay¹⁸:
|Local ATM withdrawals|
|Foreign ATM withdrawals|
|Foreign transaction fee||1.5% - 1.9% of transaction value|
|Paper statements||HK$50 per statement|
|Card replacement fee||HK$50 - HK$350|
Your options for sending money abroad using a Hong Kong Virtual bank are limited. If getting a good deal on international payments matters to you, check out Wise.
With Wise, you can make and receive convenient international payments all over the world, without worrying about hidden fees that crop up thanks to the SWIFT network or dodgy exchange rates.
You can open your account online, and hold dozens of different currencies all in the same place. You’ll then be able to hold, spend or send your balance - or switch your funds to alternative currencies using the mid-market rate, all within the Wise app.
There’s no charge to open an account, no minimum balance and no service fee. If you need a smart way to send money overseas, try out Wise.
Sources used in the article:
ZA Bank - Account opening
ZA Bank - Home Page
ZA Bank - Transfer
ZA Bank - Fees and charges guide, page 2
Airstar Bank - Home Page
Airstar Bank - Service Fees, page 1
WeLab Bank - Home Page
WeLend - Home Page
WeLab Bank - Fees and charges
Livi bank - Home Page
LiviSave - Home Page
Livi bank - Pay Easy
Livi bank - Transfer Easy
Livi bank - FAQ
Livi bank - Fees and Charges, page 1
Mox - Home Page
Mox - Fees and Charges
Sources last checked on 15-September 2020.
This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.
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