Looking for the best virtual banks in Hong Kong? Here you go

Joao Marcos

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.

Open your free Wise account here🚀

How to open a virtual bank account in Hong Kong?

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.

Things to consider when selecting your virtual bank in Hong Kong

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 Bank account: fees and rates

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:

ServiceZA Bank Fees
Time deposit early withdrawalEither a cost calculated based on the number of days to maturity or a fee of HK$200, whichever is higher
CHATS payment - inward or outwardFees waived
Default interest rate for loans4% on the remaining principal
Late payment for loansHK$300
Early settlement of a loan2% of remaining principal + any applicable promotional offers

Airstar Bank account: fees and rates

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 account: fees and rates

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:

ServiceWeLab Bank Fees
WeLab debit card annual feeWaived
ATM withdrawals
  • Free from JETCO network ATMs
  • HK$30 for withdrawals at other ATMs in Hong Kong
Foreign transaction fee1.8% of transaction value
Faster Payment System transfer feeWaived
Inbound telegraphic transfer feeHK$50 - correspondent bank charges if any
Paper statementsHK$20 per statement
Bank reference letterHK$200

Livi Bank account: fees and rates

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 account: fees and rates

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:

ServiceMox Fees
Local ATM withdrawals
  • Free from JETCO network ATMs
  • HK$20 for withdrawals at other MasterCard network ATMs
Foreign ATM withdrawals
  • HK$30 per transaction
  • If you use a MasterCard network ATM there is also an exchange rate markup of 1.5% - 1.9%. This fee is waived if you use JETCO ATMs
Foreign transaction fee1.5% - 1.9% of transaction value
Paper statementsHK$50 per statement
Card replacement feeHK$50 - HK$350

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

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.

Join Wise now 🚀

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:

  1. ZA Bank - Account opening

  2. ZA Bank - Home Page

  3. ZA Bank - Deposit https://bank.za.group/en/deposit

  4. ZA Bank - Transfer

  5. ZA Bank - Fees and charges guide, page 2

  6. Airstar Bank - Home Page

  7. Airstar Bank - Service Fees, page 1

  8. WeLab Bank - Home Page

  9. WeLend - Home Page

  10. WeLab Bank - Fees and charges

  11. Livi bank - Home Page

  12. LiviSave - Home Page

  13. Livi bank - Pay Easy

  14. Livi bank - Transfer Easy

  15. Livi bank - FAQ

  16. Livi bank - Fees and Charges, page 1

  17. Mox - Home Page

  18. 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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