Foreign currency accounts, also known as multi-currency accounts, are useful for people living an international lifestyle. Maybe you’re a regular traveller, or have moved abroad to work, study or retire. Or perhaps you’re running a business with team members and suppliers based overseas.
If you find yourself regularly making cross-border payments, a multi-currency account might help you manage the costs and fees, and mitigate the risks involved with currency fluctuations.
Sadly, HSBC USA doesn’t offer traditional multi-currency accounts. You can only open accounts denominated in US dollars (USD) through HSBC in the US. That’s not the end of the story, though. You have options.
HSBC is, however, a large multi-national company. If you want an HSBC account in a different currency, you can go to the HSBC corporate web page, and select the country of your choice. You might be able to open an account with the local arm of the company there, instead. Whether or not this works will depend on the local regulations both where you live in the US, and in the country in questions. Likely, though, if you want to open an HSBC account in a different country, you’ll need a proof of address showing you have a current address in that second nation.¹
Even if you can do this, it wouldn’t be a true multi-currency account and may come with high fees when you move your cash from your HSBC USA account to your new overseas account.
You may also be able to open a HSBC expat account with the Jersey-based arm of HSBC, which offers services solely to expats. However, these accounts aren’t offered through HSBC USA. Not only that, but the account comes with strict requirements like a minimum balance of the equivalent of £60,000 — roughly equal to $79,000 at the time of writing.
Option 3: Get a true multi-currency account — with no minimum balance — from an alternative provider like Wise
If that doesn’t suit your needs, and you want a genuine foreign currency account without all the restrictions, then you do have other options. You might consider the multi-currency borderless account from Wise, for example. You could then use your local USD account from HSBC in the US to fund your balance in any one of dozens of currencies.
The borderless account from Wise isn’t a bank account, it’s better. And it still comes with many of the advantages of a regular multi-currency account, as well as a few more. Check these out:
- Available for both personal and business customers
- No frustrating monthly fees, or unfair account balance minimums
- You can keep your cash in any of dozens of currencies and convert between them at the real mid-market rate for a low, fair fee
- Transfer money to over 50 countries for just a small, upfront fee at the fairest exchange rate out there — like the one you’ll find on Google
- Receive payments in several major regions across the world like the UK, the EU, and Australia with your own local bank details — meaning no hefty international transfer fees
- Use your Wise debit Mastercard to spend locally and abroad in dozens of different currencies (available in select countries)
If you need a truly global currency account, you’ll be pleased to know the Wise borderless account allows payment to be made to and from a wide range of currencies, including:
- United Arab Emirates dirham (AED)
- Australian dollar (AUD)
- Canadian dollar (CAD)
- Swiss franc (CHF)
- Chinese yuan / renminbi (CNY or RMB)
- Euros (EUR)
- British pound sterling (GBP)
- Hong Kong dollar (HKD)
- Indian rupee (INR)
- Japanese yen (JPY)
- Mexican peso (MXN)
- Nigerian naira (NGN)
- New Zealand dollar (NZD)
- Singapore dollar (SGD)
- South African rand (ZAR)
The fees you can expect to find when you open and use a Wise multi-currency borderless account are as follows:
|Wise borderless service||Cost|
|Open an account||$0|
|Monthly service charge||$0|
|Hold 40+ currency balances||$0|
|Get a UK account number and sort code||$0|
|Get a European IBAN||$0|
|Get an Australian account and BSB number||$0|
|Adding money from your US bank account||0.15%|
|Receiving international payments to your account||$0|
|Converting money between currencies||0.55%-2.85%|
|Send money in US dollars to an account in the US (personal)||$0|
|Send money in US dollars to an account in the US (business)||$1.30|
|Send money in US dollars to an account outside of the US||$3.30|
One of the great features of the borderless account is that all currency conversions are carried out using the real exchange rate — there’s no exchange rate markup, and no hidden costs to worry about. This is important, because many banks and exchange services don’t use the exchange rate you’ll find on Google when they process transactions. Instead, they often offer poorer rates to customers and pocket the difference. This isn’t transparent, and it’s usually not a great deal for customers, either.
Wise multi-currency accounts are great for individual use — but they can make an even bigger difference to your business if you’re an entrepreneur working with suppliers, customers or team members abroad. Because of the low and transparent fee structure, and convenient online access, you could save yourself time — and also protect your bottom line.
You’ll get all the advantages of the account set out above, and also a few extras:
- Make batch payments for extra speed and convenience if you’re creating a large number of payments at once
- Integrate the Wise API - with full support from the Wise team to make this happen
- Send USD to many different countries, with low fees and no exchange rate markup, allowing you to pay staff or suppliers easily
- Hold both a personal and business borderless account, and switch between the two easily when you need to
HSBC USA can’t offer a multi-currency accounts, but if you’re considering opening a Wise borderless account, there are a few things you’ll want to know.
Opening a borderless account is free, for both personal and business customers. There’s no monthly service fee to worry about, either.
Every time you convert currency in a borderless account you’ll pay a small flat fee, which varies depending on the currencies in question.
What’s important to know, is that the conversion itself is done by Wise with the real mid-market, or interbank exchange rate. This is the exchange rate that banks use to trade between themselves — but banks don’t often offer it to regular people making smaller trades.
Instead, banks and money exchange services typically add their fees into the exchange rate and offer this markedup rate to retail customers. That’s not transparent, and it’s not usually a good deal. That’s why Wise takes a different approach, offering the real rate, and being upfront about the costs involved in making the conversion.
When you open a borderless account, you can currently activate local bank details in regions like the EU, the UK, and Australia. That means you could send money from your own EUR, GBP, or AUD account — or accept a payment in any of these currencies in each of those regions — without incurring any international transfer charges. You can also send money out from any other currency you activate on your borderless account without incurring international charges. And switching between currencies is simple — incurring only a low fee, and gets you the mid-market exchange rate.
There’s a small charge for transferring money to your account from a credit or debit card, as opposed to a bank transfer, or if you make more than 10 transfers in a month.
Wise takes the safety and security of its customers seriously. It’s registered with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) in the US. The full details of how Wise is regulated, are available online in the dedicated security area of the Wise website.
Because of differences in legislation across states and territories, Wise operates in slightly different ways to ensure legal compliance and the safety of customer funds depending on location. In some states, Wise is registered as a money transmitter in its own right — and overseen by the relevant authorities. In other states, Wise works with partner institutions which are themselves regulated under Office of the Comptroller of Currency. In the US, Wise only banks with institutions insured under the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC).
Having a foreign currency account can be extremely useful if you’re a traveller, international entrepreneur, or need to make frequent cross border payments. Although HSBC USA unfortunately can’t offer customers multi-currency accounts, Wise can help. See if it suits your needs, today.
- https://www.hsbc.co.uk/current-accounts/products/premier/#eligibility (June 21, 2018)
- https://www.expat.hsbc.com/1/2/hsbc-expat/why-hsbc-expat/eligibility (June 21, 2018)
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 TransferWise 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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