Which Hong Kong Bank Features To Look For When Selecting a Bank Account
As the global banking system has gotten more selective and difficult, more and more people are contacting me when they got rejection letters. A lot of times this is HSBC HK as everyone goes there first.
Are you one of these people getting the rejection letters? Or maybe your account closed?
You have a Hong Kong company setup, but without a bank account, how can someone do business? Crazy right.
So the scramble for bank account alternatives to HSBC comes up.
Today I’m going to go through the various features you want in a bank account, and give some other banks to look at.
Because we are global business people, we need to handle multiple currencies. The thing people love about Hong Kong is the ability to hold so many currencies. Many countries force clients to convert into their home country currency such as US dollars or Chinese Yuan.
But having a multi-currency bank account in Hong Kong is a feature you need to request when applying.
And there are a few small differences:
The line between savings and checking accounts have blurred over the years. But the main difference is a checking (also called “current”) is that you can access it from an ATM account. Sure, there are some ATMs that let you choose between checking or savings. But when you’re traveling internationally or not at your home bank, you don’t have that choice always.
But multi-currency is a key feature in a bank account, and let’s use this as top criteria in selecting top bank accounts to apply for here.
Yes, I’m typing this in in the year 2015 and still there are many banks with none or limited online banking. I hate to say it, I have to say a decent amount of Hong Kong banks that leave a lot of room for improvement for online banking. HSBC has the best for online banking, and that is still nowhere near as convenient as international and American banks.
But besides HSBC, which banks have good online banking?
First, let’s define good online banking.
Think these are the core functions of online banking. Other things I would classify as “nice to have”, but these you need to use online banking.
Visa / Mastercard Debit Card
Have you seen bank cards that you are not able to use when buying things online or at shops?
Yes, those exist.
They are only valid at the banking ATMs inside Hong Kong, either in their network or other Hong Kong banks. They will not work outside of China, even in Mainland China.
This is a big problem for global business people like us right?
We need a bank account that gives us a Visa or MasterCard “backed” debit card. So we can use them at ATMs around the world. But not just the basic function as getting cash from an ATM, but also the ability to make simple daily business purchases when out and about.
While this may seem like a basic function, we may need to ask for this feature when applying to a bank. And they may not have the option! Or, they will charge a one time, or monthly fee to have this functional debit card.
Reasonable Monthly Fees
No one is a fan of bank fees.
Yet around the world, bank fees have been creeping up more and more. I predict it is due to low interest rates. As higher overhead costs the banks need to follow with international regulations.
So these costs get passed down to the user, us, in the form of monthly fees or all kinds of crazy transaction fees.
So our alternative Hong Kong bank account needs to have reasonable bank fees.
What is reasonable? Well, let’s baseline it to HSBC HK, which is 50 HKD (approximately $6.50 USD) per month. The bank can waive this fee if you maintain a monthly average balance of 50,000 HKD ($6,500 USD) as of writing today’s guide.
I’ve seen monthly fees as high as 300 HKD ($40 USD) from certain HK banks. You can avoid it by having a minimum balance of 200,000 HKD (approximately $25,500 USD).
So we need to be cautious of bank fees when selecting a bank account.
Custom HeadlineLow / No Application Fee
In all my years with Hong Kong business, I have not seen application fees for banks. But lately I have seen them pop up more and more.
The banks require you to pay the fee upfront and non-refundable even if you get rejected. The justification for these fees is that nowadays there is more and more “red tape” or paperwork due to FATCA regulations for all clients. This is a lot more paper that you need to fill out, mailed around, and warehoused for years.
Who is going to pay for that?
Banks seem to want to pass this down to clients.
So let’s be weary of these new application fees for Hong Kong banks. These are popping up all the time, so keep your ears open when going to your bank account opening interview.
Also, I may miss some of these over the years and months, so if you can leave a comment to help me and others out, that would be amazing!
Decent Customer Service
Customer service, that is decent.
I’m not going to get into cultural differences and customer service in today’s article. But I will just say, that we want to have basic and polite service when dealing with our banking needs.
I’ve been in bank account application interviews and the account representative is…not engaged with the client. They say that this is the way things are, and that if they don’t like it they can apply somewhere else. This comes out a bit rougher when typed out today, they say it in a more soft tone.
But because bank accounts have gotten more “exclusive” to get, the bankers feel that we should be happy they are talking to us and considering our applications.
Let’s vet out banks who have poor customer service. I’m hoping today’s guide can keep up to date with other people’s experiences.
What Is Your Hong Kong Banking Plan?
Hope this helped you out. Hong Kong is a great place to do business. Once you get the bank account! While the banking solutions on the market today may have some things left to be desired, it is much better compared to other options in Asia.
What is your next step?
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Also published on Medium.