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Hong Kong - Bank Accounts

Not Ready to Open a Bank Account?
If you are just checking out the city and aren’t ready to open a bank account, then my advice is to get money from the ATM machines. Take a large amount out at a time so that you won’t have to pay the service charge often, but make sure you will have a safe place to keep the money while you are here. Most places will accept credit cards therefore you should  plan on paying with a card and only use cash when necessary.

To Open a Bank Account at Citibank
You will need to bring a passport and a second form of ID (such as a credit card or driver’s license). If you are applying for a credit card, you will need proof of income or a Reference letter from your old bank verifying that you are a good customer. 

Citibank allows you to open an account with just HK $3,000. I was told by an employee that the bank is flexible with new accounts and you can actually open an account with nothing in it, and then quickly have money sent by a wire transfer to your account. To receive a wire transfer is free. The money will be available in just 2-3 days.  If you bring a US dollar check it will take a few weeks to clear and there will be a charge attached. If you bring Citibank Travelers Checks there is no charge to accept them, but they may take some time  to clear. If you are depositing cash in a foreign currency, there is a 0.25% charge. Depending on if you are putting the money into a same currency account or a HK dollar currency account, the fee may be waived if your money is in US dollars and you deposit less than USD $3,000.

If you bring money over to have it exchanged for HK dollars, there is a HK $50 fee if you do not have an account with Citibank.

I was warned that since they are an American firm a US citizen can NOT open an investment account with them. All other accounts are fine.

Citibank offers savings, checking, passbooks, and multi-currency accounts. When you apply for an account, tell the person helping you what your needs are so they can help you find an account that will suit you best. Be aware that the charges you will have to pay on an account depend on how much money you generally have in the account. Ask about the charges you can expect to pay on your account or for services you will use regularly.  

The ATM service available is through Citibank or Jetco ATMs. They are a little less plentiful than HSBC ATMs. 

Insurance can be purchased through Citibank, although they do not have third party risk insurance that you need for driving a car.

Please note that all the fees quoted here can change at any time, so be sure to find out from the bank what their fees will be.

Citibank offers phone banking and internet banking. To find out more about Citibank, call the 24 hour phone line at + 852 2860 0222 or visit their website at:

Setting up a Bank Account at HSBC
HSBC offers Hong Kong dollar savings accounts, multi-currency accounts, passbook accounts, Powervantage checking and saving accounts, and others. You can go to any branch to set up your account. You should explain to the person helping you what you need from an account, whether it’s savings only, checking only, both savings and checking, multi-currency, etc. A representative will be able to point out the benefits of their many accounts and which one would be best for you.

Bring a passport and a Reference letter or Employment Contract. A Reference Letter would be from your current bank stating what your relationship with them has been (such as you have banked with them for 10 years and are not a risky client.) The Employment Contract would be from your employer showing how much you are earning and that you are certified to work in Hong Kong. This is to secure that if you have a credit card account, you will not be a liability to the bank but will be able to pay off the card.

The best way to put money into an account is to transfer it by wire transfer or telegraphic transfer (referred to as a T.T.)  You will have to place instructions with your current bank to transfer the money to this new account in Hong Kong.  It usually takes about two days for a T.T. to be confirmed so that you can access your account. The bank charges HK$50 to receive a T.T. 

If you bring money over with a demand draft, it will take about one month before those funds would be available to you.

If you are depositing cash into your account, HSBC charges 0.25% of the deposit if you are depositing foreign currency, if the amount is over USD $1,000. Therefore, if you were depositing USD $2,000 it would be better to put the money in in three installments so you can avoid this charge.

If you bring US dollars and change it into HK dollars, you will receive the bank exchange rate.  As long as you have an account with HSBC there is no fee to change money. If you do not have an account with them, there is a HK$50 fee. 

Travelers checks may take time to exchange as well. If you bring travelers checks, the bank charges 0.35% of the amount to exchange them, and it may take up to two weeks before that money is available to you. There is usually a minimum amount required to start an account. For the PowerVantage account it is HKD $10,000.  Most other accounts are less. Be aware that the charges you will have to pay on an account depend on how much money you generally have in the account.  Ask about the charges you can expect to pay on your account or for services you will use regularly.   HSBC is a fantastic bank because it is large, solid, has ATMs and branches all over Hong Kong and in every MTR station, has multi-currencies available for when you travel, and provides many other services. However, some people complain that there are a lot of bank charges. 

HSBC provides easy phone banking and internet banking. The ATMs that can be used free of charge are through HSBC or Hang Seng Bank. 

Insurance is offered through HSBC.  Third party risk insurance for buying a car can be purchased here.

Please note that all the fees quoted here can change at any time, so be sure to find out from the bank what their fees will be.

For more information on HSBC, call their 24 hour hotline at + 852 2748 3322 or visit their website at:

Closing a Bank Account
In order to close a bank account you simply need to return all cards associated with the account, all check books, and all pass books. Be sure to leave enough money in the account to cover all outstanding debts. When I closed my account, I left instructions for the bank to leave my account open for a month (to help clear any outstanding debts) and then mail me a cashiers cheque to my new home. 

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