Compared to some countries in the world, opening a bank account in Hong Kong is relatively easy and straightforward. With over 100 licensed banks and a plethora of banking services, there are many types of accounts geared to your needs.
This handy guide will explain the differences between the most commonly used bank accounts in Hong Kong, and the steps to apply for one.
Applying for a bank account in Hong Kong is extremely convenient, because you do not need to be a Hong Kong citizen or hold an employment visa to apply for one. All you need is a proof of identification and proof of a Hong Kong address.
Depending on your needs, some of the most commonly used bank accounts in Hong Kong include chequing accounts, saving accounts, timed deposit accounts, and investment accounts.
If you want to open an account mainly to deposit your salary, you may want to consider an integrated account, which gives you both a chequing and a savings account, and conveniently allows your employer to deposit your salary through autopay.
Meanwhile, a timed deposit account enables account holders to earn interest by saving foreign or domestic currencies at competitive exchange rates in monthly or yearly increments, and investment accounts enable holders to purchase dividends and bonds from Hong Kong and abroad.
It is important to note that some international and local banks, for example HSBC and The Bank of East Asia (BEA), classify bank accounts in tier systems, such as HSBC Premier and Advanced. In general, the higher the tier, the more the benefits, but it also requires account holders to have a larger amount of minimum deposit in their accounts.
Once you have decided which type of account (and if applicable, which tier to apply for), the next step is to decide whether you want to apply for an account in a local or international bank.
It is certainly more convenient to apply to international banks, such as HSBC and Citibank, which have branches in Europe and Americas, but they typically have higher administrative chargers.
On the other hand, local banks, such as The Bank of East Asia and Standard Chartered, offer comprehensive accounts with attractive welcome packages, but they may not have branches outside of Asia.
For those who are interested in trading or saving in the Chinese Renminbi, you may want to look into well-established Chinese banks with branches in Hong Kong – such as The Bank of China – that offer multi-currency savings and investment accounts for both China and Hong Kong. HSBC, Standard Chartered Bank, and Hang Seng Bank are popular choices for expats.
If you choose to apply online, once you have completed the online application forms, you will be asked to provide original and photocopies of your proof of identification (valid passport or Hong Kong identity card) and proof of a Hong Kong address (which includes utility bills, phone bills, and bank statements) to the bank in person.
If you require auto-payroll services, or are applying for an account with such functions, you will also be asked to provide proof of your employment, such as pay slips or a contract.
If your bank has branches in Hong Kong, you can also consider applying for an account in your home country before your departure. In this case, aside from providing required documents for a bank account application in your home country, you may need to provide originals and photocopies of admissions or employment letters as proof that you will relocate to Hong Kong.
You may also need to keep a bank account in your home country as proof that you have sufficient funds to apply for a bank account overseas. Once you have completed your application, simply pick up the ATM card from the designated branch in Hong Kong as indicated by your bank.
Regardless of whether you applied for a personal bank account from overseas or in Hong Kong, you will be asked to set up your ATM PIN in person, and have the minimum amount of deposit in your account in order to open a bank account.
In general, the minimum deposit for most bank accounts is HKD $1000, and you can deposit it with the bank representative on the day of application, within 3 days in person, or via the ATM.
If you are applying for a multi-currency timed deposit account, you also need to indicate the duration that you will purchase the foreign currency for and sign the corresponding agreement. Minimal deposit rates may also vary from bank to bank and currency to currency.
Your ATM card will be ready in approximately 3-7 business days, and can be picked up in person or by mail. Simply follow the instructions to activate your ATM card, update relevant details, and you are all set with your bank account.
However, ATM cards can be very confusing, as account holders cannot withdraw or deposit funds in all ATM counters, and depending on your account settings, the scope of services that you can access via your ATM card varies from account to account.
For example, HSBC and Hang Seng Bank account holders can only withdraw funds, deposit funds, and pay bills through each other’s ATMs. Meanwhile, in addition to their banks’ ATMs, account holders from all other banks can withdraw and deposit money, as well as pay bills in ATMs that have a JETCO sign. Furthermore, ATM cards with EPS signs work as a debit card for shops that accept EPS, while those with a VISA sign function as VISA debit cards.