HK LIFE – Escaping HSBC: HK’s Alternative & Least Worst Banking Options 33


image via eirth.com

Sick of HSBC? Spent the summer navigating their ATM Card farce? Whilst the bank has promised to rectify their ATM omnishambles, it may be time to break free. Whist HK has yet to catch up with ethical banking trends seen abroad, below is an up-to-date, no-bullshit, unbiased guide to the two least-worst alternatives. There are over 150 banks operating in the territory – however, Hang Seng is a write-off (as it is owned by HSBC), and the remainder either offer a worse level of service than HSBC, are ‘built-on-quicksand‘ China-owned banks or do not provide an internationally recognised ATM card.

Best Banks for Foreigners in HK:

This leaves Citibank or Standard Chartered – neither current account is perfect, but both beat HSBC in terms of features. Standard Chartered is great in that all bank transfers within HK are free, no matter who the recipient banks. Also, like with HSBC, you can buy currency via internet banking. However, there is a HK$28 charge for using non-JETCO local ATMs or any overseas ATMs.

Citibank only offers currency transfer at branches and does charge a fee for transferring cash to a competing bank in HK. However, they open late (till 7pm) and you will get a Visa Debit ATM card with free ATM withdrawals at any bank, local or overseas. They also offer free international transfers to Citibanks abroad.

Bizarrely, despite bearing the appropriate logo, the Citibank Visa Debit ATM card cannot be used for online transaction (or to pay by mail/phone) – it may only be used in-person. This anomaly has been confirmed in the small print and by existing customers – it means that there is still no ‘true’ Visa Debit card on offer in HK.

Standard Chartered Basic ‘Easy Banking’ Account:DcQxuyc.jpg (275×183)

  • Charge to transfer to non-Standard Chartered HK-based banks: None/Free.
  • Charge to transfer to Standard Chartered bank overseas: $200 + recipient bank fees.
  • Charge to transfer to non-Standard Chartered bank overseas:  $200 + recipient bank fees.
  • ATM Card: Cirrus/Plus VISA network accessible, but not VISA Debit card.
  • Charge for non-Standard Chartered HK ATM withdrawal: Free at all JETCO ATMs or HK$25 at Hang Seng/HSBC ATMs.
  • Charge for each overseas ATM withdrawal: HK$28.
  • Lost/stolen ATM card fee: HK$50.
  • Minimum account balance: HK$10,000.
  • Penalty for not maintaining minimum account balance: HK$120 per quarter.
  • Multi-currency online banking: Yes.
  • Branch opening hours: Regular – weekdays 9am-5pm and Saturday mornings, 9am-1pm.
  • Account opening documents: HKID (or passport if not a permanent resident), proof of HK address (utility bill).
  • Website: http://www.standardchartered.com.hk
  • Plus: Various welcome benefits.
  • Plus: Upgraded benefits with their ‘Priority’ and ‘Preferred’ services. Eligibility measured by your income.

 

vaYcug5.jpg (140×140)Citibank:

  • Charge to transfer to non-Citibank HK-based banks: HK$180 per transaction or HK$50 via online banking.
  • Charge to transfer to Citibank bank overseas: Telegraphic transfers are free to send/receive.
  • Charge to transfer to non-Citibank bank overseas: HK$180 or HK$100 via online banking + recipient bank fees.
  • ATM Card: VISA Debit Card – recognised and accepted everywhere but cannot be used online.
  • Charge for non-Citibank HK ATM withdrawal:  Free.
  • Charge for each overseas ATM withdrawal: Free.
  • Lost/stolen ATM card fee: HK$50.
  • Minimum account balance: HK$10,000. Waived if you prove you are a permanent resident working in HK (even if your salary is not deposited at Citibank).
  • Penalty for not maintaining minimum account balance: HK$100 per month.
  • Multi-currency online banking: No instant foreign currency transfer/purchase online – must be done in-branch.
  • Branch opening hours: Weekdays 9:30am – 7pm and Saturday mornings, 9am-1pm..
  • Account opening documents:
  • Website: http://www.citibank.com.hk
  • Plus: Various welcome benefits.
  • Plus: Upgraded benefits with their ‘CitiGold’ services. Eligibility measured by your income.

Fixed time deposit accounts for your savings and credit cards should not necessarily be taken out at the same bank – research these separately as the best deals change often.

Why leave HSBC?

aTNhGnil.jpg (500×403)

via Truthdig

What’s the big deal with having a Visa Debit Card?

  • It means your card will be accepted worldwide wherever Visa is accepted (shops and ATMs). Whilst traditional EPS debit cards work fine throughout HK, the system is not recognised by retailers abroad – Visa is accepted everywhere.
  • Citibank is seemingly the only bank in HK offering a Visa Debit card, as opposed to ‘linked’ Visa credit cards which have a habit of defaulting to ‘cash advance’ in foreign ATMs (leading to hefty charges). However, as mentioned, the Citi card cannot be used online.
  • Customers still have to use a credit card for online transactions, though these can be set-up with auto-pay to work like an interest-free debit card. If you pay off your credit card in full each month, there are no charges and annual fees are usually waived upon request.

How to change banks:

  • Opening new accounts can take minutes and you are usually rewarded for the hassle with a host of welcoming offers, airmiles and freebies. However, unlike in other territories where the process is partly automated, you will need to move your ‘autopay’ instructions (i.e. ‘direct debits’) manually. You will also need to fill out forms to switch your salary payments over to your new bank. They will assist you, but it’s best to make a slow transition and only close your previous account when necessary.
  • Be sure to tell HSBC why you’re leaving – 2996 6388 or [email protected]

‘Edith Piaf – Non, Je ne Regrette Rien’

Last update: September 2013.

 Click here for a full list of useful links for expatsOther tips for foreigners residing in HK…

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  • Daniel Basson

    Both Standard Chartered and Citibank are accused of funding terrorists or terrorist organisations not just HSBC. Just last year Standard and Chartered were accused of carrying out transactions totalling $250 billion for terrorists in Iran and Citibank also got caught with their pants down when they authorized credit card loans for known terrorist suspects whom consequently went bankrupt. None of the banks have a moral or ethical code, not one of them are better ethically than the other so the argument over this is useless.

    • Mathieu

      > “None of the banks have a moral or ethical code, not one of them are better ethically than the other

      That’s just not true.

      Some banks are structured as cooperatives, they have strong lines on who/what they will fund, etc…

      Unfortunately, none of them exist in Hong Kong. :(

      • Daniel Basson

        You forget, these are ‘world banks’ just because they have a base in Hong Kong doesnt mean they arent included in the whole spectrum of banking, if they have codes then why is it that they do fund terrorists and dodgy organisations? strong lines on whom they fund? so Hezbollah and Iran are perfectly fine

    • Tom

      As I said above… “HK has yet to catch up with ethical banking trends seen abroad… No bank is great, including the alternatives above, but HSBC is one of the worse.”

  • flagler1

    I have citibank right now. They are great in HK, though in the USA they are terrible, which negates the free transfer feature somewhat. Does anyone have any comments on BEA? I’ve heard some good things.

    Someone really needs to open a good credit union in Hong Kong!

    • ניקי nikki

      from my limited experience (i have a credit card at BEA but not an atm account) they seem better than HSBC, and their bank tellers are much more helpful and way more competent…i’m also looking into it. I’m curious, did you go with BEA in the end?

  • Mike

    Thanks, finally got me to get round to leaving HSBC (my promised one year of fee-free ‘Advance’ [whats advanced about it?] ends this month, so just in time!). SC for me, multi currency online & free transfers to anyone is worth more than ATMs (my local Hang Seng/HSBC ATMs always have way bigger queues).

  • Alec

    This came at a perfect time as I just moved to HK. Thank you!

    • Alec

      Just as a note to other people looking to open a HK account: I opened a Citibank account today and was told the minimum balance applies to everyone unless you have a HKID card. A temporary HKID, or a work visa in a foreign passport is not enough to get the minimum balance requirement waived.

      • Tom

        Thanks – I’ve corrected this.
        It was a pain to get consistent answers from any bank.

        • Alec

          Sorry, perhaps I wasn’t clear: you don’t have to be a permanent resident, you have to have a HKID card. What they don’t accept is the paper version of the HKID which you get given for two weeks until your real card is ready.

          • ניקי nikki

            do they really require that you are working in Hong Kong though? i have a hkid but i’m only a student with part-time work. wonder if i would be able to open an account…

  • calvin

    Sir, I applied the hang seng bank “enjoy” spending visa card , this is a visa debit card if you have hang seng bank all in one account. You can control this card via plus network for atm. But you need to open up the hang seng bank all in one account together, Besides, this spending enjoy visa debit card can using for the online shopping, but you need to apply this services via all in one account, but no charges.

    • Tom

      Cheers, but I excluded this option as Hang Seng are owned by HSBC. Also, it is not a true debit card.

      • calvin

        this card better than the unionpay atm. also can work all plus atm over the world. You may add the hang seng account into this debit card instead of the unionpay atm. I really hate the unionpay logo.

  • Karen

    I just got a Visa Debit – spoke to Citibank and they told me I was unable to use the Visa Debit for purchases abroad, and that I could only use it to withdraw cash. What the hell… How is it possible not a single bank here offers a fucking working debit card.

    • Karen

      oh, and this doesn’t work for online shopping either. WTF

    • RedChink

      Because they have all done a “deal” with EPS

  • Mark Jackson

    I have BEA, Hang Seng, and BOC, and altogether I can get just about anything I need. And I do maintain bank accounts back in my home country, and brokerage accounts that link the HK accounts to the overseas accounts for very low fees. It’s really just a matter of using each account according to its strengths.

    By the way: what’s this “long branch lines” thing of which you speak? Isn’t a “branch” just the place you go to sign your initial opening paperwork, and then never think about again for any reason, except, of course, when you get a mortgage? Seriously, who goes to a “branch”? Don’t you have a computer?

  • Mark Jackson

    I have BEA, Hang Seng, and BOC, and altogether I can get just about anything I need. And I do maintain bank accounts back in my home country, and brokerage accounts that link the HK accounts to the overseas accounts for very low fees. It’s really just a matter of using each account according to its strengths.

    By the way: what’s this “long branch lines” thing of which you speak? Isn’t a “branch” just the place you go to sign your initial opening paperwork, and then never think about again for any reason, except, of course, when you get a mortgage? Seriously, who goes to a “branch”? Don’t you have a computer?

    • LlamaOfDoom

      Well, try resetting a forgotten debit card PIN without stepping inside one.

  • John

    I love your article!!! The edith piaf song at the end is just eeepic !!!

  • Charlie

    “there is still no ‘true’ Visa Debit card on offer in HK.”
    Can someone please help me understand why this is, it’s plain stupid!

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  • ניקי nikki

    such a shame that there’s a minimum account balance for these banks. i’m a student based in Hong Kong with connections abroad…but with limited personal savings so i can’t maintain 10k in my account. i feel like there’s no escape from HSBC and i’m really getting fed up with them. help!!!

  • alihongkong

    Further information since being screwed by HSBC 6 weeks ago:
    Online payments to other non-local banks (non-express):
    Citibank charge $50
    StanChart charge $0
    Bank of China charge $18
    HSBC charge $35
    only HSBC charge inward as far as I can see, at $15 (DICKS)

    Also with my new Citibank ATM card, I was charged $21.90 drawing $900 from HSBC ATM. Presumably levied by HSBC. Does that mean if I drew with my Standard Chartered ATM card it would cost $46.90, or $25?

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  • RedChink

    I don’t know when the last time you opened a bank account was but it certainly took longer than “minutes” when I opened one at BOC, Wyndham St. a month ago; because apart from being mostly in zombie mode and on top of the usual proof of ID and address they wanted to know:
    Where I got my money from.
    Why I wanted to open an account at BOC
    Whether I had a degree.
    Of course asking why they wanted/needed this information completely threw them into disarray and then after plainly refusing to give it to them once they told me the company needed it “to help the customer” it took well over an hour for me to open the most basic account BOC on offer.

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  • Anton

    Hang Seng / Enjoy card is the true Visa debit card.