HK LIFE – Escaping HSBC: HK’s Alternative & Least Worst Banking Options
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:
- 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.
- 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?
- The ATM Card farce. Plus, their competitors are now providing cheaper, better services like VISA debit cards and free intra-bank transfers.
- HSBC enabled terrorists, Mexican drug lords and rogue states (it said ‘sorry’, as the bank was ‘too big to jail‘). It is under fire for bankrolling the tar sands in Canada and Malaysian timber conglomerates who are destroying Sarawak. And it held billions of dollars of Libya’s Gaddafi’s regime and has failed to return the family’s fortune to the Libyan people. Ethical Consumer gave the bank a score of just 3 out of 20. No bank is great, including the alternatives above, but HSBC is one of the worse.
- Because their customer service and in-branch waiting times suck big donkey balls.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
‘Edith Piaf – Non, Je ne Regrette Rien’
Last update: September 2013.
Click here for a full list of useful links for expats. Other tips for foreigners residing in HK…
- Accessing iPlayer from Abroad.
- Cheapest Books Delivered to HK.
- Cheapest Mobiles: Top 4 Places.
- China Visa – How to Apply.
- Comprehensive Map of HK Markets & Hidden Malls.
- Flat-Hunting Guide and Links.
- Flight Tips and Links.
- Hong Kong Tourist Tips.
- How to Bypass the South China Morning Post Paywall.
- Local Job Hunting Links.
- Navigating HSBC’s New ATM Card Farce.
- Teaching Work in Hong Kong.
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