Travelling this summer? Expect a financial farce courtesy of HK’s banks if you’ve any intention to access your cash…
Why is my ATM card a piece of crap now?
Several major banks forced customers onto the UnionPay ATM network this year, instead of the internationally recognised, VISA-backed ‘Plus’ system. The mainland government-backed UnionPay network is operated under the People’s Bank of China, leading some conspiratorial HK Netizens to become suspicious of the changeover, as documented over on BadCanto Blog.
My card doesn’t work in foreign ATMS!
There are not many UnionPay-friendly terminals outside of Asia. Even if you find one, it may not have been updated to cope with new chipped cards. You can check on the Union Pay ‘globalisation’ pages to see if the card is accepted anywhere in your destination country (the site is reassuringly riddled with grammar and spelling errors).
If you do happen to chance upon a working ATM, you may still be unable to access your money as everyone with a bank account in HK had their overseas bank withdrawal limit reset to zero on March 1st. It was the HK Monetary Authority, not the banks, which insisted that withdrawal limits were reset. Banks warned of the change, but many HSBC customers will have ignored their letters amidst the mountains of advertising they send customers (which no-one can opt out of). HSBC sufferers can call 2233 3000 or log into internet banking to sort this out.
Why can’t I have a VISA debit card like normal people?
No banks in HK offer VISA debit cards, making internet shopping and access to cash a hindrance Instead, HSBC invites customers to ‘link’ their regular savings accounts to their VISA credit card (presuming, of course, you’re even eligible to own one). Hong Wrong had HSBC admit that they cannot guarantee that foreign ATMs will give you the option to withdraw cash from your linked savings account as opposed to spit out an extortionate cash advance on your credit account. If it’s the latter, expect insane charges on your statement when you get home. Good luck!
This is nonsense. I want to change banks!
Unfortunately, HSBC remains the least worst option, at least for foreigners in HK. Citibank have better customer service and extended opening hours, but they charge to transfer to HSBC accounts, their online banking services are less developed and its branches less numerous. Hang Seng is owned by HSBC, and the other 100+ options lack branches or are ‘built-on-sand’ Chinese state banks with little to offer.
Other ‘Expat Life’ tips on the blog:
- Accessing BBC iPlayer from Abroad
- Arranging China Visas in Hong Kong
- Buying the Cheapest Books in HK
- Comprehensive Map of HK Markets & Hidden Malls
- Essential expat tips and links
- Flat-hunting Tips
- Flight Links & Tips
- Hong Kong’s Cheapest Mobiles: Top 4 Places
- How to Bypass the South China Morning Post Paywall
- Job-Hunting Links
- Teaching in Hong Kong