Opening a bank account in Hong Kong

Banking in Hong Kong
Updated 2023-01-28 18:24

If you live and work in Hong Kong, you will need a bank account. Fortunately, you find yourself in one of the top five world financial centers. Hong Kong has one of the highest concentrations of banks in the world and is home to 70 banking operations.

While you have lots of choices when it comes to where you can open a bank account in Hong Kong, there are still some things that you need to take into account as an expat.

This guide explains how to open a bank account in Hong Kong as an expat: which bank to choose, what documents you will need, the fees and conditions to take into account — and more.

Can you open a bank account in Hong Kong as a non-resident?

Yes, you can. You don't need to be a permanent resident in Hong Kong to open a bank account.

However, depending on your country of origin (and other circumstances), you may find the process for opening a bank account in Hong Kong somewhat different.

If you are a citizen of the EU, UK, US or Australia, the process of opening a bank account is typically very straightforward and takes a maximum of several days.

However, citizens of certain counties and regions may find opening a bank account more complicated. You may be required to provide additional documentation, and the verification process may take up to two weeks — or longer — to complete.

Opening an account in Hong Kong: here are the documents you need

As we've mentioned above, the specific documents you will need to open an account in Hong Kong depend on your citizenship and other circumstances. Different banks may also have their own document requirements.

However, most banks will ask you for the following:

  • Your passport or a HK ID card
  • Proof of address (this can be a utility bill, a bank statement, a cell phone bill, etc.)

*you may use your Hong Kong address — but if you don't have one, you can use that of the company you legally work for

Good to know:

You will need a Hong Kong ID if you plan to stay in Hong Kong for more than 180 days. This is an official document issued by the Immigration Department of Hong Kong. Applying for the ID card is free.

How to open a business account in Hong Kong?

Foreigners can also open business accounts in Hong Kong — however, it takes a bit more work.

Hong Kong generally has a reputation for being one of the "easiest” places in the world for starting a business and opening a business account. However, in recent years, this has been changing. The Hong Kong government has implemented a number of policies aimed at eliminating money laundering and other types of financial fraud. Today, all major banks in Hong Kong must comply with strict anti-fraud laws and follow specific due diligence processes.

If you are starting a business in Hong Kong but are not a permanent resident, you will need to provide the bank with detailed information about your business activities, employees — and more.

To open a business bank account in Hong Kong, you will typically need the following documents:

  • Passports/ID cards of all directors and shareholders
  • Official company paperwork (business registration certificates, articles of association, etc.)
  • A business plan detailing the nature of business activities
  • Proof of address for company directors and shareholders (bank statements, utility bills, etc.)
  • A written statement by the board of directors that approves the bank account application
  • A valid visa

Good to know:

Note that some of the documents you will need to submit to the bank must be certified by a lawyer or public notary.

Opening a bank account in Hong Kong: fees

The fees associated with having a Hong Kong account vary from bank to bank, and you should carefully go through the terms and conditions in your contract to be aware of all the payments. Most banks will charge you a monthly account maintenance fee, and some require a minimum balance to be always present in your account (usually the same amount as the deposit you are required to place when opening an account).

Note that additional fees apply to several transactions, such as payment via a credit card or transfers in foreign currency, etc.

How to choose a bank in Hong Kong

There are over 250 licensed banks in Hong Kong, so you will have plenty of options when making your selection.

You can choose to open an account in an international bank, like HSBC or Citibank — this option is especially convenient if these banks also have branches in your home country. Alternatively, you can consider a local bank like Standard Chartered or Hang Seng, which also offer quality service but do not have branches outside Asia.

Hong Kong also has several Chinese banks — a suitable option if you will be dealing with the Chinese yuan or making frequent transactions with Mainland banks. Bank of China is the biggest Chinese bank in Hong Kong.

A quick overview of Hong Kong's leading banks

Here's a brief look at the 5 biggest banks in Hong Kong to help you choose the right one for you.

  • HSBC

HSBC is probably the most popular bank in Hong Kong among expats. There are over 220 HSBC branches in Hong Kong and 67 HSBC branches worldwide.

Opening a bank account in Hong Kong gives you access to a wide range of financial services and benefits. You will gain access to credit cards, debit cards, investment options, insurance products — and more.

You can apply for an account at HSBC in Hong Kong by making an appointment at the local branch. If you are a resident of Hong Kong, you may also have the option of opening an account online.

Another option is to open a bank account at an HSBC branch in your home country.

Here's how to open an account at HSBC.

Note that HSBC also has a special bank account offer for expats. An HSBC expat bank account connects your HK account to your home account and other accounts you may have in Hong Kong for easy and efficient management of your finances.

  • Standard Chartered

Standard Chartered is another good option as the bank has branches both in Hong Kong and abroad.

There are a variety of account options you can open at Standard Chartered, such as an HKD currency current account, RMB and HKD current account, integrated deposits account — and others. Note that certain types of accounts (such as integrated deposit accounts) require a Hong Kong ID.

Here's how to open an account at Standard Chartered.

  • Citibank

Citibank offers a range of savings and checking (current) accounts that enable you to easily accumulate capital and manage your finances. Citibank is a global bank and has branches all over the world. You can open both checking and savings accounts at Citibank and benefit from a wide range of services as well as 24/7 online banking.

Citibank also makes it quite easy to open an account from overseas — so you may be able to sort out your banking prior to arriving in Hong Kong.

Here's how to open a bank account at Citibank.

  • Hang Seng

Hang Seng bank is part of the HSBC group — you will find mostly the same account options, rates and services here. The bank has over 270 service outlets in Hong Kong and offers all the basic banking services as well as elite wealth management packages.

Here's how to open an account at Hang Seng.

Along with a range of prestige and wealth management services, Hang Seng offers a useful Daily Banking account. This offers everything you need in an everyday current account, including easy access to credit facilities if you need them.

  • Bank of East Asia

BEA has over 180 branches in Hong Kong and greater China. You can open accounts in both HKD and foreign currency — as well as VIP gold accounts, time deposits, and more.

Here's how to open an account at BEA.

  • Bank Of China

Bank of China is a good option for those who have financial or business connections to the mainland. Here, you will have very favorable options for opening an account in Chinese yuan and making quick transfers to other banks in the mainland.

If you are looking for standard banking services, you can still open an account at the Bank of China and open a current account that comes with all the basic functionality.

Here's how to open an account at Bank of China.

Can you open an account in Hong Kong online?

Unfortunately, if you are opening an account in Hong Kong for the first time, you won't be able to submit your application online. As we've mentioned above, due to Hong Kong's stricter policies, you will need to visit the branch in person to apply for an account.

In some cases, you can complete an application online first and then book an appointment at the bank, which can be quite a time saver.

If your application is successful, you should be able to open a second account or make other account-related changes online via the bank's dedicated app.

Good to know:

It may be comforting to know that most bank employees in Hong Kong speak very good English — and you won't need to worry about having an interpreter or a Hong Kong colleague or friend with you. However, the bank branches located in central or business districts such as Admiralty, Central and Tsim Sha Tsui are generally more experienced in accommodating foreign customers.

Hong Kong banking environment

Hong Kong is a highly developed region and is deemed to be a financial hub for Asia. Hence, you are likely to find ATMs almost everywhere around the region in case of need. Cheques are also accepted by some retailers, but you have to produce your identity card at each payment for security reasons. Debit cards are also widely used.

Mobile payments are on the rise — but are still not as widespread as in mainland China and neighboring Singapore. WeChat Pay, which is extremely popular in the Mainland, was only granted a payment license in Hong Kong in September 2016 and some features are still under development. With that said, the city has its own electronic payment systems, with Octopus Card being the most widespread. Having started out as a contactless smart card for the MTR system, Octopus has since evolved into a comprehensive electronic payment system accepted on all public transportation, in convenience stores, supermarkets, etc.

Applying for a loan in Hong Kong as an expat

Most banks in Hong Kong do have mortgage plans available for expats. However, as you might expect, getting a loan can be tricky. The success of your application will be determined by your residential, financial and other circumstances in Hong Kong.

First, in order to apply for a loan in Hong Kong. You need to hold a Hong Kong Permanent ID hold or have been residing in the city for a considerable amount of time. If you are new to the city, your chances of getting a loan will be quite low — as you haven't yet accumulated sufficient credit history.

Another thing that the bank will take into account is your financial situation. This goes beyond having a

stable job and a monthly income. A lot of local banks prefer to only work with people who have a track record of banking relationships — which makes them trustworthy loan candidates in the eyes of the bank.

Note that if you are applying for a mortgage, you may be able to borrow up to 70% of your total property value. Some banking and real estate websites have online calculators that will help you figure out the amount of your monthly payments.

To apply for a mortgage in Hong Kong, you will need to bring along your HK ID and passport, proof of income, and documents related to the property you plan to purchase.

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.