Experiences looking for the "Best Bank in Hong Kong"

I’ve been asked several times whether there is an equivalent of ING Direct in Hong Kong, as there is in Australia and Spain and used to be in the US and UK before ING sold those businesses to CapitalOne and Barclays, respectively.  For whatever reason, I have yet to see an purely online bank take off in Hong Kong, even though local bank transfers are relatively easy, the population is relatively mobile and tech savvy, the potential savings from not having to rent prime real estate are huge, and the HKMA has put forward straightforward rules on opening a bank with a minimum HK$100,000,000 in paid up capital.  A list of all banks in Hong Kong is available on the HKMA’s website.

Rather than try and come up with my own subjective ranking of the “Best Banks in Hong Kong”, I thought it might be useful to just list my experiences dealing with local banks here:

  • HSBC is the biggest and most obvious bank you see walking around Hong Kong, and many refer to it as “Hong Kong bank”.  HSBC’s ATM’s run on a different system than the ones all other banks (except Hang Seng Bank) run on, but enough people have HSBC accounts you might find it worth having one just to make transfers to other HSBC accounts.  Other than that, HSBC’s online banking is overly complicated, its fees are relatively high for relatively mediocre service, and many accounts charge fees for transfers to other banks or other services.  It is easy to get the feeling that HSBC charges more and serves less because it feels like the big bank everyone has to deal with here at one point or another, as seen by their issuance of more than half of outstanding Hong Kong dollar banknotes.
  • Standard Chartered is the second big British bank that has been here over 100 years and the 2nd of 3 allowed to print Hong Kong dollar banknotes.  I have had slightly better experience with my Standard Chartered account than with my HSBC account, and find SC’s online banking to be far cleaner and more efficient, and like the flexibility of the Jetco ATM network (most ATM’s in Hong Kong that are not HSBC’s/Hang Seng’s) and free online transfers to any other bank.
  • Bank of China is the 3rd of the 3 banks that print Hong Kong dollar banknotes, and the only mainland Chinese bank I have done business with as a retail customer.  Meeting many stereotypes of China, I find Bank of China branches relatively aggressive and efficient, and while I have found their online banking to be terrible, they have given me the best bank valuation on mortgages and the most efficient service on loans.

For business banking, I have extensive experience with two banks:

  • HSBC Business Banking, like their consumer banking, ticks all the boxes, but in my experience has charged more and higher fees than my Citibank account.
  • Citibank Hong Kong Limited is where I opened my most recent business banking account, in part because they are a bit more friendly to opening accounts of companies owned by US citizens and green card holders.  Note that Citibank NA is a different legal entity where larger and more international businesses may open accounts for more corporate-level service.

I may update this later as I get more information and get asked these questions more often.  Meanwhile, I hope it is a useful reference!


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