How to open a bank account in Hong Kong

If you're prepared, the process to set up a business or personal bank account in Hong Kong is not at all difficult.

Xe Consumer

November 4, 2020 5 min read

Expat using his tablet in Hong Kong

Whether you are just passing through Hong Kong as a tourist, there for a few weeks on an extended business trip, or moving outright, you will probably need to open a bank account there. Good news: you have plenty of options. Seventy of the world’s 100 largest banks have a physical presence in Hong Kong. So, many visitors can begin the process of opening a Hong Kong bank account as a non-resident even before they leave home.

There are definitely benefits to opening an account with a local Hong Kong bank near your home or office. Financial transactions can usually be executed immediately. There is a local ATM nearby if you need cash. And, if you have an issue that cannot be resolved online or over the phone, person-to-person banking is readily available.

A local bank account also makes it easier to transfer money to and from your old bank account. It’s much simpler to move money locally than to move it across international borders. If the third party, such as Xe, is experienced in dealing with non-USD transfers, that’s even better.

Can I open a Hong Kong bank account remotely?

For business accounts, all members are very rarely in Hong Kong. To forego the in-person
interview requirement, you can open an account virtually by opening an account at a bank which has a physical presence in Hong Kong, such as HSBC. The rules vary significantly at different banks. Generally, however, collect the aforementioned documents, visit the local branch, and they should take care of the rest.

As the coronavirus pandemic persists around the world, many Hong Kong banks encourage remote account setup, so they have streamlined the process.

What about offshore companies? Corporations are not legally required to have local bank
accounts. So, you generally do not need to open a separate account either live or via remote. Instead, your bank typically registers your account in Hong Kong. Since Hong Kong is widely known as a center of international finance, local banks usually do not ask many questions before they register offshore accounts.

How to open a Hong Kong bank account: an overview

While a bank is still a bank, there are some unique nuances to setting up a bank account in Hong Kong.

Bank accounts and non-residents

Residency is a common condition for bank accounts in the United States. But this requirement is absent from Hong Kong financial institutions, at least for individual accounts.

That being said, there might be some additional requirements, especially in terms of establishing identity. Hong Kong has very strict KYC (Know Your Customer) laws. There is so much coming and going in Hong Kong that it is rather easy to fly under the radar. And, in this age of money laundering and terrorism financing, that’s something the government is anxious to avoid.

Keep reading to see what additional documents you might need in order to open a business or personal bank account in Hong Kong.

Know your options

This section will be rather short. Many people open personal or business accounts, and most people open both. It’s not illegal to commingle business and personal funds in Hong Kong, but it’s frowned upon to say the least. If you are doing business in Hong Kong, do not pay for lattes from a business or investment account.

Understand the procedures

If you open a bank account at a branch, always dress semi-formally. Coat and tie for men and long or long-ish dresses for women. If you have an appointment with a representative, do not be late. In fact, it’s usually a good idea to arrive a few minutes early and see how people interact with each other.

What documents do you need to open a Hong Kong bank account?

These requirements vary at different banks. The institution’s website should tell you exactly what to bring. In general, the document requirements for personal and business accounts are:

Personal account:

  • Application forms (usually available online, fill them out in advance if possible)

  • Passport or Hong Kong ID Card*

  • Proof of address

  • Last six months' bank statements

  • Bank reference letter (usually a letter of good standing) dated within the last three months

  • CV or resume

*People over age 11 who are in Hong Kong more than six months must have an ID card. Click here to make an appointment and obtain a card. The process is rather straightforward.

Business account:

  • Application forms

  • Each member's passport

  • Proof of residency

  • Last six months' bank statements

  • Bank reference letter (usually a letter of good standing) dated within the last three months

  • Business or corporate documents, generally a business registration certificate, articles of incorporation (if applicable), and a business plan

As you can see, the process requires some homework. Much of it is easier to do before you leave home. Some additional effort on the front end makes things much easier on the back end. Failure to prepare usually means an unnecessary delay and unwanted questions.

On a related note, there are usually some account opening fees, for both business and personal accounts. The minimum balance is usually HKD 100,000. Be sure you have enough funds to handle things like processing fees (HKD 10,000), foreign transfer fees (HKD 100), and appointment meeting fees (HKD 1,000) without falling below the minimum. Different banks charge different fees.

To efficiently send money once you get your Hong Kong bank account set up, log in or sign up to get started with Xe today.