Jens Krämer

Opening a Bank Account in Hong Kong

 |  banking, hong-kong, offshore, business

This is the sequel to my post about how I set up my Hong Kong Limited.

I am writing the first draft for this post in Hong Kong, where I just picked up my debit card, internet banking credentials and security device from the Bridges office in Central. In the end, getting a bank account here was easier than expected.

While you can create a Hong Kong Limited without ever setting foot in Hong Kong, for opening up a bank account you have to meet with a representative of the bank (I chose HSBC, but others have the same requirement) in person. It’s being said that nowadays it has become hard for somebody without a gazillion of dollars to set up a private banking account in Hong Kong. In contrast to that, a business account even for a small Hong Kong Limited is definitely possible. It just requires a bit of preparation. Bridges (the agency I used for company formation) offers to set up a meeting with a bank representative in their office as part of their company formation package, and while they naturally cannot guarantee success they do their best to help you come prepared.

The relevant pieces of documentation to bring for the meeting with the banker are:

  • Your passport
  • Proof of residency
  • Some kind of business plan, explaining your personal background, what you intend to do, where the money will come from, where it will go, and how much money you will be moving around.

Basically this all serves the purpose to help the bank avoid being sued or threatened otherwise by greedy countries for helping people to evade taxes or launder ‘dirty’ money. So no problem as we earn our money with real work and have nothing to hide, right? Yeah. There’s two basic questions you should be able to answer in a plausible way:

Where do you live?

Simple question, except if you enjoy a nomadic lifestyle. At the very least you should be able to provide proof of residency somewhere through bank statements, utility bills or similar.

Apparently a western european address makes things a little bit easier, so if you still have access to one (i.e. through bank accounts back in your home country), this is the way to go.

Where Does That Money Come From, and Where Will It Go?

With the address question out of the way, we talked about my business, what exactly I’m doing and who my clients are, and what will happen to the money that I earn. Now for me this was really easy to answer because I was basically just moving an existing business to Hong Kong.

I had prepared a one-page summary of what I do, showed my last personal german tax statement and some yearly income/expense overviews from my tax consultant, talked about who my clients are and where they are located, explained in detail what I’m doing, and while I did that the man sitting across from me already started filling out the forms.

Five or so signatures later he handed me some brochures and carefully explained which hotline to call in case the internet banking refuses to work because I’m trying to use it during unusual hours (i.e. from within a different time zone). At this point I was already pretty sure that all went well.

We agreed that HSBC would send any documents, the debit card and security device to my company address, where I could pick them up or (at least in theory, see below) have Bridges forward them to me.

I handed over a cheque over HKD 1.1501 for the account opening fee, shake hands, done.

Two weeks later…

Actually one week later I received two emails from HSBC, one about online banking being activated, the other telling me the bank account was opened. A few days after that several letters from the bank had arrived in my company’s mailbox at Bridges, waiting to be forwarded to me.

So why am I in Hong Kong again now?

Because of this little “security device”, which is battery powered and therefore will only be delivered by couriers as “dangerous goods”, which, besides being expensive, might easily lead to my shipment end up in Philippine customs. This is a thing I wanted to avoid even at the price of another day trip to Hong Kong, so here I am, enjoying the (compared to sticky Quezon City) cool weather.

A few words about the HSBC business banking account itself:

It’s called Business Integrated Account and is a combination of a HKD current account and a savings account that can hold ten or so different currencies. The account comes with a debit card that should work on HSBC ATMs around the world (don’t forget to set the limit for abroad transactions for the card online because this is zero by default). I also inquired about a credit card which, according to my HSBC contact, would not be a problem after a couple of months, given I have a certain minimum average amount (we spoke about HKD 50,000 which would then also be the limit for the card) in the bank. For the time being I should be able to get cash with the debit card at any HSBC ATM. HKD 50,000 is also the minimum balance for keeping the account free of charge, otherwise a small monthly fee of HKD 100 is charged.

I can say that, while ugly, the HSBC internet banking does work as expected and receiving funds from Germany takes less than two days (which is quite amazing, none of my wire transfers from Germany to the Philippines took less than 4 days). Due to the multi currency feature of the account any incoming funds stay in their original currency (as long as its one of the supported currencies) until I decide to exchange them to any other currency the account can hold.

Have questions or your own offshore business experience to share? Tell me in the comments!

And, in case you missed it in the last post - you can get HKD 500 off of your own company formation at Bridges if you make contact through me or mention I (Jens Kraemer / Electric Things Limited) sent you when contacting them directly. Full disclosure: I’ll get HKD 500, too :)

  1. Bridges can issue the cheque for you for a fee of HKD 300, just let them know and bring HKD 1.450 in cash.