International banking

It is unfortunately looking like I am going to be working in China this fall, so I thought I would take an opportunity to open a new bank account that I could use as I travel between there, Taiwan and Canada. I have less faith in China’s banking system then I do Taiwan’s.

I don’t want to use my Canadian account as I don’t want to be taxed twice. I have a TW Citibank multi-currency account, but using the ATM card abroad is unreliable and using their VISA card in Canada can be problematic because it doesn’t use a chip. I’m also not able to use their website to transfer funds. I’d like to join 21st century banking.

What are the options? A few of my friends have off-shore accounts with HSBC, but I recently checked and it seems it has become nearly impossible to open an account in Hong Kong. Am I stuck with Citibank?

This is small money, so I don’t expect any bank to be waiting for me with caviar and champagne, but letting me in the door would be nice.

Most other similar topics I found were out of date

I am curious to see what advice anyone can give you. Sadly, I think you are probably stuck with Citi.

Banking has changed since I moved to China 10 years ago, and unfortunately it seems to be more expensive and less useful today.

Avoid HSBC
Back then, I had refinanced my place in Taipei and through that process opened an HSBC Premier account. HSBC Premier offers a service called something like Global Connect (I forget its exact name, but a quick look on their website turned up this description: Instantaneous, fee-free international fund transfers between your HSBC accounts) – which I did not use as often as I thought I would, but it was nice to know I had access to.

I do not recommend HSBC Premier - for every feature that seems useful, I have actual experiences that remind me what a headache and waste of time it is to deal with them. At one point, I had Premier accounts opened in 4 countries and dealt with various personnel in branches, online, over the phone – the great majority of the time I found myself complaining loudly about their speed and competence. Many times (30%?) the person would say, “I am sorry, I do not know what to do” – it is amazing how bad they were. And my impression is that they are even worse today. Recently, I agreed to help a friend deal with her HSBC Premier accounts in HK and Taiwan. Over a 2 week stretch, I ended up talking to several people in both HK and Taiwan, in phone banking, and in 2 branches - their helplessness and inability to think like a client was as bad as ever; the only difference was that they no longer offer a toll-free number, so we have to pay for the calls ourselves.

StanChart isn’t any better
A former neighbor of mine used to work at Standard Chartered Bank. And he told that to expect the same or worse there than HSBC.

I can also confirm how difficult it is to open bank accounts in HK nowadays. Or anywhere for that matter, but HK is much more complicated than it used to be.

Bitcoin, yes, bitcoin - at least learn more about it
I would seriously look into Bitcoin, the majority of which is traded in China. Although you say you are only talking about small money amounts, it may still be useful to be a little knowledgeable about the ways you can move and trade amounts that are larger than the daily or annual bank transfer limits.

haven’t heard of any issues with opening a HSBC account in HK, did you contact them? A standard account will lead to lots of frustration trying to phone them to do anything, they do have a reasonable website though. A premier account if you have the funds ups the anti as you get a personal contact, over the phone it’s still hit and miss but visiting a branch in HK or China and you’ll get good treatment and may actually have your issue solved. HSBC Taiwan is a bit of a joke, it’s not a “real” HSBC so they can’t help with many functions that only “real” HSBC can. Again a premier account will help a little and the ball is lower in Taiwan, consistent min. 3KK balance get’s a free premier account and you can link to other countries to get premier there also, even if the local deposit requirement is higher. If you can get a contact in a China bank they are really good, otherwise they can be really bad. Good luck!

I have been told that it does help to walk into the bank in HK to open the HSBC account.

I put up with HSBC Premier for so long because I was not aware of any alternatives that would allow me to move funds between HSBC accounts for free (again, looking back, given how infrequent this was, I would not necessarily count this as an advantage anymore).

I’m going to be in Hong Kong next week getting situated with sim card and visa, I might just drop in and talk to them but my time will be tight.

I researched online and many have been saying that it was far far more difficult than in the past to open an account. Even if you have piles of cash.

There is no rush, as this is purely a place to park earnings.

I eventually moved my HK HSBC account from a branch in TST to the branch at the airport. It’s nice that it is there. Like throughout the entire bank, the RMs change quickly (rule of thumb: the good ones don’t stay very long).

I’ve heard negative rumors about HSBC as well. Thanks for the confirmations.
It surprises me that with all the intl travel, banks are so behind the times. After 20 years its getting worse bc of FACTA, not better. My US PayPal doesn’t seem to be the answer either.
Do you know of a Taiwanese bank that makes the connection with CA, USA banks easier? I.e. transferring and exchange fees lower? I have FCB and E. Sun accounts already. FCB told me a month ago that bc of the SWIFT fraud their fee will increase too. Thanks in advance