Virtual banks in Hong Kong
What you need to know about virtual banking in Hong Kong, including how it differs from a regular bank account.
Virtual banks, also known as online banks, give you a whole bank in your pocket. There’s a growing number of online-only banks and personal finance apps emerging in Hong Kong. They are designed to give you better, faster control of your cash.
We’ve rounded up everything you need to know so you can decide if virtual banks are right for you.
What is a virtual bank account?
Virtual bank accounts, also called online or digital bank accounts, are bank accounts that are managed entirely online through your smartphone or computer. These accounts have low fees and features such as budgeting tools, smart money tracking and low-cost travel and money transfers.
Compare range of virtual banks in Hong Kong
Why should I use an online bank account in Hong Kong?
There are several advantages to online bank accounts:
- Banking access in your pocket
- Fast and cheap international transfers
- 24/7 support
- Instant spending notifications
- Spending and saving features
5 things to know about online banks
Here are a few things that you may not know about using your smartphone as your main point of contact with your bank:
1. There are fewer fees
Many big banks in Hong Kong have service charges such as a monthly or annual maintenance fee on current accounts. There are sometimes ways to avoid these fees, such as maintaining a minimum balance in your account, but the fees are still quite high. Banks also charge fees for ATM withdrawals, card transactions and direct debit/standing orders.
However, virtual banks charge far fewer fees. You will find that most will come with a “free” account option that charges HK$0 per month. Then, if you want to unlock more features you can pay a monthly fee. There are sometimes ATM fees but you will not pay fees for card transactions and there are no annual fees. You can also avoid some of the smaller fees by paying a higher ongoing monthly fee.
2. Cash and cheques usually aren’t supported
Virtual banks in Hong Kong may have limitations on how many ATM withdrawals you can make a month and may not offer cheque facilities.
3. Managing multiple currencies is easier
Virtual banks tend to have better services in terms of foreign currency. Some let you hold multiple currencies in your account while others let you make international transfers faster and more cheaply than standard banks.
4. Everything is managed on your smartphone
You generally sign up for a bank account in Hong Kong in a branch but you can also do so online. With virtual banks in Hong Kong, you may only be able to sign up on your smartphone. You also may not get access to Internet banking on your computer with many virtual banks.
5. You don’t need to panic if you lose your phone or card
A benefit of a virtual bank is having full access to your account at all times through your virtual banking smartphone app. Lots of online banks allow temporary freezing of your account in the case of a lost card, so if you find it again it’s not as much hassle to get a replacement. If you forget your pin, virtual banks also have access to a pin reminder after you complete a couple of security questions.
If you lose your phone or it’s stolen, you will still be able to secure your account. Just contact the virtual bank (contact details will be on the website) and your account will be able to be locked from your smartphone. If you get your phone back, the bank will be able to set access back up again. If not, you can set up your app on your new phone.
What virtual banks are there in Hong Kong?
In March and April 2019, Hong Kong issued its first batch of virtual banking licenses to eight companies. These were:
- Ant SME
- Fusion Bank
- Livi VB
- MOX BANK (formerly SC Digital Solutions)
- ZA Bank (formerly ZhongAn Virtual Finance)
- Ping An One Connect
It’s worth noting that there have been delays with the roll-out of virtual banks in Hong Kong. However, in March 2020, ZA Bank became the first virtual bank to launch a pilot program. In the same month, Xiaomi-backed Airstar announced the launch of their pilot trial.
How to get started with a virtual bank
You can sign up with a virtual bank in Hong Kong by downloading your chosen bank’s app onto your smartphone. You will need a few of your personal details to sign up, including your full name, date of birth, address and email address. You will need to confirm your identity and may need to deposit funds into your account to make it active. Then, your bank account will be created.
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The rise of virtual banks
Around 16% of Hong Kong adults – an estimated 990,000 – say they have a virtual-only bank account and that number is set to grow according to our latest Google Survey of 1,202 Hong Kong adults.