Hong Kong is one of Asia’s top financial centres. In 2018, finance accounted for about 20% of this territory’s annual GDP. Despite recent political pressures, investment remains strong. In July 2020, feverish investment in local tech firms pushed the HKD to the high end of its trading band.
Need to move capital in/out of Hong Kong? We advise against using the banks. With high transfer fees and fat exchange rate margins, you’ll spend far too much. Below, we’ve outlined what leading Hong Kong banks charge for international money transfers from Hong Kong.
|Bank||International Wire Cost|
|Hang Seng Bank||65-260 HKD|
|Bank of China (Hong Kong)||65-250 HKD|
|Standard Chartered Bank||120-200 HKD|
Minor differences aside, most banks in Hong Kong have similar international transfer fees. This situation gives the impression of a competitive market. However, retail banks no longer have a monopoly on international money transfers from Hong Kong.
In sharp contrast to their established competition, many online money transfer providers don’t even charge fees. And, as you’ll see in this report, their margins also leave the banks in the dust.
Our Top 3 Money Transfer Companies for Hong Kong Transfers
We recently conducted in-depth research on online money transfer providers in HK. According to our analysis, these firms are the top three online money transfer companies in Hong Kong:
Money Transfer Providers – Your Low-Cost Alternative to the Banks
Given the benefits outlined above, why would anyone use institutions like Hang Seng Bank to move money? For starters, banks offer convenience. You don’t have to sign up for a new account or verify your identity. You only need to log onto internet banking, call them, or head down to your local branch to move cash.
Inertia is a powerful force. But, in the past decade, online competitors have made a compelling case to potential clients. Newcomers like Currencyfair and Transferwise pushed World First and TorFX to do better. Thanks to heightening competition, it has become far easier to make a cheap money transfer to Hong Kong.
Today’s cash transfer customers are tech-savvy. Rather than blindly accept HSBC or BoC’s prices, they’ve found better deals online. Even so, hesitant customers have stuck by their institutions, despite their misgivings.
Are you still sitting on the fence? If so, know that online money transfer providers don’t just offer lower fees – they kill the banks on exchange rates as well. In fact, that’s where you’ll realise your biggest savings.
Here’s the thing – the rate offered by your bank is not the real rate of exchange. The actual exchange rate, known as the interbank rate, is used by brokers to trade among each other. To make money, Hong Kong banks offer exchange rates up to 5% off interbank. The more cash you move, the more you lose.
Compare that to money transfer companies in Hong Kong. Firms like World First can offer exchange rates closer to interbank, as they lack overhead and shareholder pressure. Depending on the firm and transfer size, exchange rate margins range from 0.15% to 2%. If you’re searching for cheap money transfer from HK, online is your best bet.
Why People Transfer Money From Hong Kong
Hongkongers move money to/from the territory for various purposes. Real estate, asset transfers, and cash gifts are just a few reasons why.
However, these transactions have different attributes. A transfer provider that works well for small remittances may not be best for massive corporate transfers. Below, we’ve paired common money transfer scenarios with the best possible transfer provider.
Buying Overseas Property
Hong Kong is one of the world’s most unaffordable housing markets. So, rather than invest at home, many purchase property in more attractive overseas markets. However, buying a home abroad can get complicated. Buyers must follow local laws, and viewing properties can consume precious time and capital.
However, before setting foot on a plane, ensure your money transfer provider offers the local currency. Virtually all firms offer the currencies of developed nations (e.g., Canada, USA, UK, etc.). If you’re buying in a developing nation, though, check their list of currencies first.
Some transfer providers have a maximum transfer limit. If you’re buying property worth more than one million USD, for example, you won’t be able to use Transferwise. All three international money transfers from Hong Kong we promote have NO maximum transfer limit.
The more cash you move, the higher the stakes. International events – like political decisions, economic rumblings, and virus outbreaks – can impact currency rates. If the Forex market moves against you by even 1%, it could cost you thousands (or millions) of HKD.
For this reason, ensure your money transfer firm offers forward contracts. This tool allows you to lock in an exchange rate. That way, even if the market tanks, you pay the same agreed-upon rate.
All three recommended money transfer providers offer forwards. So, does it matter who you use? It does – for most, buying a house will be the biggest purchase we ever make. For this reason, we’re going to go with World First. Starting at 750,000 USD (~5.8 million HKD), you’ll get rates 0.25% off interbank.
TorFX’s lowest margin sits at 0.5%. Whilst that is far better than the banks, every percentage point counts when millions of HKD are in play. In this scenario, World First is the best money transfer for HKD.
Solution – World First
Making Mortgage Payments From Abroad
You may already own international investment properties. If so, you’re likely aware this arrangement isn’t without its difficulties. The most persistent of these, no doubt, is paying your mortgage every month.
To do this from afar, your bank account is auto-debited monthly. However, bundled into this automatic transaction are excessive fees and margins.
International money transfer providers are good for more than just one-time transactions. Through them, you can set up regular payments. By using forward contracts, you can insulate yourself from currency fluctuations.
In the previous scenario, we favoured World First for their super-thin margins. However, at lower amounts, both TorFX and World First offer a 0.5% spread. Both providers don’t charge fees, either, so either firm may work for you if you’re looking for cheap money transfer from HK.
Solution – TorFX or World First
Recovering Overseas Profits
E-commerce is thriving across Asia. However, when the time comes to claim profits, major platforms like Amazon take an oversized chunk of the proceeds.
They do this by charging a currency conversion fee of 3.5%. Let’s say you earn 400,000 HKD per month from your online shop. Every time you repatriate your revenues, Amazon gets 14,000 HKD. Over a year, that adds up to 168,000 HKD in lost earnings.
Many international money transfers from Hong Kong offer a clever workaround – the receiving account. They open a bank account in the same country where you sell online goods. That way, you can transfer revenues domestically rather than internationally. Then, you can make an international money transfer at far better rates.
Of the money transfer companies in Hong Kong, World First is our pick. Of the three recommended in this guide, they are the only firm that offers receiving accounts to online sellers.
Solution – World First
Sending Cash Gifts to Loved Ones
Hong Kong is a very international place. For decades, the island has actively recruited talent from abroad to grow its economy. Today, almost 10% of Hong Kong’s population are expats.
Of these, Filipinos are the largest group of foreign nationals, comprising 1.6% of all Hongkongers. Many in this cohort send home a sizable chunk of their paycheque every month. These remittances are smaller than the examples we’ve used above – most send no more than 4,000 HKD.
Banks burden these transactions with unnecessarily high fees. Let’s say you want to send 1,500 HKD abroad. According to the bank fees listed in this guide, they would eat up 3.3% to 17.3% of your transfer.
Thankfully, online money transfer firms in Hong Kong have changed the game. Both TorFX and Currencyfair work well for remittance senders (World First’s minimums are too high). However, Currencyfair is our choice.
With a 25 HKD minimum transfer (TorFX’s minimum is 1,500 HKD), you can send smaller remittances. And, on top of that, CurrencyfaIr’s margins for small transfers beat out TorFX. If you’re looking to make a cheap money transfer to Hong Kong (or from it), this firm is your best choice.
Solution – Currencyfair
Sending/Receiving Freelance Payments
The world is moving further away from the traditional 9-5 job. These days, more Hongkongers than ever are working as freelancers. However, this employment model comes with unstable income.
Some months are lean, but others bring in a wave of income. However, the more you earn, the more you could lose due to exchange rate fluctuations. For this reason, it’s best to go with a money transfer provider that offers tight margins and forward contracts.
All three firms in this guide offer forwards. But, when it comes to transfer amounts of 10,000-30,000 HKD, Currencyfair is best. According to our analysis, they typically have margins of 0.25% to 0.45%. These numbers beat out World First’s 0.5% most of the time.
Solution – Currencyfair
B2B Money Transfers
Businesses international money transfers to Hong Kon worth millions of HKD every month. However, many of these enterprises operate on thin margins. As such, even a temporary dip in cash flow could put them in a challenging position.
These days, currency market movements have become a risk factor. Political and economic instability means exchange rate fluctuations of 1% or more are no longer uncommon. Now more than ever, business owners need to protect themselves.
Forward contracts are an essential part of this defence. To the credit of the firms in this guide, all three offer them. However, the best B2B money transfer providers offer their clients diverse transfer tools.
In our view, though, World First is best. TorFX does offer forwards, limit orders, and stop-loss orders. However, so does World First. But unlike TorFX, World First offers razor-thin margins starting at 750,000 USD (~5.8 million HKD) and above.
Not only that, but they also offer a mass payments infrastructure. With the click of a mouse, you can pay dozens of remote employees, vendors, and suppliers. Time is valuable in business – World First saves clients loads of it.
Solution – World First
State of International Money Transfer in Hong Kong
Unlike the United States, Hong Kong has been at the forefront of payment innovations. The Octopus Card is a classic example – since its debut in 1997, this contactless payment card has expanded beyond transit. Today, Hongkongers also use their Octopus Cards to buy things in vending machines, supermarkets, and convenience stores.
As we mentioned previously, nearly 10% of Hongkongers are expatriates. Additionally, more than 1.3 million residents live in nations like China, the United States, Canada, or the United Kingdom. And, due to ludicrously expensive housing at home, many Hongkongers invest in property overseas.
For these reasons, people in Hong Kong are no stranger to international money transfer. However, as capital flows increased, delays began to mount. To improve the efficiency of cash transfers, Hong Kong’s banks co-developed CHATS, or the Clearing House Automated Transfer System. It launched in 1996 – by 2005, the system was processing 467 billion HKD every day.
Today, Hongkongers have dozens of ways to send/receive money. Aside from the banks and online transfer providers, there are scores of small brick-and-mortar operations. All this competition means that smart shoppers can easily find cheap money transfer from HK.
Do pay attention to reviews, though, as trustworthiness can vary from one provider to the next.
Other Money Transfer Options in Hong Kong
In this review, we’ve highlighted the three best money transfer companies in Hong Kong. However, as we just said, dozens of online options are available. Below, we’ll list several other common online money transfer services in Hong Kong.
In 1872, they were the ones who started it all. Transmitted along with Western Union’s network, people were able to send money electronically for the first time. People often refer to cash transfers as wire transfers, because WU sent theirs over telegraph wires.
Morse code stopped being a thing a long time ago, but Western Union is still a money transfer powerhouse. Thanks to their omnipresent network of cash pickup offices in over 200 countries, they’re currently the world’s top cash transfer firm.
However, we simply cannot recommend them as a top international money transfer provider. Thanks to their status as the McDonald’s of cash transfer, they charge outrageously high fees and margins.
Let’s say you want to send 500 HKD to the Philippines. Upfront, WU charges 15 HKD, or 3% of the send amount. Then, they move your money at their HKD/PHP rate of 6.1847. The HKD/PHP rate currently sits at 6.2624 – or 1.2% off WU’s rate.
Not bad, but far from the best option for cheap money transfer from HK. However, if you’re sending money for pickup in a remote area, they may be your only option.
Like Western Union, Moneygram is another company that makes up the old guard of money transfer. Moneygram sent its first cash transfer back in 1940. Since then, they have created a massive global footprint, establishing a presence in almost every country on Earth.
However, like Western Union, they’ve coasted on their brand name for decades. Until recently, they were in a duopoly situation with Western Union – neither engaged in competition with each other. In many markets, the situation hasn’t changed – so they continue to charge ridiculous fees & margins.
When we checked Moneygram’s HKD/PHP exchange rates, they were worse than Western Union – 6.1772, to be exact. Aside from lower upfront fees, this provider doesn’t stand out in any meaningful way.
The money transfer industry owes a debt of gratitude to Transferwise. Founded in 2010 by two expat Estonians in London, they’ve become the #2 money transfer provider in the world.
What’s their secret? Executing international cash transfers at the interbank rate. Now, they aren’t doing this to be charitable – they make money by charging a transfer fee. However, this percentage-based levy, based on the transfer amount, is usually modest.
As a result, they are often the best option if you want to make a cheap money transfer to Hong Kong. So, why haven’t they cracked our top three? For starters, they have a maximum transfer limit of one million USD. For businesses and real estate investors, this can cause problems.
And second, their business offerings lag behind players like World First, TorFX, and OFX. If you’re looking for bespoke customer service and diverse set of tools, World First or TorFX are best. However, as time passes, we expect Transferwise to make a move on the business transfers space. Stay tuned.
More than a decade ago, Somali expat Ismail Ahmed was quite annoyed at the remittance industry. He understood the transformative power of small cash transfers. However, he was shocked at the massive fees charged by establishment players.
Making use of many years of experience in finance and diplomacy, he founded WorldRemit in 2010. By offering lower fees, better margins, and superior customer service, his firm now offers transfers and cash pick up in over 140 countries.
Compared to remittance firms like WU or Moneygram, WorldRemit is usually the cheapest option available. However, players like Currencyfair offer even better rates. If cash transfer to a bank account is possible, Currencyfair remains our recommendation.
However, if your receiver needs to pick up their cash, WorldRemit is usually your best choice.
Concluding Thoughts – Hong Kong Money Transfers
Hong Kong has drawn people and businesses from around the world. Along the way, a well-developed money transfer industry has sprung up to service their financial needs. However, there are no silver bullet solutions – some firms work best for small dollar transfers, whilst others are better for large corporate transactions.
The firms recommended in this report go above and beyond for their customers. They provide top-notch service, innovative tools & services, low/no fees, and thin margins. Established players – like the banks, Western Union, and Moneygram – simply can’t compete.
World First, TorFX, and Currencyfair may be our top picks, but most online providers offer cheap money transfer from HK. Click around on our site – you might find a service that works even better for you.