According to the Fraser Institute’s annual Economic Freedom of the World report, Hong Kong is the world’s freest economy. This global financial hub scores highly in areas including the size of government, freedom to trade internationally and the climate of regulation.
Does that make it a good place to do business? The verdict seems to be a resounding yes. Many entrepreneurs are drawn to Hong Kong’s highly attractive zero-taxation environment. It’s not unexpected, then, that Hong Kong has the highest number of billionaires globally.
If you’re a business owner looking to expand into Asia Pacific (APAC), you’re probably considering Hong Kong as a potential target market.
This guide will explore various methods of sending and receiving money to and from Hong Kong. We will also provide an overview of the Hong Kong economy, consumer payment trends and behaviours. The aim is to help you feel confident in choosing the perfect financial tools to move your business forward.
Hong Kong’s economic landscape
Hong Kong is a free port with zero duty placed on imports, with only tobacco, liquor, hydrocarbon oil, and methyl alcohol being taxable.
Hong Kong is generally known as the fourth largest financial centre in the world, after London, New York, and Singapore. Its economy is mainly based on financial services, which account for more than 21% of its GDP.
Hong Kong is very business-friendly (corporate tax is currently at around 16%), and it’s continuing that approach in the digital age with a favourable environment for startups. Hong Kong announced plans to invest in life and health technology in its most recent budget, including smart home startups.
The currency of Hong Kong is the Hong Kong dollar. It’s designated by the symbol HK$ and by the ISO currency code HKD.
The Hong Kong dollar is pegged to the US dollar, meaning parity in value is artificially maintained. Since 1983, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority has kept the currency within a narrow band of around 7.8 HKD per USD.
Anchoring to the US dollar is particularly important for an open economy like Hong Kong as it gives the government a lever to pull to ensure financial stability.
Consumer payment behaviours in Hong Kong
As Alipay and WeChat Pay have developed in China, they have become increasingly popular in Hong Kong. But other wallets, including PayPal, UnionPay, Skrill, Apple Pay and Google Pay, are also widely used. It’s estimated that $30bn will be spent using mobile payments by 2027.
With such a high proportion of the population comfortable shopping online, the B2C ecommerce market in Hong Kong is growing, projected to reach US$39.1bn by 2026. The top three sectors for ecommerce purchases are fashion (50%), food and personal care (15%), then electronics and media (14%).
With Hong Kong geographically close to many Asian markets, cross-border purchases are common. 73% of consumers who shop online have made cross-border purchases. The top three markets for international ecommerce are the US, China, and Japan.
Global transfers in Hong Kong
Transferring money to and from Hong Kong is relatively easy. However, it can be expensive – especially for businesses making and receiving payments regularly.
For some businesses, the best solution will be to open a local business bank account in Hong Kong. While the country is generally very business-friendly, opening a corporate bank account can be difficult.
If you’re a non-resident, you may need to hire costly legal and financial advisers to help support your application. This can result in long waits to operationalise your business and start trading.
Fortunately, alternative banking providers are innovating to help international businesses of all sizes access global markets more easily. For example, with a 3S Money International Business Account, you can hold local banking details in Hong Kong without residency requirements.
What are the different ways to send money to and from Hong Kong?
Several options are available to transfer money to and from Hong Kong. They include:
International money transfer specialists
Bank-to-bank international transfers
Online multi-currency accounts
Digital or mobile wallets
Which one works best for you will depend on your business needs and operations, so we’ll look at the pros and cons of each.
International money transfer services
You're spoilt for choice regarding companies that specialise in international money transfers. Moneycorp and Western Union are well-known examples.
With this method of transfer, you’ll be able to choose how the money is received: bank transfer, mobile wallet, or cash pick-up from a physical location, for example. This flexibility and range of options can make it a helpful tool.
However, fees for this type of transfer are often significant. You'll pay a premium if you want your payment to arrive faster. Plus, these services often add a markup on the currency exchange rate.
That means the sender must pay significantly more, or the recipient will receive less. Either way, the provider pockets a healthy profit.
Bank-to-bank international transfers
Another option is to use your bank to transfer the funds. This is a popular choice for many businesses and individuals as it’s often the most accessible and convenient. But for those exact reasons, it can also be expensive:
Banks usually charge a fee to arrange and process money transfers.
Some banks may also charge a percentage of the total amount you’re transferring (as much as 3-4%).
Banks may use their own foreign exchange (FX) rates which could cost you 5-7% more.
International transfers often involve chains of different banks (called “correspondent banks”), all of which will charge a fee, pushing up the total cost.
All banks are different, so we recommend checking your business account's terms to see your bank’s international transfer charges. If they charge a lot, consider an alternative, especially if you make regular transfers to and from Hong Kong.
Online multi-currency accounts
An alternative to the traditional bank transfer is an online multi-currency account. These digital platforms allow you to send and receive payments in multiple currencies, usually with far more competitive FX rates and lower fees.
Electronic Money Institutions (EMIs) provide many of the same services as traditional banks, but they operate differently.
EMIs, like the 3S Money International Business Account, are popular with businesses operating in multiple markets worldwide. They offer streamlined cash management solutions, easy cross-border payments, and cheaper FX rates.
Electronic Money Institutions (EMIs) provide many of the same services as traditional banks, but they operate differently. Here are three reasons why EMIs are so attractive to international businesses:
1. Savings: EMIs offer lower fees and more competitive FX rates than traditional brick-and-mortar banks.
2. Simplicity: All your business transactions are visible in one easy-to-use platform, accessible anywhere in the world.
3. Scale: Your business can grow quicker with greater access to multiple markets and currencies.
The alternative banking solutions EMIs offer enable businesses to make payments in different countries without holding local bank accounts. Find out more about EMIs here.
Some transfer providers offer the option to pick up physical cash at one of their locations near your recipient.
This service is often an option provided by international transfer specialists, so the same pros and cons apply. It’s straightforward, and the cash can often be available in minutes, depending on the opening hours of the physical location.
However, there’s usually a price to pay for convenience and the same risk of losing out to significant markups on currency conversion. And again, this solution is reasonable for occasional transfers but problematic and costly for regular payments.
Digital or mobile wallets
A digital or mobile wallet is another option for sending and receiving cross-border payments from Hong Kong.
PayPal was one of the first digital wallets and is still the world’s most widely used. While a popular personal (peer-to-peer) transfer tool, business transactions can be expensive. There are no set-up fees, but the standard charge is 5.4% + $0.30 per transaction. There are also hefty currency conversion charges.
There are many other digital and mobile wallets out there, and which one works best for your business will depend on factors including your location and specific needs.
What’s the best way to send money to and from Hong Kong?
Suppose you’re a business sending and receiving regular international payments to and from Hong Kong. In that case, one-off transfer services (such as those offered by traditional banks and international transfer specialists) will be an expensive option for you.
Most international businesses will be completing multiple transactions daily. This can vary from paying suppliers, employees, and freelancers, to collecting customer payments and settling taxes.
If you use transfer specialists or traditional banks for these regular transactions, their high fees, commission-based charges, and FX markups will add up and eat away at your bottom line.
For businesses that want hassle-free access to global markets, an online multi-currency account is a better solution where you can send and receive payments in 65+ currencies and 190+ countries, including Hong Kong.
How do I send money to Hong Kong? Step-by-step.
With a 3S Money International Business Account, you can send money in 65+ currencies to 190+ countries, including Hong Kong. Here’s how:
1. Open a 3S Money International Business Account
Once approved, your business can send hassle-free payments to Hong Kong using your online account.
2. Enter the transfer details
Add the recipient’s name and account details, then choose the currency and country.
3. Send your money
Make the transfer from your online account and receive an alert when it’s complete.
How do I receive money from Hong Kong? Step-by-step.
A 3S Money International Business Account makes it easy to receive international payments in 65+ currencies from 190+ countries, including Hong Kong. Here’s how:
1. Open a 3S Money International Business Account
Benefit from one easy-to-use platform for all your international payments.
2. Give customers your account details
Your international account is in your business name, so you can easily collect HKD payments.
3. Receive your money
See the payment arrive in your online account and either hold or exchange it for another currency.
How long do transfers to and from Hong Kong take?
It depends on where the transfer is being sent from, where it’s going, the systems used, and when you send it.
Most traditional bank transfers take up to five working days.
SWIFT transfers take one to five working days.
Transfers between 3S Money accounts are instant.
It could take longer if you send your transfer on the weekend or public holiday.
Some receiving banks take longer to process incoming payments than others, and delays can occur for this reason.
How much money can I send or receive from Hong Kong?
In principle, there’s no limit to how much you can transfer. However, some providers will cap the amount you can send in a single transaction. So, you may have to make multiple transactions if you want to transfer a large amount.
With 3S Money, there are no transaction limits. Once you’ve been approved for an International Business Account, you can transfer high-value payments with ease to 190+ countries around the world. We even offer expert support for clients moving large amounts for extra peace of mind.
Transferring large amounts
If your provider does impose a cap, watch out for multiple transfer fees. If you send payments regularly in this way, to pay supplier invoices or employee wages, for example, the costs could mount up.
When transferring large amounts, consider the following:
Some providers cap the amount you can send in a single transfer, so you may have to do several.
There may be a limit on the number of transfers you can make in any 30-day period.
Larger amounts can take longer to process.
Your provider may enquire about large transfers. This is considered best practice and an essential part of how regulated institutions (like 3S Money) meet their obligations.
How much does it cost to transfer money to Hong Kong?
We mentioned earlier how international transfers via traditional banks could be a costly way to send money. Let’s look in more detail at the fees you might pay:
Outgoing transfer fee: You’ll most likely be charged a flat fee for sending an international transfer. A bank in the UK, for example, will typically charge between £20-£40.
3S Money charges just $1 (or your local equivalent) per transfer, regardless of how much you send. More about 3S Money pricing.
Incoming transfer fee: Most UK banks charge around £7.50 for receiving payments from international bank accounts.
3S Money charges £0.00.
Initiation fee: Some banks might charge you a fee if you request the transfer over the phone or in person rather than online. For a UK bank, you can expect this to be around £20.
3S Money doesn’t charge initiation fees.
Commission: Banks might also charge a fee based on a percentage of your transfer amount. For UK banks, this is currently around 3-4%.
3S Money charges just $1 per transfer (or your local equivalent) regardless of how much you send.
Exchange rate markup: The exchange rate you can find online is the “mid-market” rate. Transfer providers apply their own exchange rates to international transfers, which means you’ll pay more – and they keep the difference.
3S Money offers FX rates up to 5x lower than traditional banks.
We’ve covered a lot in this article, so here are some tips and main takeaways to consider:
Hong Kong is the world’s freest economy, with a low-taxes and low regulation.
It offers a gateway to mainland China and other markets in the Asia Pacific region.
An online multi-currency account can be an effective solution for businesses looking to scale and easily access new markets.
With a 3S Money International Business Account, you can send, receive, hold, and exchange HKD with low transaction costs and FX rates.
When choosing a provider for global payments, ensure an independent body regulates them. 3S Money is regulated by the FCA, CSSF, and DFSA and uses safeguarding to protect 100% of your funds.
Manage your money to help your business grow
Ready to start making and receiving payments in HKD and take your business to new markets?
A 3S Money International Business Account offers global payment solutions for companies looking to trade locally and pay globally. Start your application today and receive pre-approval with 48hrs.