Hong Kong is among the world’s largest financial centers – maybe because it does not have any currency controls. Cash is not subject to the usual rules for Hong Kong imports. You can freely send money to and from Hong Kong, regardless of whether you’d like to transfer all your savings or to send small sums back home.
You have several options to transfer money to and from Hong Kong: The easiest option is probably to make use of bank transfers. If you do not have a local bank account yet, you can send your money via a regular transfer service or an online one. Have a look at the fees and conditions of these services before sending any money to and from Hong Kong.
In this article, we’ll introduce all these options and give you some advice on where to exchange your cash upon arrival.
Once you have an account with one of the many banks in Hong Kong, the easiest way to send money is a bank transfer. Bank transfers are not only convenient to send money to another country, but also within Hong Kong. However, all banks charge you a service fee. As fees may differ widely among various banks, this is something to consider before you set up an account at a specific bank.
Alternatively, you can send a personal check to or from Hong Kong. The recipient can cash it in at a bank abroad. Take into consideration, though, that it might take several weeks until the check is cleared.
If you want to send cash without using your bank account or if you do not have one yet, you can opt for a worldwide money transfer service. Both Western Union and Moneygram have dozens of agents throughout Hong Kong.
The procedure is relatively simple: You take the money you would like to transfer to an office in cash. You have to fill in a form, pay the service fee, and show a valid ID, e.g. your Hong Kong ID card. Alternatively, you can process your money transfer online. Once this procedure is done, the recipient can pick up the money at another office simply by showing his or her own ID. With the transaction number you receive, you can track the status of your transfer online.
Only send money to people you know. Lately, there have been some incidents of fraud, especially in cases of online shopping. If you purchase an item from an unknown seller using a money transfer service, verify beforehand whether the seller can be trusted. If in doubt, better not buy at all.
The fees for these money transfer services can be fairly high. Besides the service charge, which is dependent on the amount and the destination, the exchange rates offered are usually lower than regular market rates.
In times of modern technology, you can obviously choose among a number of online services to transfer money. PayPal is probably the best-known example. Normally, people use such services to pay for online purchases, unaware that you can also employ them to transfer money at relatively competitive rates.
Both sender and recipient need a registered account, and the transfer may take a couple of days. First, you need to put money from your bank account into your online account. Then you can transfer the sum to the recipient, who will, in turn, transfer the money to his or her own bank account. How long it takes for the money to get from one bank account to the other varies: It largely depends on the methods both parties use to transfer the amount to and from their service accounts.
Although Hong Kong’s currency is officially pegged to the US dollar, exchange rates vary significantly throughout the city, even more so for other foreign currencies. Hotels and money exchanges at the airport offer the worst rates. But they are very convenient as they are right where you need them and are usually open on weekends and at night. If you do exchange money at the airport, change only as much as you need to get into the city and then go from there.
For more advantageous rates, you should go to a bank. Most banks charge you some percentage as a small commission, but exchange rates are usually far better. It’s always useful to look around a bit, as charges can also vary between banks. In Hong Kong’s touristy areas, there are plenty of money changers, too. You might get very favorable rates there. However, chances are just as high that they will try to double-cross you. Have them tell you exactly how much money you will get in return before handing over your own money. They might charge high commissions or have some kind of “changing fee”.
If you do not want to carry large amounts of cash, traveler checks are an option. Although most stores and restaurants in Hong Kong do not accept them, banks are happy to exchange them. They might have higher commission rates for traveler checks than for cash, but the exchange rate is often better, too.
Generally speaking, the easiest way to get Hong Kong dollars upon arrival is to simply withdraw money from an ATM. To find out which cards work with Hong Kong ATMs and how far debit and credit cards will get you, check our article on payment methods in Hong Kong.
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