Have a Hong Kong company or thinking about registering one? Do you buy things online too? For your company, not personal. Right.
Then you’ll need to get a business credit card.
First, There Aren’t Debit Cards, Just EPS/ATM Cards
In Hong Kong, they don’t have what we know of as “debit cards”. It would make life a whole lot easier for us though, and I may not even need to make today’s guide post.
A debit card is a card that has the Visa / Mastercard logo on it, and you can buy things online just like a credit card. The difference is it takes that cash out of your bank account that the debit card associated with it.
Nope, not available in Hong Kong, for what reason, I’m not sure.
So you will get a “card” when you get your bank account, but it won’t have a Visa / Mastercard logo on it. Instead it will have no “credit card” logo on the front.
What logos are on it? If you flip it over, you’ll see:
Now, EPS is electronic payment system. This you can use to buy things at merchants who accept EPS. This I have only found at shops inside of Hong Kong borders. You then swipe this card and enter your ATM PIN code and they directly debit the cash from your bank account.
UnionPay, this one is a Chinese version of Visa / MasterCard. But in the case of the bank account card you get with the new account, you can’t use this as a “credit card”. Instead, this means you have to find an ATM network that has the UnionPay logo. There is where you can use the ATM to withdraw cash from your bank.
Unionpay network is expanding everywhere, but please keep this in mind and look for ATMs that have it. Also, make sure you turn on the overseas ATM limit, so you can withdraw cash when outside HK. And also make sure you have HKD (Hong Kong dollars) in the checking or savings account. This is because you can’t take cash out of other currencies at the ATM, anywhere in the world. It will always take out from the HKD account (yes, even if you’re in Thailand and have Thai Baht in the account).
OK, well we’re getting in a bit deeper than I planned for the “default” card explanation. Just remember you get this when you open your bank account in Hong Kong, but you can’t use it to buy things online.
Get a Credit Card So You Can Buy Things Online
Yes, so if you open a Hong Kong company and live overseas, you’ll notice later that you can’t buy things online with your bank card. As we just covered, it will not have the Visa / MasterCard logo on it.
Next you will then apply for the credit card, so you can buy things online – in your business name. I’ve met many blog readers and podcast listeners who get the bank account opened, fly back to Thailand, get approved. Which is great. But then they realize a couple weeks later they can’t use the card to do online business.
So if you’re doing business around the world, you’ll need to find a Hong Kong based credit card for our business – as 99.9% likely you’ll need to buy things online.
Related – we have a podcast about getting credit cards for your HK company with Chris Gormley.
The other option. If you have a company overseas for your operations there, you can keep your expenses in that company and on that company credit card. Then keep the Hong Kong company as a trading company, only for bank transfers.
Try To Keep Your Business Expenses Separate From Personal
Another reason you’ll want a Hong Kong credit card is that you have a personal credit card for your own life. Yes, you have a life and aren’t a walking company. That would be weird.
Bookkeepers and accountants hate it when you mix up your personal and business expenses. Governments hate it even more. If you do ever get an inquiry from the Hong Kong IRD (Internal Revenue Department), let’s just hope you don’t. If talking about your business expenses and start whipping out personal credit card statements – watch out. That can be the beginning of a long, long back and forth discussion.
This is another reason why you should get a business credit card. At least, have a separate credit card for your personal expenses and another credit card dedicated only for your business expenses.
The Credit Card Will be in Hong Kong Dollars (HKD)
Whether you like it or not, Hong Kong works in Hong Kong Dollar currency. Sure, the government locks the HKD to USD at about 7.78 HKD/ 1 USD. But when you buy something, you’ll see it on your credit card statement as a HKD amount. Well it will show the USD amount (or whichever foreign currency) on the left column, and on the right it will show the HKD amount.
So yes, you’ll pay in HKD, and then if you have USD in your bank, you’ll need to convert that to HKD to pay the bill. That means you can do 2 foreign exchanges for 1 transaction, the first for buying the goods in USD, and the other for converting to HKD to pay the HKD denominated bill.
While this sounds like a lot of FX exchanges (and spreads to pay banks), this will still help you keep all your income and expenses in 1 company account. Will make accounting and bookkeeping much easier, and keep all business activity in one company.
The other option is, have a credit card in another country and wire money over to pay it. Or have multiple companies in multiple countries and pay the bills from one company to another, etc etc. You get what I mean, that is another overhead and expense.
There Is An Annual Fee, But Can Get It Waived
There is an annual fee for the HSBC card. It’s about 125 USD. Yes, you can get a refund if you call and ask. Just put a reminder to do so!
Points and Benefits
There are points added to the account but nothing like US credit cards. I got like a wallet one time or something. The big benefit I use is the free airport lounge pass at HK airport – take a shower, get buffet, grab a nap. Not sure how often you come through HK international airport?
What’s the benefit of picking up the card? I’m assuming I’ll get a debit card with the bank, do you use the CC for expenditures to make it easy on accounting? or rack up some nice points for anything?
The benefit of the card is to keep your company expenses in the company accounts. The points aren’t as good as in USA and other countries, but you do get to go to the HK airport lounge free when traveling. There are points but not so great.
Need a Security Deposit
The credit card we recommend is a secured credit card. That means that you need to put a deposit of the matching amount the balance is. The lowest amount if 10,000 HKD (about $1,200 USD). If you want to have a higher balance, you need to have a higher security deposit.
If accepted, they will mail it to your correspondence address 3 weeks after they approve your bank account.
the credit card security deposit: Is that locked into the credit card and I only get it back when / if we close the account? Or does this deposit somehow become ‘available funds’?
The security deposit cannot be for operations. You can get the deposit back by closing the card. After requesting to close the credit card, it will take 60 days to release the security deposit. Which will then post to your HSBC HK HKD account. So keep that bank account open!
The “security deposit” on the credit card itself… I’m not familiar with the mechanics of this. Does this mean it’s a card that you “load up” with cash and have access to the cash you’ve “loaded”? I.E. You put 10k on the card, and can spend that 10k. Or, is the security deposit permanently “held”?
The security deposit will not be able to be used for operations. It is essentially locked in a time security deposit account accruing something like 0.0001% interest. You can get the deposit back by closing the card. After requesting to close the credit card, it will take 60 days to release the security deposit, which will then be posted to your HSBC HK HKD account.
Unsecured Credit Card Is Possible
Don’t want to lock up your cash in a time security deposit? Yea, we understand.
The banks do offer unsecured credit cards – but that application process is a bit more stringent.
First, what’s an unsecured credit card? It is a credit card that most people are familiar with! Its where you apply, and then get a credit line for X amount of money. Say its only $1,000USD. This means that the client can spend a thousand bucks and not pay it back. Sure, it will hurt their credit score and they won’t get approved for another card – but it is possible the bank could not get that money back.
So its unsecured, they don’t have your house, or cash, or other assets to claim (take) if you don’t pay it back.
So in Hong Kong, this is riskier – it’s not USA and they don’t look at your American credit score. They don’t know who you are and if you don’t pay it back, maybe you’ll just never come back to Hong Kong and they’ll have no way to even “mark your account” in a credit system.
This is why it’s more difficult, in general, to get credit in Asia. There aren’t these credit bureaus with established systems like in America.
So you can try to get an unsecured card in Hong Kong – but you should have some kind of track record in Hong Kong. And almost 100% sure you will need a Hong Kong residential address. They just feel safer if you live in the Hong Kong boundaries.
Cancelling Your Secured Credit Card
So, it’s always good to think ahead, to think with the end in mind. So what happens when you want to close the account? I hope you’re not starving and waiting for this security deposit to come back.
It will take 60 days to credit back to your account. Yup – 2 months. So there are ways to speed it up a bit, pay some fines and get it in a month. But still a long time. So you’ll need some patience.
Best to just not expect to be able to use this security deposit for quite some time.
Credit Card Options for a Hongkong Company
HSBC Business Mastercard
HSBC is one of the largest banks worldwide and they have pretty business-friendly offers such as:
- Airport Limousine Service
- Double Rewards for Overseas Spending
- Free Travel Insurance
- Applicable to all Business Mastercards
- Free Airport Premium Services
- FedEx offer
- 8 weeks Interest Free
- RewardCash – Earn $1 RewardCash for every HKD250 you spend on your Business Mastercard.
OCBC Wing Hang VISA Platinum Business Card
- Perpetual Annual Fee Waiver
0.4% Cash Rebate Scheme
- You can enjoy 0.4% cash rebate for all retail purchase spending. The more spending you made with the card, the more rebate you can earn.
- 18% p.a. Preferential Interest Rate*
- You can enjoy 18% preferential interest rate on retail purchase and cash advance which will reduce your financial expense significantly.
- 20% discount on “Office Protection Package” and “Travelon” Insurance Plan
DBS Business VISA Card
- Quarterly and annual spending summary
- Billing options at your choice
- Free assignment of credit limit to your employees
- Liability waiver protection
- 60 days interest-free repayment period
American Express Corporate Card
- Visibility and Control – Online Programme Management, Standard Reporting & Customised Reporting
- Risk Management – Individual or central billing options
- Various Liability Options
- No Pre-set Spending Limits
- Flexible Statement Billing Options
- Earn points on everyday business spend
Hang Seng Bank Platinum Commercial Card
- Airport Express Round Trip Ticket for Free – spend HK$1,500 or above with Hang Seng Platinum Commercial Mastercard in the latest monthly statement/with receipt within the last 30 days to get a one-time discount coupon code. Promo valid until Dec 31, 2017
- HKD 200 Discount on Tesla Hong Kong Airport Transfer Service
- Discounts on serviced/virtual office, co-working plans and conference facility leasing across various locations
- Free Travel Insurance up to HKD2,000,000
- Unauthorised Spending Protection up to USD500,000
- MasterCard SmartData Online Expense Management Platform
- Provision of both individual & consolidated statements
- Pre-set credit limit & cash advance service on each card
- Interest-free repayment period of up to 56 days
Hope This Helped! Consider Letting Us Help You?
We hope this guide helped you out today. These are questions our banking clients always ask us, so why not share it with everyone.
If you want us to work alongside you through this credit card application process, we have a service just for you! Check it out.
Also, have you applied yet for a credit card? Any issues or questions, we’d love to hear from you in the comments. Let others learn from some of the issues you’ve had!
Tap & Go Prepaid Credit Card in Hong Kong
This is the site:
In terms of shopping or paying, there is no greater thing than a cashless transaction – it is fast, easy, and accurate in terms of paying the exact amount; it has made online shopping easier, and it is safer. Since Hong Kong banks do not offer debit cards, and you may find credit cards a little too complicated, there’s another option called Tap & Go.
Tap & Go is basically an e-wallet / prepaid mobile MasterCard that can be accessed at your fingertips through your smartphone.
Application for Tap & Go offers 3 plans with different eligibility requirements and features
|Age||All ages||11 years old or above||18 years old or above|
|Supporting Documentation & Information||None||valid Hong Kong/Macau identity card or Macau/PRC passport or Exit-entry Permit for Travelling to and from Hong Kong and Macau||(a) A copy of your valid Hong Kong/Macau identity card or Macau/PRC passport or Exit-entry Permit for Travelling to and from Hong Kong and Macau; and (b) A copy of your permanent residential address|
|Account Balance Limit||HK$3,000||HK$38,000 (HK$3,000 if aged between 11 and 17)||HK$38,000|
|Daily Aggregated Total Deposit||HK$25,000||HK$38,000 (HK$25,000 if aged between 11 and 17)||HK$38,000|
|Annual Aggregated Total Deposit||HK$25,000||HK$100,000 (HK$25,000 if aged between 11 and 17)||Unlimited|
|Maximum Account Opening||One (1) per Hong Kong/ Macau/ PRC mobile number||1||5|
How to Use Tap & Go
Once you have downloaded the app, you have to purchase a Tap & Go Card through a designated branch or retailer. The easiest way to acquire a card is at 7-Eleven, which is basically available on almost every corner in Hong Kong.
To activate your account, you will have to link the card with your mobile app. In this step, you will have to submit/upload an identification card using your phone’s camera.
Here are links to more detailed tutorials on how to use Tap & Go:
Tap & Go Advantages
- No annual fee
- Can be used in 7-Eleven, 1010, csl, etc.
- The card is customizeable; they have a limited promo called Selfie-a-Card wherein you can choose any photo to use as the design of your card — it could be a selfie. Cool, right?
- Peer-to-peer fund transfer
- Discounts at selected stores
- It enables you to settle payment anywhere worldwide or online via MasterCard® contactless technology embedded in the SIM or Tap & Go Card
Tap & Go Disadvantages
- Fees – $300 cancellation fee if you wish to close your account within 1 year from date of activation, and the refund for the remaining balance takes a maximum of 3 months to arrive. Moreover, if you do not use the card within 6 consecutive months, your account becomes dormant; hence, you will be charged a HK$10 maintenance fee every month.
- Unlike a debit card, there is no interest payable on the account
- Not many rewards
Tap & Go for Foreigners?
Based on their website, it says that as long as you are aged 11 and above and possess a Hong Kong/Macau identity card, you may be able to open and activate a Tap & Go card. Unfortunately, as per Tap & Go’s terms and conditions, a US citizen may not be qualified to open an account. See below for reference:
1. WHO CAN APPLY FOR TAP & GO
1.1 By activating for Tap & Go, you confirm and declare that you are not a US Person as defined in US Tax legislation or a U.S. taxpayer for any other reason, in particular, (i) you are not a U.S. citizen, U.S. resident or U.S. green card holder; (ii) you do not fulfill the “substantial presence test” in the U.S.; (iii) you are not born in the U.S.; and (iv) you do not have a mailing address or contact details in the U.S
If Tap & Go does not allow Americans to open an account, then that’s another addition to its disadvantages. Overall, it’s far less complicated than applying for a credit card in Hong Kong, so to me, Tap & Go could be a great alternative for cashless and online transactions.