Citibank (Hong Kong) Limited is a Hong Kong-registered bank, owned by Citigroup Inc, a multinational banking group headquartered in the United States. It is one of the city’s largest banks and a popular choice with expats and non-residents. It also is one of my favourite banks, thanks to its excellent credit card offering and low fees. In this article, I share my experience with it and explain how to open an account.
Citibank is the first bank I opened an account with in Hong Kong. Its familiar logo, having spent a significant amount of time in the US over the years, is what drew me in. That was lucky as Citibank has turned out to be my favourite local bank and it still is even now that I have accounts with most of them. Why is it my favourite? There are a number of reasons.
The first is the reliability of their products. I have been using my debit and credit cards from Citibank for years and have never experienced any issues. That is significant as I have experienced many declines, card locks and outages with other banks especially when travelling.
The second is the low fees. To put it simply, I do not pay any. No monthly fees, no annual fees, no card fees, no ATM fees, no wire transfer fees, no FPS fees, no credit card annual fees. As an added bonus, I can avoid local ATM fees in many countries by using local Citibank-branded ATMs (for example, in Thailand).
The third is their credit card offering. The PremierMiles, my favourite card in Hong Kong, pays around 2.5 miles per USD equivalent spent on all purchases. It also grants lounge access, includes an insurance component and has no annual fee if you spend in excess of 100000 HKD (around 12000 USD). For a non-US card, that is hard to beat.
As for the practicalities of banking with Citibank, they have a mobile app on iOS and Android that supports most types of transactions and even includes a security code generator (way better than those blasted security sms, in my opinion). What the mobile app does not do, the website does so there is no need to walk into a branch for any reason.
How to open an account
It is currently impossible to open an account remotely, as is the case with all banks in Hong Kong and as such, a physical visit is required (unless you have a permanent HKID, in some cases). There is no need to book an appointment, simply walk into any branch with your proof of identity, address (dated within the last 90 days) and a local mobile phone number. If you are a Hong Kong resident, bring along your HKID. If you are not a Hong Kong resident, have your bank write a letter of recommendation addressed to Citibank and prepare a good explanation as to why you need the account. This will improve your chances of success. In all cases, your documents must be in English or Chinese. If they are not, they will have to be translated in Hong Kong by a bank-approved translator. If you have a Hong Kong address, the minimum deposit will be 10000 HKD. If you do not, it will be 1500000 HKD. As long as you maintain the minimum deposit, all monthly fees will be waived (there is a maintenance charge for non-residents). Accounts are usually opened on the spot, you can expect to walk out of the branch with your debit card and account details in hand. You should register for online banking before you leave Hong Kong as this involves a series of two-factor authentication calls and texts.
Citibank is one of the few Hong Kong banks that offer a “normal” debit card, as opposed to a UnionPay. The MasterCard Debit can be used online, for contactless payments and can be linked to mobile wallets.
In my experience and that of many of the members who have opened accounts with Citibank, the branches along Hennessy road on the island are the easiest to work with.