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Finance 101: Everything you need to know about money in Hong Kong

By Amanda Sheppard 4 January 2019

Originally published by Amanda Sheppard on January 4, 2019. Last updated by Catharina Cheung on February 10, 2020.

If you don't work in finance, chances are you haven’t used a calculator—other than the one on your phone—since school. That’s okay, we can’t say we blame you. But this does tend to make settling a tax bill or balancing your chequebook a rather complicated matter. To help you get your finances in order, we break things down into the absolute need-to-know essentials.

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Opening a bank account

Simple though it may seem, this can be a seriously vexing process—banks are sticklers for paperwork. To save yourself repeated visits and an arduous back and forth process, make sure you have all of your paperwork on hand.

The necessary documentation differs from bank to bank, but if you have the following with you, you’re (almost) guaranteed to succeed: your HKID, passport (and visa if applicable), a copy of your employment contract, and proof of income and address, both dated within the last three months.

Insurance

From health to home and travel insurance, policy options are rife around Hong Kong. Travel insurance can be arranged for specified dates and can even be purchased through an ATM, with rates varying depending on your destination.

Health insurance policies will differ depending on your inclusions (from GP visits to hospitalisation and more extreme cases) and can be obtained through your bank or through an external provider.

Applying for a credit card

Once you’ve got the aforementioned bank account, you’ll receive letters, text messages, and emails offering you loans and credit cards up to your ears. But do you even want one? Do you need one? Most importantly: do you qualify for one?

There are so many different cards on offer that it will undoutedly get overwhelming browsing through them all. Luckily, sites like MoneyHero are around to help you compare the perks and benefits of different cards. Account holders with banks can apply for credit cards and supplementary cards through their online banking portals. To skip the arduous process altogether and help cap your spending, the ANGEL Pre-paid Mastercard can be obtained without a credit check and can store up to $100,000 at a time.

Here are other related articles for getting your finances in order:

Mandatory Provident Fund (MPF)

Nobody likes thinking about pension pots and retirement funds, but luckily you don’t have to because it's a government requirement for both you and your employer to contribute to one. Employees contribute five percent of their salary each month to the Mandatory Provident Fund (MPF), which employers are required to match. Contributions are capped at $1,500 per month, though you can contribute additional funds voluntarily.

Paying tax

Hong Kong’s tax year starts on April 1 and ends on March 31. Payments are settled either in full or in two instalments. If you’re new to Hong Kong, you’re in luck, because tax here is typically lower than many other countries, with the highest bracket of earnings capped at 17 percent. For the 2017/18 tax year, the government issued hefty breaks and allowances, resulting in significant savings for many.

Do bear in mind that if this is your first tax paying year, you will likely be charged for the year ahead, so your bill will be double what you expect.

Sending money abroad

When sending money abroad, you need to be aware of how much money it will cost. Look out for things such as bulked-up exchange rates, hidden fees, commissions, and also find out if you will be charged a fee on the recipient end as well as the sender’s end.

A service that can help is CurrencyFair, a simple solution for sending money home or elsewhere abroad at a rate that is up to five times cheaper than banks. Exchange funds via their user-friendly platform and transfer the funds to whoever you want. The platform also has an added bonus: new customers get 3 months of unlimited free transfers. You heard it here first.

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Following a brief and bitterly cold stint in Scotland, Amanda returned to Hong Kong—a place she’s called home for over 18 years—to begin her career as a writer. She can often be found getting lost somewhere very familiar, planning her next holiday, and enjoying a cup (or three) of good, strong coffee.

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