Guide to opening virtual bank account: requirements, fees and business account services

Kirstie Lau4 minutes
GuidesBusiness tips
Guide to opening virtual bank account: requirements, fees and business account services
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Virtual banks have become increasingly popular in Hong Kong in recent years. What are the benefits of virtual banks? What virtual bank options are available in Hong Kong? This article will answer your questions, including services offered by virtual banks and the requirements and fees for opening an account.

What are virtual banks?

A virtual bank is a bank that provides banking services through digital channels. It doesn’t have a physical branch as all services can be completed online. Customers can open an account, make deposits and apply for loans through the bank’s mobile application or website.

The Hong Kong Monetary Authority requires virtual banks to primarily engage in retail business and prohibits virtual banks from establishing minimum account balance requirements. Although virtual banks don’t have a physical branch, they must have a physical office in Hong Kong for handling customer inquiries and complaints.

List of virtual banks in Hong Kong

There are 8 virtual banks in Hong Kong currently:

Bank Code Name
389 Mox Bank
387 ZA Bank
388 livi Bank
390 WeLab Bank
395 Airstar Bank
391 Fusion Bank
392 PAO Bank
393 Ant Bank

Comparing account opening requirements of different virtual banks

Virtual bank Account opening fee Minimum deposit requirement Features Processing time
Mox Bank No business account
ZA Bank - Online account opening: HK$1,200 (Extra HK$300 for company search fee)
- Opening an account with a customer manager:
HK$10,000 (Extra HK$ 1,000 for company search fee)
- Additional fees apply for special company types
N/A Can open an account even if the business is less than 1 year old As fast as 1 business day
livi bank - HK$1,200 for application (including HK$300 for company
search fee), regardless of successful account opening
- Additional fees may apply for special company types
Not specified No restriction on company establishment date As fast as 1 day
WeLab Bank No business account
Airstar Bank Streamlined corporate account: HK$850
Standard corporate account: HK$1,500
Company search fee: HK$300
No charge if account opening is unsuccessful
No minimum balance requirement No need for face-to-face meetings or physical document submission
for opening a “Streamlined corporate account”
As fast as within 48 hours
Fusion Bank Online account opening: HK$1,200
Offline account opening: HK$2,000
Additional fees apply for special company types
Company search fee: Hong Kong companies: HK$200, cost-based for overseas companies
No minimum balance requirement Business account opened online will be subject to a daily transfer limit to third-party payees of HK$1,000,000
As fast as 1 day
PAO Bank Not specified No minimum balance requirement Not specified
Ant Bank Promotional offer for fee waiver No minimum balance requirement As fast as 3 days
Watch 3-min demo

Differences between virtual banks and traditional banks

1. Account opening methods and charges

The account opening process for virtual banks is relatively simple and fast compared to traditional banks. It can be completed within 5 to 10 minutes via the virtual bank’s mobile application. Corporate account applicants only have to provide their personal and corporate information, take a photo of identification documents and verify through SMS. The bank will then conduct a company search.

Besides, opening a virtual bank account is generally cheaper than opening a traditional bank account. Most virtual banks don’t impose minimum deposit requirements or monthly service charges.

2. Service hours and access

Traditional banks have fixed operating hours while virtual banks are not limited by space or time. As virtual banks don’t have physical branches, customers do not have to queue at the bank. They can conveniently access bank services through the banks’ mobile applications or websites anytime, anywhere.

3. Risks and security

Although virtual banks don’t have physical branches, they are required by local authorities to have a physical office. They are also regulated by the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, the same as traditional banks, and participate in the Deposit Protection Scheme, which offers a total deposit protection amount per depositor of HK$500,000.

4. Types of services and products

Currently, traditional banks offer a wide range of online services, including foreign currency exchange, time deposits, loans and mortgages. Services provided by virtual banks are not as varied as traditional banks as they are still in the early stages of development. They mainly provide time deposits, demand deposits, remittance services, etc. Some also provide loans.

Products and services offered by virtual banks in Hong Kong

Virtual bank Products and services
ZA Bank - HKD, RMB and USD time deposits
- Local transfers (FPS/CHATS)
- Cross-border remittances
- Foreign exchange services
- Small business loans
livi bank - HKD time deposits
- HKD, RMB, USD demand deposits
- “FPS” (Faster Payment System) for instant HKD, RMB transfers
- “Real-time Gross Settlement System” for USD transfers
Airstar Bank - HKD/USD/RMB accounts
- Various deposit terms for time deposits
- Transfers through Airstar bank account and FPS
- Transfers through the “Real-time Gross Settlement System”
Fusion Bank - Local transfers (FPS/CHATS)
- Cross-border remittances
- Multi-currency accounts combining HKD, RMB, USD savings and time deposits
PAO Bank - HKD saving accounts
- Transfers and payments through the “Faster Payment System” (FPS)
- Loans for small and medium-sized enterprises
Ant Bank - Dual currency accounts in HKD and USD
- HKD and USD demand deposits
- Local transfers through the “Faster Payment System” (FPS)
- Loans for small and medium-sized enterprises

Virtual bank accounts for corporates

Currently, there are 8 virtual banks in Hong Kong. Six of them offer corporate accounts (ZA Bank, livi bank, Airstar Bank, Fusion Bank, PAO Bank and Ant Bank). Most virtual banks provide basic services such as time deposits and local transfers. However, not all of them provide cross-border remittances. This may make them unsuitable for businesses operating in different countries and regions.

Open a global multi-currency account for free in Hong Kong

Limitations of overseas remittances via virtual banks

Although some virtual banks provide cross-border remittance services, most of them conduct the remittance through telegraphic transfer, which is relatively inconvenient compared to other methods.

First, as virtual banks don’t have physical branches, if there are any issues with the telegraphic transfer, customers can only inquire about it via the banks’ official website or mobile applications. Besides, virtual banks also charge handling fees for each remittance. These expenses can gradually eat into your profits.

Furthermore, virtual banks offer limited currency options for telegraphic transfer. They mostly provide HKD, RMB and HKD, which unfavor businesses aspiring to expand to different countries and regions.

Airwallex vs. virtual bank corporate accounts

Aside from virtual banks, financial and remittance platforms on the market, such as Airwallex, can also provide financial solutions for e-commerce and various types of small and medium-sized enterprises. With Airwallex, you can remit funds to over 150 countries and regions within 24 hours, with local payment channels available for remittances to 120 countries and regions, eliminating costs incurred from cross-border telegraphic transfers. 85% of remittances can even be credited on the same day. Open an Airwallex Business Account online for free today.

Airwallex Virtual banks
Account opening process Can be opened instantly online
No account opening fees or monthly fees
Simple online form filling and uploading business proof documents
Completion within a few minutes
Currencies for remittance Offers multi-currency accounts
Allows direct remittances in 60+ currencies
without the need for forced currency exchange
Mostly only provide HKD, RMB and USD
Foreign exchange rates Offers market-leading rates Some virtual banks provide foreign exchange services
Cross-border remittances Over 90% of transactions go through local rails instead of SWIFT Cost-based
HK$50-HK$250 for each telegraphic transfer
Extra fees for intermediary bank charges may apply
Other services - Batch transfers
- Seamless integration with an accounting software
- Visa cards for corporates and employees
Some provide:
- Time deposits
- Demand deposits
- Loans
- Financing
Security measures Regulated by Hong Kong Customs and holds a Money Service Operator License
Adopts top-notch security technologies, including tokenisation and 3DS 2 for transaction security
Participates in the Deposit Protection Scheme, with a total deposit protection amount of HK$500,000 per depositor

*The above information was sourced from the official websites of virtual banks in June 2024. For the latest information, please refer to the announcements from each bank.

Frequently asked questions

1. Do virtual banks have deposit protection?

All licensed banks in Hong Kong, including virtual banks, must participate in the Deposit Protection Scheme, which offers a total deposit protection amount per depositor of HK$500,000.

2. How can customers of virtual banks withdraw and deposit funds?

Some virtual banks provide physical bank cards, such as ZA Bank, which offers physical withdrawals at ATMs accepting Visa. MOX also allows cash withdrawals at ATMs within the applicable Jetco network.

Meanwhile, customers of virtual banks without physical bank cards will have to transfer funds to their traditional bank accounts with ATMs in order to withdraw cash. It is important to note that not all virtual banks support FPS transfers.

3. Do virtual banks offer account opening promotions?

Many virtual banks offer account opening promotions, such as cash allowance and attractive interest rates for time deposits and demand deposits, to attract customers.

4. How to cancel a virtual bank account?

Most virtual banks don’t specify the account cancellation method on their websites. Customers can directly contact customer service representatives for inquiries.

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Kirstie Lau
Senior Associate, Growth Marketing

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