Caixin
Mar 21, 2019 02:21 AM
FINANCE

Hong Kong Residents Cleared for Mainland Bank Accounts

The Bank of China tower in Hong Kong. Bank of China's Hong Kong branches will allow local residents to set up mainland-based accounts without visiting or living on the mainland. Photo: VCG
The Bank of China tower in Hong Kong. Bank of China's Hong Kong branches will allow local residents to set up mainland-based accounts without visiting or living on the mainland. Photo: VCG

Hong Kong residents have been cleared to open mainland accounts at Bank of China’s Hong Kong branches under a pilot program without having to visit the mainland in person.

The trial approved Wednesday by China’s central bank is part of the integration of financial services in the development of the Greater Bay Area, a grand plan to integrate Hong Kong, Macau and nine southern mainland cities in Guangdong province into a world-leading economic and innovation hub.

Having mainland accounts will make travel more convenient for Hong Kong residents as many mobile service apps such as ride sharing and food delivery require links to Chinese bank accounts. Bank of China said customers will be able to link their accounts to ubiquitous mainland mobile payment systems such as Tencent Holding’s WeChat Pay and Ant Financial Services Group’s Alipay.

As more Hong Kong people work and reside in the mainland cities of the Greater Bay Area, the Hong Kong banking regulator “attaches great importance to their convenient access to financial and banking services in the region,” said Norman Chan, chief executive officer of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA).

Applicants must be at least 18 years old and need only to visit any Bank of China (Hong Kong) branch with their Hong Kong identity card and Mainland Travel Permit to open an account, according to the bank.

Hong Kong applicants won’t need to provide any proof of residence in the mainland, which is commonly required by other mainland banks and impossible for many Hong Kong residents. Applicants are expected win approval for their new mainland accounts within a week, Bank of China said.

The accounts will come in two options, each having a different transaction limit. The first option has a daily ATM withdrawal limit of 1,000 yuan ($150) with access to ATMs throughout mainland China. It has a daily transaction limit of 10,000 yuan and annual transaction limit of 200,000 yuan. The second option has no ATM access and a lower daily transaction limit of 2,000 yuan and annual transaction limit of 50,000 yuan.

The pilot program will serve as a trial of financial innovation for the Greater Bay Area and lay the foundation for future cross-boundary finance, said Xing Yujing, head of the People’s Bank of China’s Shenzhen branch.

As a next step, the HKMA will work with mainland authorities to explore further simplifying the account-opening process and documentation, the authority’s Chan said Wednesday in a statement. The authority will also study and implement other financial measures in support of the Greater Bay Area, such as expanding coverage of cross-boundary payment services provided by Hong Kong e-wallet operators, Chan said.

Contact editor Yang Ge (geyang@caixin.com)

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