HSBC Expat

An independent review by our team of experts.

Review summary

HSBC Expat

HSBC Holdings PLC is a British multinational banking and financial services holding company, headquartered in London, United Kingdom.

It is the world's seventh largest bank by total assets, and the largest in Europe - with total assets of US$2.374 trillion.

The origins of the bank lie mainly in Hong Kong, and to a lesser extent in Shanghai, where branches were first opened in 1865.

Today HSBC has around 4,000 offices in 70 countries and territories across Africa, Asia, Oceania, Europe, North America and South America, and around 37 million customers. 

HSBC is organised within four business groups: commercial banking; global banking and markets (investment banking); retail banking and wealth management; and global private banking. 

HSBC has a dual primary listing on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange and London Stock Exchange, and is a constituent of the Hang Seng Index and the FTSE 100 Index.

Overview

HSBC Expat, formerly HSBC International, is the offshore banking arm of the HSBC Group and is wholly owned by HSBC Holdings PLC.

It is focused on providing offshore solutions and cross border services to expatriates and migrants. 

HSBC Expat originated from the business started by Midland Bank and is based in the Channel Islands.

HSBC Expat offers personal banking solutions to expats through multi-currency international bank accounts.

Based in Jersey, HSBC Expat offers a secure jurisdiction which is well regulated being a member of the EU's Third Anti-Money Laundering Directive and full signatory to the IOSCO Multilateral Treaty.

The key benefit of HSBC’s Expat offering is to make it easier for clients to keep home bank accounts and foreign bank accounts under ‘the same roof’, notionally allowing for ease of access and monitoring.  

Unlike many banks, HSBC makes a considerable effort to specialise in providing expat bank accounts to the mainstream expat marketplace.

HSBC claims to offer international tax advice - although this is not bespoke, rather through their public website on which tax advice per country has been published in cooperation with Ernst & Young. 

HSBC also offer a branded version of the Ernest and Young global tax navigator which is of potential interest to many expats. 

Banking offshore with HSBC requires a £100 set up fee, a minimum balance of £25,000 (or zero set up and £60,000 minimum for Premier customers).  Falling below the minimum incurs a charge of between £15 and £35 per month.

Withdrawals on cards will be subject to 2.75% exchange rate adjustment if in an alternative currency.

Transfers to other banks costs between £30 and £35, even online.

International current accounts are offered in sterling, euro and US dollars, and international savings accounts in a choice of 19 currencies.

HSBC offers UK mortgages to international clients, providing a range of fixed and variable rate mortgages as well as buy-to-let mortgages, and whilst rates may be competitive, it often pays to shop around and compare providers.

For investors, the HSBC Expat service may incur charges significantly higher than clients anticipate.

Investors are guided towards HSBC products and portfolios which are often white labelled versions of other insurance based products reviewed in this section of our website.

For example, the HSBC International Wealth Build Account is simply a white-labelled Zurich Vista! 

Amazon best selling author, Andrew Hallam dissects this white labelled for banks product here.  We have strong reservations about these types of investment products too.

In general, we are surprised that HSBC refers business to insurance-based platforms when it is normally more flexible and cheaper for clients to manage their investments on a banking platform.

Investors on this platform should be particularly sensitive to product fees:  like many banks operating in the ‘retail space’, clients are encouraged to invest through structured products and ‘approved funds’ which carry high, and potentially undisclosed, fees.

Perhaps the greatest criticism of the HSBC Expat Bank Account Service is that the service levels are poor.  Clients are one amongst tens of thousands and on balance do not receive a high level of personal service or expertise in exchange for the relatively high fees they pay.  

High staff turnover and local coverage mean that clients do not receive the bespoke, ‘home country’ service that is embodied by HSBC’s strong brand and excellent UK offerings.

The pros

  • Size and global presence
  • Specialises in expats
  • Global view of accounts
  • Good marketing!

The cons

  • Poor service levels
  • Noncompetitive in-house products
  • Unsophisticated service range
FAQs
Is there a minimum amount I need to open an account as an expat with HSBC International?

Oh yes!

It's called a "Relationship Balance" and it is the total amount of deposits and investments in your HSBC Expat accounts.

New customers:


To become a customer of HSBC Expat you need to keep a minimum amount of £60,000 or currency equivalent in your HSBC Expat accounts and investments.  (Frankly you'd be unwise to do so...)

And your "Relationship Balance" is the total average credit balance, calculated every calendar month, of all your HSBC Expat accounts and any investments you have with HSBC Fund Administration (Jersey) Limited or HSBC Funds Nominee (Jersey) Limited - as long as they're all in the same name(s).

HSBC Premier customers:


If you are already an HSBC Premier customer and hold Premier accounts with other parts of the HSBC group, you will receive the Premier service with HSBC, without the need to maintain the minimum £60,000 Relationship Balance.

However...whilst HSBC Premier is free of monthly charges,  a £35 underfunding fee will apply for any given month where your Relationship Balance falls below the minimum Relationship Balance of £60,000!!

Does HSBC International offer expat mortgages?

It offers mortgages for British expats who want to buy or refinance property in the UK.

It no longer offers mortgages for those who want to buy abroad.

Customer reviews
Not worth bothering with

You get NOTHING from HSBC that you can't get anywhere else for far less money...what I mean is, why should anyone need to keep £60K or whatever in the bank to have an account?

That's absolutely ridiculous - AND that's what I told HSBC to their face when I tried to open an account and was told the terms.

AND why would I invest with a bank?

Expert verdict
Expert Assessment of HSBC Expat

We do not recommend any type of investment advice is ever taken from HSBC.  Many of its advisers have a low level of expertise and qualification, they operate on a tied basis, the investment range is poo,r and the overall costs are, in our view, high - and in many cases they are undisclosed.

You can do much better for your money.

Have a free X-Ray Review™ if you'd like to our expert independent assessment of your portfolio.

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