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I have an account at HSBC in Hong Kong. I want to transfer some money to an account here in the USA. I don't have an HSBC account here but if that is the best way then I can create one. What is the best way of doing this?

I see a couple similar questions here, but for smaller amounts. I will be transferring a fairly large amount ($50k or so) and I obviously want to lose as little as possible in fees and conversion rates.

Another thought, I'm going to Hong Kong in a couple months, would I be able to take a check and just fly it back here myself to deposit it? Or am I way off?

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The safest, quickest and cheapest option would be to do a wire transfer from your HK account to an account in a US bank. You can contact HSBC and ask them if it would be cheaper if the US bank account is at HSBC as well, but I doubt it would be a significant saving. Check the rates in HK about a wire transfer, in the US, on the receiving side, the fees are not dependent on the amount and are about $10-$15 per occurrence (shop around).

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    -1 A wire transfer is probably the safest and fastest option, but it's definitely not the cheapest. – Eric Feb 15 '16 at 21:30
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Wire transfers are the best method. Costs can vary from $10 to $100 or more, depending on the banks and countries involved. There's rarely any saving using the same bank, although HSBC may have reduced charges if you have Premier accounts in both countries (for a one-off transaction, it may not be worth the effort to open an account).

However, that cost is insignificant compared to your possible losses on the currency exchange. Assuming your money is currently in Hong Kong Dollars (HKD), it will need to be converted to US Dollars (USD).

One place where it could be converted is at your Hong Kong bank. You'll get their retail rate. Make sure you are aware of the rate they will use, and any fees, in advance. Expect to pay around 2-3% from the mid-market rate (the rate you see quoted online, which doesn't fluctuate much for HKD-USD as the currencies are linked).

Another place where the currency could be converted is at your US bank. You really don't get any control over that if it arrives as HKD and is then automatically converted into your USD. The rate and fees could be quite poor, especially if it is a minor US bank that has to deal with anther bank for foreign currency.

For amounts of this size, it's worthwhile using a specialist currency conversion company instead. Currency Fair in Ireland is one. It's a peer-to-peer exchange that is generally the best deal (at least for the currency pairs I use). You wire the money to them, do the exchange on their site at a rate that is much closer to 0.5% from the midrate, then the money is transferred out by wire for a few dollars. Adds a few days to the process, but will possibly save you close to US$1000. Another established option is Currency Online in New Zealand.

There are probably also specialist currency exchange companies in Hong Kong. The basic rule is, don't let the banks exchange currencies at rates that suit them, use a third party that offers a better rate and lower fees.

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HSBC exchange spread between HKD and USD was 483 bps (1 bps is 0.0001) on their 24 hours exchange network a few weeks ago when I checked. It is very high for a pair of linked currencies which has very little fluctuation. One should expect less than 5 bps or even 1 bps. I did my currency conversion at a US brokerage which can take HKD currency and then I was able to pick the time/rate and amount I like to make the conversion. Basically, the currency pair runs within a tight band and you just need to buy USD with HKD at the time when it is near the edge of the band to your advantage. There is usually no fee on currency conversion. They make money through the spread.

HSBC premier allows you to wire free among countries. I forget whether they offer tighter spread or not.

Rob was right on about the cost of transferring money overseas. The majority of the cost is in the conversion, not the wiring.

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I'd recommend using Transferwise - sending to usd I use them to send smaller sums of CNY mainland China (which is much more restrictive than HK), and they support HKD, and have a cap at around $1 000 000.

More importantly, they have low fees, and a transparent fee calculator. They work by holding pools of money in both currencies, and paying out and in as required, charging a fee based on the pressure on those pools. For a popular open market (like HKD to USD) they should be quite low.

Transferwise - sending from hkd (no cap)

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