Which International Bank Should You Choose?

Are you looking for an international bank with a solid range of financial products and services? Two popular options in Malaysia include HSBC and Citibank. We compare them side by side to see which bank you should choose.

Note: Citibank recently announced that it will be pulling out of retail banking in Malaysia. However, he assured customers that his consumer banking operations would function as normal.

Branches

These days, there are fewer reasons to visit a bank branch, especially since you can do a lot of your banking online. But some banking activities still require a physical visit – for example, many banks still require you to verify your identity at a branch when opening an account.

Having a branch near you is therefore more practical. This is where HSBC has a clear advantage over Citibank. HSBC has 54 branches nationwide in East and West Malaysia. Citibank has only 10 branches – six in Klang Valley, two in Penang, and one in Johor and Melaka.

Savings account

HSBCCitibank
AccountDaily Global AccountBasic savings accountAccelerate Savings AccountBasic savings account
Interest rateNot indicated0.25% per yearBase 0.50% pa, bonus 4.38%0.25% to 1%
Other characteristicsBuy, save, transfer and spend in 11 currenciesFree international money transferFree international money transfer

HSBC offers two savings accounts – a Daily Global Account and a Basic Savings Account which offers 0.25% pa. Its global account allows you to do your banking activities in 11 currencies, which can be useful for expats or frequent travelers. International money transfers cost between RM25 and RM45, depending on the destination, but HSBC Premier and HSBC Advance customers enjoy zero transfer fees.

Citibank offers slightly higher interest rates. Its AcceleRate savings account has a base rate of 0.50% per annum and a 4.38% bonus on incremental balances. Its basic savings account offers returns of up to 1%, but you’ll need to deposit at least RM 1 million to qualify. Where Citibank shines is with its free international money transfers. These two savings accounts offer free transfers of up to $ 12,500 per day for Citibank customers and $ 25,000 per day for Citigold customers.

Fixed deposit

HSBCCitibank
AccountA term depositTerm deposit in foreign currencyA term depositTerm deposit in foreign currency
Interest rate1.40% – 2.70%Not indicated1.15% to 1.30%Not indicated
Tenures1 – 60 months1.3 6, 9 or 12 months1 – 60 months1.3 6, 9 or 12 months
Currencies12 currencies10 currencies
Minimum deposit1,000 RMUS $ 3,000 or equivalent1,000 RMUS $ 3,000 or equivalent
CharacteristicsCan open an account onlineCan open an account online if existing customerView your Citibank accounts in participating countries with just one connection

HSBC and Citibank both offer regular term deposits (also known as term deposits) and foreign currency term deposits.

Citibank allows you to view all of your Citibank accounts in participating countries with a single connection. This feature is free for all Citibank customers. HSBC also has this feature, but it is only available to Premier or Advance customers.

However, HSBC shines when it comes to interest rates, offering better returns under its term deposit. You can also open a term account entirely online. On the other hand, Citibank requires you to get information by phone or to go physically to a branch.

Winner: tie

HSBC wins at interest rates, while Citibank is better for global access.

Personal loan

HSBCCitibank
Interest / profit rateFor new customers:
10.50% pa – 12.50% pa

For existing customers:
From 7.5% pa

For Premier customers:
From 4.88% pa

5.33% – 9.80%
Funding amountUp to RM 250,000Up to 150,000 RM
Mandate27 years2 to 6 years
Income requirementMinimum monthly income of RM3,000Minimum monthly income of RM4,000

Citibank has lower interest rates that start at 5.33% per annum, while those of HSBC start at 10.50% per annum. But if you are an existing HSBC customer, your profit rates can start from 4.88% or 7.5%. HSBC also has a higher maximum funding amount of up to RM250,000, a longer term of up to seven years, and lower income requirements that start at RM3,000 per month. This can make HSBC a better choice for a personal finance plan if you are already an existing customer.

HSBC Amanah-i personal financing

Credit card

HSBCCitibank
Annual feesRM0 to RM600RM0 to RM1,000
Interest rate15% to 18% per year15% to 18% per year
0% Easy payment / Installment planAvailableAvailable
Balance transfer interest rateUp to 18% per yearUp to 6.99% per year
Cash advance fees5% of the amount in cash (min 15 RM) and 18% interest pa5% of the amount in cash (min 20 RM) and 18% interest pa
Foreign currency conversion cost1.25%1%
Rewards programAvailableAvailable

HSBC and Citibank both offer a range of credit cards – from refund cards, travel cards to rewards cards.

Citibank has lower balance transfer and currency conversion rates, but HSBC has slightly lower cash advance fees.

HSBC and Citibank both have strong rewards programs. Each allows you to redeem reward points for merchandise or vouchers with merchants like McDonald’s or Isetan. Plus, HSBC SmartPrivileges and Citi World Privileges both give you access to discounts and promotions across a wide range of categories, including restaurants, shopping, and other lifestyle-related expenses. Merchants include Grab, Shopee, Boost, and many more. You can’t go wrong with HSBC or Citibank when it comes to rewards.

HSBC vs Citibank: which to choose?

Based on the comparison above, here’s how you can choose between the two.

Go with HSBC if …

  • You want a bank that has physical branches across the country
  • You need a multi-currency account
  • You are eligible for HSBC Premier or HSBC Advance, which gives you access to lower personal loan rates and free international transfers
  • You want a personal loan with lower interest rates and a fixed deposit with higher interest rates
  • You have other HSBC accounts based in other countries and want to access them with a single login (only available for Premier and Advance customers)

Go with Citibank if ..

  • You live in the Klang Valley area or near Citibank branches in Penang, Johor and Melaka
  • You have Citibank accounts based in other countries and you want to access them with a single login
  • You often make international transfers

In short, we think Citibank is a great option if you need global access. However, HSBC is a more accessible bank physically (and digitally, as you can open an account entirely online) for most Malaysians. It may also offer better rates for term deposits and personal loans, especially if you are a Premier or Advance customer.

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