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 go with.
Note: Citibank recently announced that it will be exiting retail banking in Malaysia. However, it assured customers that its consumer banking operations will operate as normal.
There are fewer reasons to visit a bank branch these days, 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 close to where you live is therefore more convenient. Here’s where HSBC has a clear edge over Citibank. HSBC has 54 branches nationwide in both East and West Malaysia. Citibank only has 10 branches – six in the Klang Valley, two in Penang and one each in Johor and Melaka.
AccountEveryday Global AccountBasic Savings AccountAcceleRate Savings AccountBasic Savings Account
Interest ratesNot stated0.25% p.a.Base 0.50% p.a., bonus 4.38%0.25% to 1%
Other featuresBuy, save, transfer and spend in 11 currencies-Free international money transferFree international money transfer
HSBC offers two savings accounts – an Everyday Global Account, and a Basic Savings Account that offers 0.25% p.a. Its global account allows you to perform your banking activities in 11 currencies, which can be useful for expats or frequent travellers. 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% p.a. and a bonus 4.38% on incremental balances. Its Basic Savings Account offers returns as high as 1%, but you’ll need to deposit at least RM1 million to qualify. Where Citibank shines is with its free international money transfers. Both these savings accounts offer free transfers up to US$12,500 a day for Citibank customers, and US$25,000 a day for Citigold customers.
AccountTime DepositForeign Currency Time DepositTime DepositForeign Currency Time Deposit
Interest rates1.40% – 2.70%Not stated1.15% to 1.30%Not stated
Tenures1 – 60 months1,3 6, 9 or 12 months1 – 60 months1,3 6, 9 or 12 months
Currencies-12 currencies-10 currencies
Min depositRM1,000US$3,000 or equivalentRM 1,000US$3,000 or equivalent
FeaturesCan open account onlineCan open account online if existing customerView your Citibank accounts across participating countries with a single login
HSBC and Citibank both offer regular time deposits (also known as fixed deposits) and foreign currency time deposits.
Citibank allows you to view all your Citibank accounts across participating countries with a single login. This feature is free for all Citibank customers. HSBC also has this feature, but it’s available for Premier or Advance customers only.
However, HSBC shines when it comes to interest rates, offering better returns under its time deposit. You can also open a time deposit account completely online. On the other hand, Citibank requires you to enquire by phone or visit a branch physically.
HSBC wins at interest rates, while Citibank is better for global access.
Interest/profit rateFor new customers:
10.50% p.a. – 12.50% p.a.
For existing customers:
From 7.5% p.a.
For Premier customers:
From 4.88% p.a.5.33% – 9.80%
Financing amountUp to RM250,000Up to RM150,000
Tenure2 – 7 years2 to 6 years
Income requirementRM3,000 min monthly incomeRM4,000 min monthly income
Citibank has lower interest rates that start from 5.33% p.a., while HSBC’s starts from 10.50% p.a. But if you happen to be an existing HSBC customer, your profit rates may start from 4.88% or 7.5%. HSBC also has a higher maximum financing amount up to RM250,000, a longer tenure up to seven years and lower income requirements that start at RM3,000 a month. This can make HSBC a better choice for a personal financing plan, if you already happen to be an existing customer.
Annual feesRM0 to RM600RM0 to RM1,000
Interest rate15% to 18% p.a.15% to 18% p.a.
0% Easy payment / installment planAvailableAvailable
Balance transfer interest ratesUp to 18% p.a.Up to 6.99% p.a.
Cash advance fee5% of cash amount (min RM 15) and 18% interest p.a.5% of cash amount (min RM 20) and 18% interest p.a.
Foreign currency conversion cost1.25%1%
HSBC and Citibank both offer a range of credit cards – from cashback cards, travel cards to rewards cards.
Citibank has lower balance transfer and foreign currency conversion rates, but HSBC has slightly lower cash advance fees.
Both HSBC and Citibank offer solid rewards programs. Each allows you to exchange rewards points for merchandise or cash vouchers with merchants like McDonald’s or Isetan. In addition, the HSBC SmartPrivileges and Citi World Privileges both give you access to discounts and promotions across a wide range of categories, including dining, shopping and other lifestyle spending. Merchants include Grab, Shopee, Boost and many more. You can’t go wrong with either HSBC or Citibank when it comes to rewards.
HSBC vs Citibank: which should you choose?
Based on the comparison above, here’s how you could choose between the two.
Go with HSBC if…
You want a bank that has physical branches nationwide
You need a multi-currency account
You qualify 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 you want to access them in one log in (available to Premier and Advance customers only)
Go with Citibank if..
You live in the Klang Valley area, or close to the Citibank branches in Penang, Johor and Melaka
You have Citibank accounts based in other countries, and you want to access them in one log in
You often make international money transfers
In short, we think Citibank is a great option if you need global access. However, HSBC is a more physically (and digitally, as you can open an account entirely online) accessible bank for most Malaysians. It may also offer better rates for fixed deposits and personal loans, especially if you are a Premier or Advance customer.