When you understand the history of the HKD and the factors that affect its value, you can find the best exchange rate for your international money transfer to Hong Kong.
If you want to send money to Hong Kong, the Australian dollar AUD/HKD exchange rate that applies to your transaction will dictate how much your transfer costs. By timing your transfer when the AUD/HKD exchange rate is at its peak, you can make sure that your Aussie dollars go further and purchase as many HKD as possible.
And if you compare the exchange rates and transaction fees of competing transfer providers, you’ll be able to find the best value for money available.
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The Hong Kong dollar (HKD) is the official currency of Hong Kong and Macau. In 1841, upon Hong Kong’s establishment as a free trading port, the region did not have any local currency, and the use of foreign currencies like Indian rupees, Spanish and Mexican pesos as well as Chinese coins was quite common. While the British government tried to introduce the use of sterling silver coinage in Hong Kong, it failed, as it did in its North American colonies. This was mainly because of the strong local following of the Spanish dollar system.
In 1863, the British government, through the Royal Mint in London, started issuing special subsidiary coinage for Hong Kong, and in 1866 it even established a local mint in Hong Kong. However, the Chinese did not receive these new dollars well, which led to the closure of the mint in Hong Kong in 1868. By the 1860s, banknotes from the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation and the Chartered Bank of India, Australia and China began circulating in the region, and these were denominated in dollars.
By 1895, a dearth of Mexican dollars saw the British government enacting new legislation in an attempt to regulate coinage in Hong Kong and the Straits Settlements. At this point, mints in Bombay and Calcutta started coining new British trade dollars. In 1906, the Straits Settlements started issuing their own silver dollar coins.
In 1935, Hong Kong was the last to abandon the silver standard, soon after China, and it pegged to the sterling. It was only at this point that the concept of the HKD as a separate unit came into being. Unification of the HKD as the region’s legal tender took place only in 1937.
Hong Kong rates as one of the world’s top financial centres, and a well-established international financial market, low taxation and almost-free port trade characterise this largely service-oriented economy.
The Sino-British Joint Declaration and the Basic Law of Hong Kong lets Hong Kong retain complete autonomy when it comes to issuing currency. Three major international banks legally issue this currency, and this happens under the purview of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority. Hong Kong does not have a recognised central banking system, and the Hong Kong Monetary Authority operates as a de facto central bank.
History of the HKD’s value
From 1863 to 1935 the HKD followed the silver standard, where silver dollars served as legal tender. From December 1935 to June 1972 the currency moved to the sterling exchange rate regime. From December 1935 to November 1967 the sterling was valued at HKD$16, and from November 1967 to June 1972 the sterling traded at HKD$14.55.
From July 1972 to November 1974 the HKD pegged with the US dollar, trading at between HKD$5.085 and HKD$5.65 during that time.
Hong Kong switched to a free-floating currency system in November 1974, and it stayed with this system until October 1983. The first two years under a free-floating system went rather well, but a rapid increase in the supply of credit along with money growth from 1977 led to the currency’s continual depreciation, double-digit inflation and a deteriorating trade balance.
By 1983, with speculative attacks surrounding the future of Hong Kong frequent, the HKD reached its lowest point against the USD, trading at 1 USD = 9.60 HKD.
In October 1983, after taking into account the anxiety about reliability of some banks as well as currency panic, the government announced a new policy of a linked exchange rate system in order to bring stability to the HKD. The HKD was linked to the USD and, since then, has remained stable. Following the 2005 introduction of upper and lower limits for the HKD, the HKD has traded between 7.75 and 7.85 USD.
HKD exchange rates
Thanks to the linked exchange rate system that pegs it to the USD, the value of the HKD remains steady against the USD at a rate of between 7.75 and 7.85 HKD for every 1 USD.
However, it has experienced sizable fluctuations relative to the value of the AUD. During the 10 years preceding December 2016, the AUD/HKD exchange rate traded between 1 AUD = 4.68 HKD and 1 AUD = 8.59 HKD. The lowest points came in 2008 and 2009 following the fallout of the global financial crisis, but were then followed by a period of rapid increase in value of the AUD. This saw it climb from a value of 4.94 HKD in March 2009 to 7.23 HKD by November 2009.
The table below shows how the HKD has performed against a range of major global currencies throughout the past decade.
|January 2006||January 2011||January 2016|
Factors that affect the value of the HKD
There are many factors that affect the value of any two currencies relative to one another. These can be economic and political changes that occur in either of the two countries, or other developments that have an impact on a global scale.
Some of the factors that affect the AUD/HKD exchange rate include:
- The performance of the USD. As the value of the HKD is linked to the USD, any rises or falls in the value of the USD will have an effect on the HKD.
- Commodities. The strength and performance of Australia’s economy is heavily reliant on the global value of commodities and agricultural resources, so rising and falling commodities prices can impact on the value of the AUD.
- China. Hong Kong shares a complex political and economic history with China, and the performance of its financial markets is heavily influenced by mainland China.
- Imports and exports. Australia’s major trading partners are China and Japan, while Hong Kong also relies heavily on trade with China. The demand for Australia and Hong Kong’s exports, in addition to the value of each country’s imports, can influence the AUD/HKD exchange rate.
- Supply and demand. The supply and demand for the HKD and AUD on global currency markets can drive the value of either currency up or down.
- Overall economic performance. The gross domestic product (GDP) of both Australia and Hong Kong, including any increases or decreases, will affect the exchange rate. Other factors, such as unemployment rates and levels of consumer sentiment, also have an impact.
- Interest rates. Low interest rates in Hong Kong make the HKD an attractive target for forex traders interested in making “carry trades”.
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When is the best time to transfer money to Hong Kong?
If the AUD/HKD exchange rate is at its peak, it’s a good time to transfer money to Hong Kong. You want your AUD to purchase as many HKD as possible, so it’s important to monitor the AUD/HKD exchange rate to find out when it is at its highest.
However, because there are many factors that can influence the value of a currency, it can be very difficult to accurately predict the future course the exchange rate will take.
But you can still take steps to improve your chances of finding the best AUD/HKD exchange rate for your international transfer. Stay abreast of economic news from Australia, Hong Kong and around the world, and keep up to date with exchange rate forecasts from economists and respected financial organisations.
It’s also a good idea to look back at the history of the performance of the AUD/HKD exchange rate on currency conversion sites like xe.com. This will help you understand the factors that drive a currency’s performance and also gauge the importance of sending an international money transfer at just the right time.
As the chart below of the AUD/HKD exchange rate shows, the best times to send money to Hong Kong in the year preceding 1 December 2016 were:
- In March 2016, when 1 AUD = 5.92 HKD
- In April 2016, when 1 AUD = 6.05 HKD
- In August 2016, when 1 AUD = 5.98 HKD
- In November 2016, when 1 AUD = 6.01 HKD
However, the worst time to send money to Hong Kong during the year was in January, when 1 AUD traded at less than 5.50 HKD and hit a low of 5.34 HKD.
* Screenshot taken from xe.com on 01/12/2016
Case study: Choosing the right time to send a HKD transfer
Dave’s brother Simon is spending a couple of years studying for a commerce degree in Hong Kong. Dave wants to transfer HKD$5,000 to his little brother to help him pay his university fees, but he doesn’t want to lose out thanks to a poor exchange rate.
He decides to hunt for the best exchange rate throughout the year leading up to December 2016 to find the best value for money. He initially plans to send the transfer in January 2016, but when he looks back at the recent history of the AUD/HKD exchange rate he discovers that the current rate of 1 AUD = 5.34 HKD is the lowest the rate has been in the past five years.
Dave decides to wait it out. In March 1 AUD is trading at 5.92 HKD, but Dave decides to hold out a little longer. Then in April, the AUD/HKD exchange rate soars to 1 AUD = 6.04 HKD. Simply by waiting a few months and transferring in April rather than January, Dave can save a whopping AUD$109.88 – but still send the exact same amount of HKD to Simon.
|January 2016||March 2016||April 2016|
|Exchange rate||1 AUD = 5.34 HKD||1 AUD = 5.92 HKD||1 AUD = 6.05 HKD|
|AUD needed to transfer HKD$5,000||AUD$936.33||AUD$844.59||AUD$826.45|
Why you need to choose the right money transfer provider
If you want to find the best AUD/HKD exchange rate, choosing the right time to send your transfer will get you halfway there. But you will also need to compare transfer companies to find the provider that can offer you the best exchange rate.
One of the main ways transfer providers make money is on the margin they add to the exchange rate. As an example, while a transfer company might purchase HKD at the mid-market rate of 1 AUD = 5.74 HKD, they might then offer to sell you HKD at a rate of 1 AUD = 5.50 HKD. The difference between the two rates helps transfer companies turn a profit, but it can leave a big hole in your wallet.
It’s also worth remembering that you will need to pay a fee whenever you send an international money transfer. This could be a fixed fee or a percentage of the total transaction amount.
Exchange rate margins and fee structures vary greatly from one transfer company to the next, which is why it’s essential to compare money transfer providers to find the best value for money for your HKD transfer.
Case study: Leah compares transfer providers
Leah’s sister Charlotte is travelling around the world and is currently in Hong Kong, where she is just about to run out of money. Leah wants to send AUD$1,000 to her little sister to help her pay for the rest of her trip, but she’s disappointed by the exchange rate on offer from her major Australian bank.
She compares the cost of sending the transfer with her bank against the deals offered by a cash transfer company and two online providers. As you can see in the table below, Leah can send an extra HKD$347.71 by using money transfer company 2 instead of her bank, plus save AUD$15 in transfer fees.
This shows why it’s essential to compare a range of money transfer options before sending funds overseas.
|Bank||Cash transfer company||Money transfer company 1||Money transfer company 2|
|Exchange rate||1 AUD = 5.393889||1 AUD = 5.6129 HKD||1 AUD = 5.67 HKD||1 AUD = 5.7416|
|Amount sent (in AUD)||$1,000||$1,000||$1,000||$1,000|
|Total cost of transfer||$1,022||$1,018||$1,005||$1,007|
|Amount received (in HKD)||$5,393.89||$5,612.90||$5,670||$5,741.60|
International money transfer options
There are four options to consider when exchanging AUD for HKD and sending an international money transfer:
- Bank transfers. If you’re looking for the simplest and most convenient way to send money to Hong Kong, send an international transfer straight from your bank account. Unfortunately, choosing this option means you’ll need to settle for low exchange rates and high fees.
- Cash transfers. Cash transfer companies like Western Union and Moneygram can get your money from Australia to Hong Kong within minutes and also offer the convenience of cash collection for your recipient. However, their transfer fees can be high and their exchange rates not as competitive as those of online transfer companies.
- Online transfers. Online transfer companies offer the best exchange rates and lowest transfer fees. These providers, such as CurrencyFair and OFX, specialise in international transfers and offer fast and secure online transactions.
- PayPal. PayPal’s international money transfer service is worth a look for small transfer amounts and is a very convenient option. However, make sure you’re aware of how the fee structure works if you want to send a large amount.
How to compare money transfer providers
There are several factors you need to take into account before choosing a transfer provider to help you send money to Hong Kong, including:
- Exchange rate. Finding the best exchange rate is a critical factor in ensuring that your money goes as far as possible. Compare AUD/HKD exchange rates between companies – make sure you compare the customer rate rather than the mid-market rate some providers quote – to find out which company offers the best value for money.
- Transaction fees. The fee you need to pay each time you send a transfer can have a huge impact on the overall cost of your transaction. Check each provider’s fee structure as while some charge a fixed fee, others charge fees as a percentage of your total transfer amount.
- How to send a transfer. While some providers offer online transfers only, others provide the convenience of in-person transfers when you need to send cash. It’s also worth checking whether phone transfers are available or if you can send money using a smartphone app.
- Transfer options. Can you schedule recurring payments in advance to save time? Are forward contracts and limit orders available to make it easier to lock in the exchange rate you want?
- Help options. Make sure that whichever provider you choose makes it easy to access customer support (online help centre, phone or email contact, live chat) if you ever experience any problems with a transfer.