28 February 2023

Consumers risk cash crisis when moving overseas

New HSBC research reveals the financial challenges of relocating abroad

  • Almost half (48%) of respondents planning a move abroad (to live, work or study) expect a cash flow crisis upon arrival
  • An inability to transfer credit history between locations means that almost 1 in 2 (54%) of those who have relocated, struggle to get essential services set up (e.g. credit card, mobile phone, utilities)
  • Just under half (47%) who plan to relocate have no idea how they’ll manage their finances between locations when they move

As technology opens up opportunities for more people to become digital nomads*, and people start to move across the globe again**, findings from HSBC reveal that international citizens’ financial experience may not be all plain sailing.

HSBC’s study was commissioned to understand how international citizens’ financial lives are evolving, their motivations for moving abroad, and issues they face as they settle into their new home.

The bank estimates there are over 90 million*** international customers across just 10 of its key international markets – people already living, working and studying abroad. The research lays their financial challenges bare – the pressures of relocating and the practical impact it can have on their lives.

Half (50%) of survey respondents who have relocated agreed that they felt unsettled when they first arrived because they struggled to set-up important things like a bank account, utilities, and the internet; highlighting how complex financial admin can have a negative impact on their new experience. Without a bank account, they can struggle to secure a home – and without a fixed address, struggle to get children in schools.

Key concerns of those who have moved or plan to move overseas are: 

  • More than 1 in 2 (54%) people surveyed, who have already relocated, agree that being unable to transfer their credit history led to struggles setting-up essentials, such as a mobile phone contract or credit card. Half (50%) planning to move overseas also agree that this is a concern for them.
  • Among those planning to relocate, nearly half (48%) expect a cashflow crisis upon arrival; and just under half (47%) agreed that not knowing how to juggle financial life between locations was a concern - this jumps to 53% among international students.
  • Almost three in five of the future relocators (59%) are concerned about the implications of paying taxes in a new country.

The study comes as HSBC is relaunching its international products and services – to better support customers across borders, for a seamless cross-border experience, whether they’re moving for work, study or to live in a new location.

Commenting on the findings, Jessica Power, Head of Wealth and Personal Banking for Australia at HSBC said: “Moving abroad is a significant milestone and achievement, so managing your finances between international locations shouldn’t be a struggle. The research findings indicate that there is a real concern for some people to experience a ‘cash flow crisis’ when relocating and setting up your personal finances abroad, which can really impact their ability to settle in their new home.”

“Providing people with the ability to make cross-border payments that are convenient, transparent and competitively priced, together with the option of being able to open a bank account before they move overseas, sets people up for success when relocating. Having the right financial support such as managing banking needs across different time zones and multiple countries can also help reduce the time people spend worrying about money matters, and instead make more time for them to enjoy their new life abroad.”

Motivations for moving

As inflationary pressures and the rising cost of living affects consumers in some countries and territories, HSBC found the top three reasons respondents are motivated to move to Australia are for a better work/life balance (31%), improved health or social life (31%) and the opportunity to travel (24%).

Almost a quarter (24%) of respondents are motivated to move to earn more money, and almost 1 in 5 (17%) move (or plan to move) to make their money go further. Yet one in two (52%) respondents who are planning to live, work, or study abroad say that nobody has helped them feel financially prepared to relocate.

A majority (60%) of respondents who are planning a big move, agree that finding the right financial services to suit their needs was a worry. This rises to over two thirds (64%) among digital nomads*.

Top reasons for relocating to work or study abroad among international citizens in the survey

Better lifestyle, such as improved health or social life 31%
A better work/life balance 31%
For increased salary / higher earnings 24%
Opportunity to travel 24%
Stability for my family 21%
Learn new skills at work 20%
To live in a more sustainable environment 19%
Explore and understand the culture of my new location 19%
Accelerate career progression / job promotion 18%
To make my money go further 17%
Improved technology means I can now work anywhere 16%
To take advantage of more flexible remote working rules 16%

About the survey

The study, conducted by Ipsos UK, surveyed over 7,000 adults across nine international locations. It investigated the experiences of those currently living, working and studying abroad, as well as those who are planning to do so and those who have returned within the last five years. It explored the experience of a range of different international citizens, including expat families, digital nomads and overseas students. Further methodology details in the notes section below.

HSBC support for international customers

The suite of HSBC International products and services will enable international customers to:

  • Open a new account via a digital and frictionless journey before they arrive in their destination
  • Premier customers can see all their HSBC accounts in one global view
  • With Global Money Transfers customers can make simple, fast and competitively priced payments.
    • Use their HSBC credit history from their previous country to apply for a credit card in their new country with HSBC (subject to local regulations, Premier status and applicable channels)
  • Manage their banking needs in different time zones across multiple countries with global support ****
  • Access services with global partners beyond banking (tax solutions, relocation support).

The products and services are available across 10 countries and territories: Australia, Canada, Mainland China, Channel Islands & Isle of Man, Hong Kong, India, Singapore, UAE, UK, US. More information here: https://internationalservices.hsbc.com/

Notes to editors

1. Methodology:

  • Research was conducted by Ipsos UK on behalf of HSBC from 05/12/22 to 23/01/23
  • 7,177 interviews were conducted among adults aged 18+. Those who took part are either currently living, working or studying abroad; or planning to do so in the next 12 months; or returned from doing so in the last five years. The sample also included parents or guardians of international students; and a sub-set of international investors who own at least one investment product overseas.
  • Interviews were conducted across nine host locations: Australia, mainland China, Hong Kong, India, Singapore, UAE, UK, USA and the Channel Islands & Isle of Man. Host location is where they have moved/moving to, not where they were born. (Fieldwork did not take place in Canada, as there is a mergers & acquisitions deal underway).
  • *Digital Nomads are classified as adults aged 18+ who moved abroad, or are planning to move abroad to ‘take advantage of more flexible remote working rules’ or because ‘Improved technology means I can now work anywhere’.

2. **International passenger traffic dropped by 60 per cent in 2020, reducing air travel totals back to 2003 levels. However, demand for international travel has recently recovered, with air passenger traffic reaching approximately 74% of pre-pandemic levels in 2022 and expected to make a full recovery in 2023.

Data sources: www.icao.int/Newsroom/Pages/2020-passenger-totals-drop-60-percent-as-COVID19-assault-on-international-mobility-continues.aspx (Jan 2021); and www.moodiedavittreport.com/international-civil-aviation-organization-predicts-full-recovery-for-air-travel-in-2023/ (Feb 2023)

3. *** Collectively, there’s a pool of over 90m international customers in the 10 markets where HSBC’s suite of services is relaunching: Australia, Canada, Mainland China, Channel Islands & Isle of Man, Hong Kong, India, Singapore, UAE, UK, USA.

4. ****Full 24-hour support is available for Premier customers in Hong Kong, Singapore, Mainland China, the United Arab Emirates, HSBC Expat, Australia, Canada, the United States and India. Key services are available in the United Kingdom and for non-Premier customers. Chinese language support is provided for HSBC Premier customers in Singapore, Canada, US and Australia.

5. Not all HSBC Wealth and Personal Banking products and services are available in all geographical locations or available to all customers. Availability of products and services will depend on the country or territory you are located or resident in and restrictions on client eligibility. Different companies within HSBC Wealth and Personal Banking or the HSBC Group may provide the products or services according to local regulatory requirements.

HSBC Holdings plc

HSBC Holdings plc, the parent company of HSBC, is headquartered in London. HSBC serves customers worldwide from offices in 62 countries and territories in its geographical regions: Europe, Asia, North America, Latin America, and Middle East and North Africa. With assets of US$2,967bn at 31 December 2022, HSBC is one of the world’s largest banking and financial services organisations.

HSBC Bank Australia

In Australia, the HSBC Group offers an extensive range of financial services through a network of 41 branches and offices. These services include retail and commercial banking, trade finance, treasury and financial markets, payments and cash management and securities custody. Principal HSBC Group members operating in Australia include HSBC Bank Australia Limited (ABN 48 006 434 162 AFSL/Australian Credit Licence 232595) and The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited (ABN 65 117 925 970 and AFSL 30173).

Media enquiries:

Belinda Skurnik
T: +61 405 395 200
Email: belinda.skurnik@hsbc.com.au