MONEY transfers are regularly used in Hong Kong, both by locals sending funds to relatives living overseas and by expatriates transferring money to their countries of origin. For some, transfers must be completed on a regular basis to meet financial commitments abroad such as mortgage repayments or living allowances for children studying overseas. Others may use the service only a few times a year. In keeping with its standing as a financial centre, Hong Kong's banking sector provides a range of money transfer facilities. Charges and services vary widely depending on the bank. Electronic transfers, also known as telegraphic or wire transfers, are the fastest and can shift money into either the customer's own overseas account, or an account of his or her choice. Bank drafts or money orders are sent through the mail and can be posted directly to the customer's account or to a nominated person or company. Daily foreign exchange rates are used to convert currencies for electronic and draft transfers. Electronic transfers are far quicker than drafts and monies sent this way can be credited to overseas accounts on the same day or within 48 hours. Customer service operations manager at the Bank of America, Barbara Li, said it was safer to use electronic transfers to send larger sums of money. ''A risk can arise with money drafts if the cheque is lost in the mail,'' she said. ''If a cheque goes missing, customers can stop payment on the order and request a refund.'' The minimum charge for a telegraphic transfer at the Bank of America is $250 - $100 for the cable fee and $150 for the bank charge. Costing only $35, money orders are a cheaper alternative. The Bank of America also offers a global service through its Versatel card which customers can use to withdraw money from their accounts at Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs) around the world. However, according to Ms Li, this card cannot be used to transfer money abroad. Ms Li said the bank's money transfer services in Hong Kong were mainly used by Chinese customers wanting to send money to the United States and, to a lesser extent, by expatriates and tourists here on holiday. For customers who require regular money transfers, the Hongkong Bank recommends a set of standing instructions. After an initial setting up fee of $40, the bank will arrange for regular telegraphic transfers or money drafts to be sent to a nominated beneficiary or bank. The bank charges $30 for a draft and $150 for an electronic transfer. Alternatively, the Hongkong Bank's cash card account can be used to transfer money from Hong Kong to global ATM networks around the world. Daily foreign exchange rates apply for each transaction and the bank provides a slightly better exchange rate for the transfer of amounts higher than US$10,000 (HK$77,250). Initially set up as a service that would enable the territory's thousands of domestic helpers to send money back to the Philippines, the bank's cash card account is now widely used as a cheaper method of transferring money out of Hong Kong. Customers with this account hold the primary card and up to two beneficiary cards can be issued. Using the cash card account, money deposited in Hong Kong can be withdrawn by other cardholders at ATM networks around the world. If the network is a member of the Hongkong Bank's global ATM network, a fee of $15 will be charged for the service. Hongkong Bank is also affiliated with the global PLUS ATM Network. Access through ATM PLUS costs the higher fee of $25 for each withdrawal. Withdrawals made overseas are restricted to the bank's Hong Kong daily limit of $10,000 but customers using this transfer method should be mindful that dispensing limits vary from country to country. Citibank's cash card account also enables customers to transfer and withdraw money overseas. The card was launched four months ago and at this stage is only available by invitation to Citibank's priority customers. Citibank's global consumer banking operations and administration head, Ricky Lee On-chung, said the bank had targeted priority customers to test the acceptance of the new card. ''So far the take-up rate has not been as good as expected,'' he said. ''The service was not positioned correctly in terms of marketing so it will be re-packaged but will still be offered to customers on a selected basis for the time being.'' For Citibank customers who maintain a minimum average balance of $50,000 each month, there is no charge for either the cash card or other bank services including cheque accounts. However, customers whose average monthly balance falls below $50,000 will face a service charge of $100 per month whether or not cash withdrawals are made overseas. This charge also covers other bank services. ''The account has been positioned as a premium service to our customer base but the savings made on money transfers are only one advantage,'' Mr Lee said. ''What many customers appreciate most is the convenience of knowing that money deposited in Hong Kong can be withdrawn in an overseas country within minutes.'' The Hang Seng Bank's fees for a telegraphic transfer and a bank draft start from $100. On top of this charge, customers must pay the foreign bank handling charges. In line with its competitors, the Hang Seng Bank has introduced a global card for customers. All customers over 16 years of age can apply for the card, which can be used at about 100,000 ATM machines. around the world. A handling fee of $15 applies for cash withdrawals from most overseas ATMs and customers must pay an annual charge of $50 to maintain the card.