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HSBC Direct Confuses Account Holders With Fee Notice

This article was written by in Banking. 6 comments.


Millions of HSBC Direct customers received a strange email yesterday or the day before indicating a few changes to the bank’s fee structure. (HSBC’s former name for its Online Savings Account service is HSBC Direct; the new name will be HSBC Advance.) The statement seemed to indicate HSBC would be instituting a new, high fee for transfers into the bank account.

Here is the notice customers received.

Thank you for saving your money with HSBC Bank USA, N.A. We want to let you know that as of September 23, 2012, your Online Savings Account will be renamed to HSBC Advance Online Savings.

Your account number will remain the same and you will be able to use the account without any disruption in service.

The following account fees will change as of September 23, 2012:

Funds Transfer-In, per incoming transfer – $12 each (the transfer of funds from another person’s account, or another financial institution to your HSBC account)
Foreign Currency Draft (DD Commission) – $25 each* (official bank check purchased in another currency)
US Dollar Draft- DFT (Commission USD) – $10 each* (official bank check)

If you have any questions, click here for more details or contact our Customer Relationship Center at 800.975.4722. If you are calling from outside the continental United States, you may call us collect at 716.841.7212.

Thank you again for being an HSBC customer.

As expected, the notice caused an uproar. Many people wrote into to Consumerism Commentary complaining about the new fee, indicating they were closing their accounts held at HSBC.

This sounded strange to me. My thought was that this was a problem with communication, not a new fee for ACH transfers. No bank in its right mind would charge a $12 fee for an incoming electronic transfer from another financial institution. My gut told me this fee pertained only to wire transfers, not ACH or online transfers between HSBC and a linked bank account, not even a push ACH transfer from a bank account not linked by the HSBC account holder through the HSBC website.

If the notice pertained to fees for transferring money into the account via ACH, it would make no sense to own a HSBC Online Savings Account. That is the primary method of funding an online account like this. Some customers might have a direct deposit, but others simply use the web interface to move money from a local checking account to the HSBC savings account with, presumably, a higher interest rate.

Unfortunately, HSBC’s official fee schedule for the Online Savings Account was not much clearer. Calling the bank led to clarification. Many customers had been calling HSBC to inquire about these new fees for transfers or to close their accounts, and customer service representatives became aware of the situation. By the end of the day yesterday, all representatives were providing the same message: The email about the fees pertains to wire transfers only, not ACH transfers.

HSBC has even posted the clarification on the website:

Recently, Online Savings Account customers received an email indicating the Funds Transfer-in fee is changing on September 23, 2012. Please note, this is not a new fee and pertains to wire transfers into your account only. Bank to Bank transfers and other automated deposits, such as direct deposits of payroll and tax refunds, are not impacted by these changes.

As you can see, this fee will not impact most Online Savings Account customers. It is not a reason to close a savings account at HSBC. However, given that HSBC’s interest rate for this account has fallen so low — 0.4% APY as of August 22 — you might want to consider a new online savings account anyway.

Photo: exfordy

Published or updated August 22, 2012. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Luke Landes, also known as Flexo, is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about him and follow Luke Landes on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar wayne

I received same email and was reminded that I needed to close the account. I had no funds in it for close to year as I transferred to another bank and the rate was low so no point in keeping. This would have explained the long wait time for getting through. Took over 20 minutes to get to live person.

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avatar Ornella @ Moneylicious

When I first read the information, I thought wire transfer. But the more I re-read the more confused I became :-) Communication between financial institutions and its customers is so important to conintue to establish any type of trust they may have with their customer base.

I can see how customers thought it could have meant ACH. Glad to hear it was cleared up!

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avatar David

I received the same message. Scheduled a transfer of all funds out of HSBC to my checking and will close my HSBC once I have all my funds. I will open a new online savings account with Barclays which has 1.0% instead of the low 0.4% which continues to go down every few months.

While it is great the clarified on their website they sent no clarification via e-mail and all my funds are in transit out of HSBC so we are ending our relationship.

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avatar Holly Samlan

Also got the email. It appears that someone NOT terribly profiecient in English did a translation of the original corp dictum from something like Swahilli.

I happen to have 2 savings accounts at HSBC but due to the miserly interest rates BOTH will be closed shortly.

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avatar qixx ♦1,890 (Half-Dollar)

I wonder how long it will be before they try to add fees for other transfers. It will likely not be for all transfers but i can see some gaining additional fees.

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avatar Ray

Also strange/annoying about HSBC’s changes is that they have changed the account status. What was previously a ‘Premier’ relationship on the Premier Money Market account has now been bumped down a notch to the mid-tier ‘Advance’ status.

Whilst it is a cosmetic change (or so I was told by HSBC’s telephone operator) , it’s irritating to think that HSBC doesn’t consider my custom to require top-level service any more. For those who aren’t aware, there’s a fee charged for Premier relationship service. HSBC is quite happy to keep that aspect unchange, no surprise.

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