• Wed
  • Oct 22, 2014
  • Updated: 8:40am
Lai See
PUBLISHED : Friday, 08 November, 2013, 1:49am
UPDATED : Friday, 08 November, 2013, 1:49am

The 64,000-dollar question about HSBC's ATM cards

BIO

Howard Winn has been with the South China Morning Post for two and half years after previous stints as business editor and deputy editor of The Standard, and business editor of Asia Times. His writing has also been published in the Far Eastern Economic Review, the Wall Street Journal, and the International Herald Tribune. He writes the Lai See column which focuses on the lighter side of business.
 

The HSBC automated teller machine card story will not go away. Readers will recall that for many months HSBC customers were unable to use their ATM cards outside Asia because it was linked to the UnionPay payment network, which is virtually useless outside Asia. After several months of scathing criticism from severely irritated customers, HSBC eventually bowed to the inevitable and introduced a new ATM card that is linked to the Plus payment network. However, the new card is linked to the customers' current accounts. This has caused some concern among those who think this has provided another avenue for HSBC to screw them.

Unaccustomed as we are to protecting HSBC's backside, we feel that on this occasion the bank is trying to do the right thing. People have become exercised over this because they feel that when they go abroad, they need to ensure they have sufficient funds in their current accounts so they can use their Plus ATM cards.

HSBC says that if clients use its ATMs in Hong Kong and abroad, they will be able to access both their current and savings accounts. But if they have to use a third-party ATM, there is a chance they will not have the option to access both accounts. In this case, it is possible they will have to withdraw funds from their current accounts.

Customers may recall that HSBC had advised customers to link their credit cards to their savings accounts before they went abroad in the hope that if the ATM card failed, they could access their savings accounts through their credit cards. This worked at some ATMs only.

The 64,000-dollar question, however, is why the Plus-linked ATM card cannot use the savings account as the primary account. HSBC says this is because the UnionPay ATM card is already linked to the savings account and the system configuration doesn't permit two cards to be linked to the same account as the primary account. It says there is no revenue-enhancing motive in all this and that it has nothing to do with the commercial arrangements with UnionPay.

As ever, feel free to advise us of your experience with these cards.

 

Pollution linked to asthma

For those in the government that remain to be convinced that air pollution is a problem and should be dealt with urgently, the Science Daily reports of research that shows exposure to air pollution is linked to a gene that appears to increase the severity of asthma in children.

The study by researchers at Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley, first appeared in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology and is based on a study of 181 children suffering from asthma in California's Central Valley, otherwise known as the asthma capital of California.

The researchers say the findings have "potential implications for altered birth outcomes associated with polluted air, much the same as those noted for the effects of cigarette smoke". The lead author, Dr Kari Nadeau, paediatrician at Stanford's School of Medicine, said: "When it came out that cigarettes can cause molecular changes, it meant the possibility that mothers who smoked could affect the DNA of their children during foetal development. Similarly, these new findings suggest the possibility of an inheritable effect from environmental pollution."

This effect has been evident in Hong Kong for some time on an anecdotal basis. The incidence of asthma among children has been on the increase and paediatric clinicians have been doing a roaring trade on the back of it.

 

What's in a job title?

We rarely read Britain's Daily Express, but our attention has been drawn to it on account of the following gobbledygook that is now being used to describe mundane jobs. So in today's job market in Britain, a receptionist is a guest services agent and a person who empties the rubbish bins is a "sanitation engineer". It seems hard to believe but the Express claims that a colour distribution technician is a painter and decorator, a field nourishment consultant is a waitress, media distribution officers are paperboys, a transparency enhancement facilitator is a window cleaner, a mobile sustenance facilitator is a burger van worker, and a highway environmentalist hygienist is a road sweeper.

 

Have you got any stories that Lai See should know about? E-mail them to howard.winn@scmp.com

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6

This article is now closed to comments

asiaseen
One gets the impression that HSBC is in can't-be-bothered-with-retail-customers mode. We are an irritation the bank could well do without and providing decent customer service is just too much trouble.
OldPeak Toad
Why do people link asthma to pollution?
When in 2010, on a particularly bad day I went to a HK hospital with my four year old, who has a bit of a history of breathing problems, the good uncle doctor "diagnosed" asthma, and HK style wanted me to buy a lot of expensive medicine. My comment that the boy was not suffering from asthma but from bad air was countered with "but there is nothing I can do about it".
mymak
I have a Hang Seng ATM card that uses Union Pay. I had no problems in the UK last summer. My wife has a credit card from another bank (closely related to Hang Seng) that uses Union Pay - she couldn't use it in the UK.
liukuei
HK has numerous banks, no one is forced to use HSBC! Try a competing bank and be amazed! Short queues, lower fees, ATM cards that work, customer service... incredible stuff!
John Adams
.... and a 'distribution of common interest information consultant' is a Laisee ?
mjmcburney
I've never really understood this thing in Asia about Current/Savings Accounts.
Back home I had a Current Account - my Salary went into that.
I also had a Savings Account - for, err...Savings?
Why have a Savings Account as a Primary Account?
Makes no sense to me. Maybe all those euro banks were scamming us.
Umm...wait....
 
 
 
 
 

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