Lai See

Hang Seng Bank's solution to the UnionPay problem

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 16 January, 2014, 11:34pm
UPDATED : Friday, 17 January, 2014, 4:40pm

Readers may recall that last year we had occasion to write extensively about HSBC's ATM card and the UnionPay fiasco. Today we are revisiting the story but it is Hang Seng Bank rather than HSBC which is the object of our interest.

The banks, under orders from the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, were told that for security reasons the magnetic strip on older ATM cards should be replaced by a chip.

For reasons that are not entirely clear, the new chip cards were linked to one payment network while the older cards were linked to at least two payment networks. HSBC initially produced a new chip card which would only link to UnionPay, resulting in howls of anguish from customers who found they were unable to access their accounts when they tried to use the card outside Asia.

Indeed, there were reports of difficulties even in Asia. People were advised to link their Visa cards to one of their accounts, although this ploy often misfired as not all ATM machines could perform this task and people found themselves paying high interest rates. Eventually, HSBC announced it would produce a second ATM card employing a chip which accessed the Cirrus and Plus networks, and these seem to be working okay.

But we have recently heard from a reader with Hang Seng who complains that the bank's ATM card is only linked to the UnionPay network. When he complained about the well-known difficulties associated with UnionPay, the bank advised him to link his Visa card to one of his accounts, which as we know can be a hit and miss.

When we spoke to the bank we were told that customers who wanted access to Plus and Cirrus payments networks could apply for a Hang Seng Bank Alpha card, which has been in operation since 2006.

This is a spending card with ATM functions and is linked to a customer's designated Hong Kong dollar accounts. It can, the bank assures us, be used to conduct ATM transactions through MasterCard/Cirrus/HSBC networks around the world. To get the card, customers can visit Hang Seng branches or call the Hang Seng credit card service hotline.


Beware toxic clouds

We recently noted that officials from the Environment Bureau and possibly some legislative councillors are travelling to Europe to learn about experiences in developing and operating thermal waste treatment facilities. One of the British sites to be visited is the Lakeside Energy from Waste facility, which is a moving grate incinerator capable of handling 410,000 tonnes of municipal solid waste per year.

Hopefully, when the Hong Kong delegation visits the project they will not be subjected to a repeat of the incident that occurred in September last year when a toxic cloud with emissions some 2,000 per cent above World Health Organisation guidelines hovered above the facility and surrounding area for about eight hours.

The September incident was by far the most serious since the facility became fully operational in 2010. The facility is allowed to breach safe levels for 35 days a year under the local Air Quality Strategy objectives. The incident was the eighth breach of the year, although there have been 58 other less serious breaches since operations began.


Elevator humour

The author of the famed Twitter handle Goldman Sachs Elevator (@GSElevator), an anonymous banker who tweeted crass and tasteless comments emanating from the world of finance, is reportedly seeking a book contract. According to New York Magazine, it has the working title of Straight to Hell: True Tales of Deviance and Excess in the World of Investment Banking. The author's book is to be a collection of stories which are written in the same vein as his tweets.

The website has compiled a list of some of the better (and printable) tweets. They include: "Some chick asked me what I would do with 10 million bucks. I told her I'd wonder where the rest of my money went." "If you brag about starting at the bottom and making it to the top, you are probably still closer to the bottom." "'Just be yourself' is good advice to probably 5 per cent of people." "Tattoos aren't my thing. That'd be like putting a bumper sticker on a Lamborghini." "If there is a chick behind me, I always leave my receipt in the machine so she can see the balance."


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