I can’t believe that six months down the track I’m still writing about this. It was back at Easter when I first tried, and failed to extract money from an HSBC ATM machine in Taunton in England. That led to the discovery of two things which have driven HSBC customers nuts this summer: firstly, that the bank had reset everyone’s overseas withdrawal limits to zero, - for “customers’ protection.” This required you to tell them of your intention to travel, so your withdrawal limit could be “re-set”, but few customers realised this. The other thing HSBC did was to ditch Plus and Cirrus in favour of the cheaper mainland China clearing house UnionPay, which operates chiefly in China. And despite the bank’s protestations to the contrary, not many other places. With a swipe, HSBC ATM cards went from giving you cash just about anywhere in the world, to very few places indeed.
The bank says they work in all countries bar 10, but since Easter I have failed to withdraw money in ATMs in Greece, Malaysia, the UK and Ireland. I was too scared to try in the US. I have been with friends in Macau where it didn’t work and countless readers have written to report being left cashless, from Brazil to Australia. I don’t know which HSBC genius thought this up, but they single-handedly made overseas trips a nightmare for their travelling customers this summer. Recently they announced the re-introduction of a Cirrus ATM card, after, I suspect, many customers defected to other banks, such as Standard Chartered, which also use UnionPay, but were smart enough not to have dumped both Cirrus and Plus at the same time.
Deja vu in Taunton HSBC
But I digress. This week I am back in HSBC in Taunton. I poke the plastic into the branch ATM, confident that it will give me my money, because I have been a good girl and been to my branch in Hong Kong and with the assistance of the very helpful staff, set my overseas withdrawal limit. You’re all set, the assistant said, off you go, now you can get cash anywhere. So now here goes, time to test HSBC’s recent assurances that their ATMs really do work in the UK, I try. Out spits the card and up pops the message: “Sorry, your card issuer will not authorise withdrawal of the amount requested. Please take your card.”
No one in the Taunton HSBC branch is available – “too busy after the Bank Holiday Monday”, I am told, so after a 15-minute wait I give up. The nice bank manager, Ivan Dobbin, the one who gave me an apologetic Easter egg last time, phoned later. He was apologetic again. He must be used to this. It seemed my overseas withdrawal authorisation had expired. It only lasted a month, had no one told me that? No, they said nothing about it expiring when I did it on June 2. He was very sorry and promised to give me cash if I returned to the branch, which I have no choice but to do. He would arrange for my overseas withdrawal limit to be extended.
Later someone called Eva Chan from HSBC phone banking in Hong Kong called three times to tell me it had been done. My overseas withdrawal limit had been successfully extended. Glory be. That only cost the roaming charges on three phone calls to the UK. Thankyou HSBC, but enough already. I think it’s time to dust off my Citibank ATM card before venturing overseas again. That gives me money anywhere. HSBC will no doubt say I am picking on them, and why don’t I moan about the antics of their rivals. If I receive any complaints about other banks, I’m happy to follow them up, but so far this year, none.