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  • Sep 19, 2014
  • Updated: 10:07am
Wealth Blog
PUBLISHED : Sunday, 08 September, 2013, 9:38am
UPDATED : Sunday, 08 September, 2013, 4:47pm

HSBC strikes again as overseas withdrawal problems continue

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.

Anna.fenton@scmp.com

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This article is now closed to comments

impala
Anywhere, yes. For a price of 5 pounds per withdrawal. Oh yes, Mr Dobbin would love that.
SpeakFreely
HK is always a rip off. In US I can ach between banks for free for my own accounts. I can pay or demand payment to or from another person just input his email or phone number despite we are diff banks, the other party will not see my account info, but money will be transferred costing $1 Usd from my side only. Exchange rate from hsbc is horrible, I do my foreign currency transfer via my US broker, a lot better rate. Hk has too little competition. My hsbc Primier service is 10 times worst than a small branch in US here. But people here in US deposit even their checks on line via smartphones, no one goes to branches.
ssslmcs01
Setting the overseas withdrawal limit wasn't my problem. HSBC notified me of that by post and on the website. This can be done online; log in to online banking and do it anywhere in the world. You can set it to "until further notice" so it won't expire while you still need it. You can even do it on your smart phone if you can find an Internet connection, Starbucks. The problem I found was while trying to use my new HSBC dual currency union pay Diamond credit card to access my HSBC savings account in Shanghai, it is connected to my card already and activated. I was told that there are network problems. I took out my HSBC Advance Visa card connected to the PLUS System to withdraw money from the same HSBC savings account and had no problem getting the cash, same bank same machine. Many ATMs in all countries have logos for many networks on them. That was all fine and good. My problem came after I logged in to online banking a few days later to find out that I had actually taken a cash advance from my credit card and didn't withdraw the money from my savings account. There was of course hefty charges for that. After returning to Hong Kong I called the Card Center and those charges were reversed once I repaid the withdrawal amount to my credit card. The staff member did remind me to look for options of which account you are withdrawing the money from in the future. Personally I still find PLUS more reliable even in China. Haven't really been overseas much in the last few years.
mark.weisberger.77
Get a different bank. Haven't you noticed that "HSBC" appears in almost every financial fraud news story? Who needs that?
webbocybase
The next time you are in Taunton Anna get the nice Mr Dobbin to open an account there for you because, ironically, HSBC UK ATM cards use the VIsa network and will work anywhere in the world!
reubenm
HSBC's duplicity in this regard very nearly prevented a real estate purchase in Portugal. (Our) inability to get cash was hugely costly, financially, professionally and personally.
 
 
 
 
 

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