The HSBC UnionPay ATM debacle just won’t go away. Last Friday I wrote that the bank had kindly offered me a new Plus card because they are re-instating them after the UnionPay ATM cards have proved unusable in many countries. Plus and Cirrus, the old clearing systems, were accepted pretty much everywhere, but users reported problems withdrawing cash with UnionPay cards in countless countries outside Hong Kong and China.
That was Friday, today is Tuesday and I’m patiently waiting for an application for my new Plus card to drop on the mat. Nothing yet. In the meantime, lucky readers write to say they received their new Plus cards without having to apply.
Then today I heard from an HSBC customer who was one of the first to find herself cashless overseas – in her case, Amsterdam. “As you know,” she writes. “I was one of the original sources of complaint to them as UnionPay does not work in Amsterdam, our second home. So I recently received an email from HSBC customer relations saying that she had posted a new ATM card to me, with Plus capability. I found this a brilliant example of follow-through except that there has been nothing in the post at all.”
So yesterday, she continues, she asked at the bank, then called this lady back at customer relations, and found indeed that she can get such a card – “BUT - of course there is a BUT - I must have an "integrated account". But she has, since 1981, had a simple current account. She was told that if she wanted an HSBC Plus card, she must change this, and change the account number, into any of three possible "integrated accounts". One, she was told, is the basic general integrated account, “which I must keep ticking over with HK$10,000 minimum at all times; then there's the smart/Vantage account which requires a minimum balance of HK$200,000, or the Premier account which requires a minimum balance of HK$1m.”
This customer is not impressed. “Naturally I won't be doing any of this, and will keep using the nice blue Standard Chartered Plus ATM card which I got some months ago and which works in Amsterdam just fine,” she concludes.
So I call Malcolm Wallis, HSBC’s retail banking global head of communications and wealth management. He says that customers who contacted the bank to say they had problems with UnionPay cards (I’d call that complaining) were priority to be sent the new card.
In my case, personally, even though I had given them lots of feedback on the subject, I did not warrant a Plus card automatically. “As you had written about the subject as a journalist on a number of occasions, we decided we should contact you and first ask whether you wished to receive the new card.” They did indeed do this, but both times I was too busy to talk to them. They then emailed asking if I wanted to apply for the new card and to cut a long story short, the customer relations manager promised me an application form in the post. Other customers get them without filling in forms, but whatever. That was last Friday and no form yet.
Wallis continues, saying that any customer who wants a new card can apply for one. It says on their website: "In keeping with our commitment to meet with the banking needs of our customers, starting from 9 October 2013, existing UnionPay chip card customers can apply for an additional PLUS ATM chip card".
Finally, regarding the customer who was left cash free in Amsterdam. “ We don't know the name of the customer, but we obviously contacted her by email as a priority customer who had previously complained, to let her know a new card was being sent to her,” he says.
If I tell them her name, they will follow up to establish the status of the card, as this should have arrived by now, he adds.
As for the "integrated accounts" issue: “these are our standard accounts available to our customers - there is nothing new in these - and of course it is the customer's decision which services and products they wish to use.” Your contact says she has a "simple current account" and the likelihood is that she already has a CUP card linked to this and therefore would need to change to an integrated account to have the PLUS card. Our representative would have told her that we will waive the below balance fee in this instance but this was not mentioned in her email to you.” There it is, chapter and verse. If she agrees, they will get in touch with her and sort it out, he promises.
Sadly, Mr Wallis, I think that bird has already flown the HSBC coop. She says she is now a happy Standard Chartered customer.