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  • Dec 21, 2014
  • Updated: 6:00pm


The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation was founded in Hong Kong on March 3, 1865, and in Shanghai one month later. In 1980, HSBC acquired 51 per cent of Marine Midland Bank, buying the rest in 1987. HSBC Holdings was established in Britain in 1991 as the parent of The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation ahead of its purchase of the UK-based Midland Bank and the impending 1997 transfer of sovereignty of Hong Kong from Britain to China. 


HSBC cards no longer work in many overseas ATMs

Customers going abroad complain of trouble getting hold of their money and blame bank's decision to link up to a single global network

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 12 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 12 May, 2013, 6:28am

HSBC customers have complained the bank has made it more difficult to draw out money abroad.

Many on business trips or holidays have said they were unable to get their hands on their cash from ATM machines.

That's because the bank has switched to chip-embedded cards that connect to a single global payment network.

Previously, access was provided to the Link or Plus networks. Plus is owned by Visa and claims to have access to 1 million ATMs in 170 countries. But HSBC has chosen China's UnionPay as its network provider for the new chip cards.

One Hong Kong resident told the Sunday Morning Post: "Since the issuing of new cards, I have been in London, Istanbul, Tokyo, Morocco, Vancouver, Vienna and Paris.

"I had no joy getting cash in any of them. It always said card error, card invalid, or simply spit the card back out with no explanation."

HSBC did not reply when asked whether changing from Plus and Link would mean customers would have access to fewer banks worldwide.

The Monetary Authority has instructed all banks in Hong Kong to adopt the chip-based technology for ATM cards.

The new cards have an embedded microchip on the face, but retain the magnetic stripe on the back. The new technology is designed to make it harder for criminals to use stolen data to manufacture fake cards.

But in adopting the technology, several major banks forced customers onto the UnionPay network this year, instead of the Plus system.

The UnionPay network was launched on the mainland in 2002 and is operated under the supervision of the People's Bank of China. UnionPay cards are accepted at merchants and ATMs in 141 countries.

But Hongkongers say UnionPay is a poor substitute for Plus and Link, as it is not recognised by as many banks worldwide.

UnionPay-friendly terminals outside Asia can be difficult to find. Even if you do locate one, it may not have been updated to handle the new cards.

HSBC said customers would encounter problems if they had not yet activated their ATM overseas cash withdrawal limit - a new procedure put in place by the bank to improve security.

But customers said it was the change from using the Plus and Link networks to UnionPay that was causing the problems. An Australian resident in Hong Kong said only National Bank, Citibank and HSBC would accept the card in his home country.

An industry source said HSBC put the networks out to tender and decided which one to use based on the best deal.

An HSBC spokesman said: "For security reasons, we are allowed to link to only one pay system - we use UnionPay."

He added that ATM card customers can withdraw cash from all HSBC ATMs in the world - except in Argentina, Brazil, France, Greece, Malta, New Zealand, Panama and Turkey - as well as from ATMs covered by the UnionPay network.

The bank aims to complete the card replacement process by the end of March next year.

A Monetary Authority spokesman said it was a purely commercial decision for a bank to choose which network they used.


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This article is now closed to comments

The old HSBC ATM card is connected to both Plus and UnionPay. Why was it possible to link to 2 networks before but not now?
A Hong Konger
I faced major problems with using the Union Pay system in various countries after HSBC made Union Pay it's exclusive method of cash withdrawal after ETC. The decision was an extremely short sighted and stupid one by HSBC to opt only for Union Pay, I find it highly irresponsible of HSBC to puts it's customers at risk by leaving them unable to access their funds in many locations around the world, to say nothing of forcing it's customers to use a BoC supervised porthole, something many in HK might find objectionable.
See the following website to locate Union Pay cash withdrawal machines: ****cn.unionpay.com/AtmEnglishFront_Search.html, you can for example withdraw your money in Afghanistan, Congo, Djibouti and 34 similar holiday destinations. Regretfully, United Kingdom, Germany or the USA did not make it to their list of importance countries to service.
Since it is in any case neither advantageous, nor advisable from a risk perspective to only have one bank 'relationship' - whatever that meant anyhow - so, I am glad that my alternative bank to HSBC still has PLUS and CIRRUS. Up to HSBC to provide competitive services!
Why stick with HSBC?
"Your Citibank ATM card allows you access and withdraw cash free of charge at over 1,000,000 Citibank, PLUS, STAR and NYCE network ATMs in more than 160 countries worldwide."
In London I could only get cash at HSBC cash machines. Called HSBC preferred banking but the service desk denied there is any problem and I should have no issue with overseas withdrawals. I transferred half of my cash to a European bank with Maestro network: I spread the risk, can pin anywhere and save on FX.
In January 2013 I was in Mexico. I could not withdraw money with the new HSBC card at all, not even from the HSBC ATMs. HSBC ATMs refused the HSBC Premier card with: "Your card cannot be processed. Please take your card". So much about World's Local Bank.
I faced no problems with Visa E-Plus/Electron issued from a small bank in Slovenia, a tiny state of 2mil population, in Mexico, Peru, Cuba, Tanzania, Palau to name a few. I was even able to withdraw from HSBC ATMs.
HSBC is making it harder to want to keep banking with them. I wonder what would possess them to make such a foolish decision to change to Union Pay at this stage in time. I could see it if Union Pay was established and the customers could access their accounts in other countries.
I currently work in Slovakia where there is no HSBC presence (they pulled out last year) and no ATM support for China UnionPay. Yet previously I could use my HSBC ATM card at almost all of the ATMs here - most support Plus! It's the same story in other European countries. What was HSBC thinking? Answer: CUP offers a cheaper switching service - let's not worry about customer convenience, eh? So, since the cards were replaced in March, I now have an alternative bank ATM card which does support Plus and am seriously considering switching all of my banking business away from HSBC.
Recently I was in Indonesia and was left without the ability to get cash out due to this (un announced) change. We tried 5 ATMS at the Jakarta airport. I eventually had to use another credit card I had (from Australia) and get a cash withdrawal. The new HSBC card no longer works with Plus,Maestro or Cirrus networks!!!!
Now In Australia I am having the same problem! THereare only a small handful of HSBC ATMS. I have reverted to using my other credit cards and getting expensive cash wthdrawals. For a bank that prides itself as being 'global' this really was a stupd move and has the potential to put people in dangerous situations when the're stuck in a strange country with no access to their cash. I'll be switching banks as soon as I'm back in HK.



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