• Sun
  • Sep 21, 2014
  • Updated: 6:58pm


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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A Hong Konger
You should be aware of the fees:
1.) Withdrawal using Union Pay:
HK$20 per withdrawal
Standard HSBC exchange rate (or so HSBC claims)
2.) Withdrawal using Credit Card:
5% Fee (3% handling fee + 2% cash advance fee) + 1.95% exchange rate on top of standard HSBC exchange rate in HSBC's favour (obviously).
Minimum fee for cash advance from credit card: HK$55
This was explained to me by HSBC phone banking.
Yes, I'm well aware of the extortionate fees associated with credit card cash advances. But the point of this thread is that you can avoid them by using the card as a debit card (linking it to your checking and savings accounts, as discussed above).
Thailand is a mess too. I even took the final resort of going to the corporate HQ of HSBC in Bangkok, but alas no ATM there. My heart was starting to beat rather rapidly, when in the end the slightly bemused but friendly local HSBC manager accompanied me on a five minute stroll through the shopping mall to a stand alone ATM of Bangkok Bank nearby. He then stood next to me as I made my cash withdrawal at this Bangkok Bank ATM. What a crazy state of affairs. On the way there he told me that HSBC closed down their retail operations in Thailand last year to cut save money as a result of the financial crisis. Apparently, he said that there are no HSBC ATMs in the whole of Thailand now, as well as in Taiwan, Korea and Japan, which have also suffered from the same cut-backs.
Glad to see this is finally getting some publicity. I guess this is just the tip of a huge iceberg - just imagine the storm of complaints HSBC is going to get when the summer vacation period really gets underway!
@Greenwash: I tried linking my accounts to my HSBC Visa credit card too. It only seems to work with overseas HSBC ATMs. All others I've tried don't support account selection with a credit card - they just default to credit cash advance :-(
Dear mschmidthk, Yes, I encountered that problem too. Even once my accounts were linked to my credit card, I had to get the default language changed from Chinese and then I had to go to an HSBC ATM with an HSBC bank staff to show me how to change the default account for my Credit Card. I am normally very good at ATMs, internet, etc. This procedure wasn't obvious.
Are HSBC actually going to do anything re this. Is the not a PR Nightmare for The World's Local Bank.
Clearly some of the most misleading advertising of all time. Isn't it fun to walk in to an HSBC branch as a Premiere member in Brazil, the UK or the US and have the branch manager look at you like you banked with another company and that you should contact someone in HK to help you!
Nightmare. Not working in Ireland either. forced to use HSBC Master Card and was charged fees, that I hope to get back. Bring back LINK. - derek
I got stuck in the Philippines just a week and a half ago with no access to money and no idea why my card wasn't working - even at HSBC ATM machines. It's terrible. Enough to make me switch banks.
An HSBC spokesman said: "For security reasons, we are allowed to link to only one pay system - we use UnionPay."
Hey genius, for absolute 100% security, why don't you just make cards not work at any ATM. Ever. Problem solved.
I was in Thailand with a bunch of people last week, we all had HSBC cards. Tried over half a dozen machines. No joy. In the end, someone with a UK bank card had to get cash for all of us. Absolutely, utterly useless.
"The World's Local Bank" eh?




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