Personal Finance

HSBC: So hard to reach, so aggravating to deal with. Does anyone like them?

  • Last Updated:
  • Aug 1st, 2020 10:15 pm
Jr. Member
Oct 11, 2013
188 posts
Almost American
I agree with HermanH. The big banks and telco's here are absolutely horrible to deal with. Hold times in excess of an hour, poorly trained customer service and a generally bad experience in Canada. There is virtually no competition, do you like blue or red? You'll end up with one of them so they both put such little effort into things it's astonishing. A little off track, but you'll have a company like Bell where the individual CSR can't actually do anything, you go trough department transfer hell. They're penny pinching on all sides and just frustrating the customer beyond reason.
Deal Addict
Aug 1, 2006
1423 posts
ozzie16 wrote: Not converting here either. I do have accounts and credit cards in the US, UK, HK, Singapore and Malta, where I can pay bills, get better deposit rates (e.g. HSBC Singapore had a time deposit promotion for USD that paid 2%+), and have real bank accounts with an established bank (e.g. I would trust depositing my GBP in HSBC UK or EUR in HSBC Malta more than the Transferwise Borderless). Global Transfers used to have good rates, but then they went downhill a few years ago. That said, HSBC HK and Singapore do have more reasonable spreads if you exchange currency in the local account (e.g. move CAD to HSBC HK first, then convert to HKD, and the spread ends up being around 0.5%, or at least it was when I last did it.)

I think there are better solutions for US banking, but the UK and HK are important jurisdictions for me to maintain accounts in. Even though I'm a UK citizen, it seems I would have trouble opening another account in the UK without being able to prove residency, whereas I opened the HSBC UK account more than a decade ago using my Canadian address. I suppose I could use a bank in Jersey, but the alternatives have high minimum deposits too.
You wouldn't have any problems opening Monese and Monzo and possibly even Starling accounts if you have somewhere for the debit cards to ship to in UK, plus set your VPN on your phone to UK if they need to video call you. I think you can transfer bank funds for free from Monese, and there's unlimited no FX ATM withdrawal with your Starling card.

HSBC is a question mark at the moment what will happen if CCP cracks down on them in Hong Kong.
Sr. Member
Oct 27, 2012
864 posts
Bull Dog wrote: You wouldn't have any problems opening Monese and Monzo and possibly even Starling accounts if you have somewhere for the debit cards to ship to in UK, plus set your VPN on your phone to UK if they need to video call you. I think you can transfer bank funds for free from Monese, and there's unlimited no FX ATM withdrawal with your Starling card.

HSBC is a question mark at the moment what will happen if CCP cracks down on them in Hong Kong.
Hmm I’ll look into establishing a backup account in the UK as a backup plan. I’ve been hedging my bets in the US, given that it appears that HSBC’s US operations are flailing and it’s possible that they’ll sell it off given their plans to make further cuts. I wouldn’t be surprised if they got out of retail banking in the EU as they’re down to a few jurisdictions (France, Greece and Malta) and they’ve also apparently been in talks to sell the French retail banking unit.

I’m not quite worried over what the US may do to HSBC (e.g. sanctions) and I don’t think the CCP will necessarily crack down on HSBC HK in a way that would impact their operations. However, I moved most of my funds out of HK just in case and converted most of my HKD back to USD aside from my immediate needs.
Sr. Member
Apr 23, 2017
967 posts
Was reading through some articles about HSBC, and noted that their higher end product offerings in Canada are structured as follows:

Mass-market offerings such as 'Performance Chequing' (limited and unlimited versions). No minimum funds at HSBC required. Monthly fee payable ($14.95 for Unlimited account).

Advance. Entry level 'premium plan' for all inclusive banking. $5k with HSBC to waive monthly fees. (imo a bit like TD All inclusive or BMO Premium Plan). Includes Advance-specific MC, non-network ATM monthly rebates.

Premier. For 'mass-affluent' customers All inclusive banking, plus free opening of international accounts in other countries. Dedicated Premier relationship manager, and express lines/tellers in some branches. $100k with HSBC (imo like CIBC Imperial Service)

Jade. For 'emerging high net worth clients'. More perks over Premier, such as metal Jade W.E. MC, superior relationship managers. $1MM or more with HSBC.

"In 2019, four Jade Centres were opened across Singapore, Hong Kong, and Shanghai."

"In 2019, HSBC grew affluent and emerging high net worth clients globally in Premier and Jade, respectively, by 7 percent and 14 percent year on year. Over half of Jade’s total clients globally are in Asia."

HSBC Private Wealth Services Canada. For High Net Worth and Ultra High Net Worth (UHNW) clients (US$5MM and up with HSBC ) Private Banking and wealth management. Dedicated 'UHNW Solution Specialists'.

"Global private banking, where profit before tax grew by 19 percent, attracted a record $23 billion of net new money in 2019, two-thirds of which were in Asia. 2019 also saw an increase in Asia client assets of 22 percent to $51 billion."

One thing I noticed is that the big Canadian banks offer their Private Banking services starting around $750k to $1MM. They are structured much like HSBC Private Wealth Services. The big Canadian banks don't have an in between tier like 'Jade'. So, for example, at RBC one either has the top in-branch 'VIP" plan (which assigns one an in-branch advisor for one's queries or an annual telephone call or sit down in branch), or one can get promoted to not in branch RBC Private Banking/Wealth Management if one has at least $1MM with RBC. So entry into private banking at the big 5 is comparable, asset-wise, to HSBC Jade entry. HSBC Private Banking (above Jade level) has a higher entry point. It seems HSBC globally has this added tier to offer quasi-private banking services to the 'emerging high net worth' clients.

This is more in line with big US banks such as Chase, which offer an in-branch 'Private Client' services which sits in between HSBC Premier and Jade (higher assets required to have it than required with HSBC Premier, but not as high assets as required by HSBC Jade) and has an entry point of US$250k with Chase, and then non-branch J.P. Morgan Private Banking/Wealth Management, which has a much higher entry point than the Canadian big 5 banks have for their private banking. Prior to 2016 Chase/JP Morgan Private banking minimum was US$5MM, (similar to HSBC) but I read JPM Chase have since increased the minimum entry point for US Private Banking to US$10MM. That said, the in-branch assigned Private Client rep, if one wants to do complicated things and has assets less than $10MM with Chase, will arrange a joint call with a JPM Private Banking relationship manager which allows the Chase Private Client customer to use the Private Banking resources and expertise as a sort of guest user, even though a 'Private Client' and not 'Private Banking' client.
Deal Guru
User avatar
Aug 20, 2012
13216 posts
Pacific Ocean
MichaelZZZ wrote: I've noticed HSBC getting more and more uncompetitive over the years but did notice a very good offer for a 3% cash back credit card on US soil. This seems very unusual. Its impossible to get anything good in the way of a credit card offer in Canada if its in US$. So I called them. After a few minutes on hold with the same messages repeating ad nauseum I was transferred to the right department or so she thought. On hold there for over 30 minutes hearing the same message at least 30 times with the same infuriating music droning on, repeating endlessly, just 1 song to wear you out so you hang up and give up. Then when that person got to the phone she said I got the wrong department and when I called another number I was offered a messaging option which I took as I didn't want to spend the rest of the day on hold. What was incredulous about this experience is that the 3rd place I contacted was their "International" department. Can you imagine losing your wallet, you're stranded with not a dime in a foreign country where you may not speak the language, and you're waiting on hold for an hour to tell these idiots to freeze your card? What if you need a cash emergency? How do you contact them? There wasn't even a chat option I saw. Here's their contact us page. Do you see chat on this page?
Here's their US page. ... 3Afalse%7D
There seems to be a chat option there but its just a bot. Useless. More lies.
How could they possibly not have chat? If you find the local number of a branch that's also a no go. They don't pick up the phone! Its the exact same recording you get when you call their main number. More lies. More total disrespect to the customer.
This has to be the worst customer service imaginable.
One answer as to why. Like all major companies these days - Manila call center!!!!!!!!!!!!!! They dont know shit and banks dont care as long as they are cheap and save them cash on the bottom line.

YESS, HSBC is pathetic. You cannot contact the branch in any which way or manner. You cannot leave private vm with any staff. They will not release any direct numbers. The ONLY way to connect to any staff is via the filipino call center. THEY have to forward your message via email to the staff. Allegedly they are supposed to contact you back within 24hrs - FALSE!!! I tried 3-4 times during an entire week having the call center relay the email to ALL staff and no 1 called or anything until 10 days later. And even when I did receive the call the lady was rushed, overtalked me thru out the convo and the call ended in under 5 minutes. Annoying AF...
If the glove don't fit you must acquit! #WINNING
Jr. Member
Dec 31, 2011
115 posts
As with most calls that get routed to Manila to save the company cash, the same company doesn't empower them to do anything. They can't see certain things, they have no access to credit file status, they can't credit fees etc
I'm not just talking HSBC, it's the same with capital one, telus, and bell.

They are told to read the script and don't deviate
Jan 17, 2018
276 posts
Bull Dog wrote: You wouldn't have any problems opening Monese and Monzo and possibly even Starling accounts if you have somewhere for the debit cards to ship to in UK, plus set your VPN on your phone to UK if they need to video call you. I think you can transfer bank funds for free from Monese, and there's unlimited no FX ATM withdrawal with your Starling card.

HSBC is a question mark at the moment what will happen if CCP cracks down on them in Hong Kong.
I read that 80% of their profits come from HK and mainland China. Who do you think they will stick to? I know recently the CEO said they plan to stay HQ'd in the UK, but if China says HQ in Asia or else, guess what they will do?
Deal Expert
User avatar
Dec 11, 2005
19200 posts
Have been with them for about 5 years as Premier. I don't find them that hard to reach, but then again I only have to reach them maybe once / year.

What I like about HSBC Premier is its an "all you can eat" premium account, that I don't have to have thousands of dollars in a chequing account earning no interest for like TD.

The largest gripe I have about HSBC is not that they are hard to reach, it is how behind-the-curve they are on IT. Their credit cards *STILL* do not support Android Pay, which is insane in 2020. And they have no mobile app for InvestDirect, which is also insane in 2020. They also have no ability to have scheduled e-Transfers. Because of all this I gradually had to move back to TD as a second bank account, and park the 5K there (which is so annoying). However i kept my HSBC Premier as well and use it as my primary. The main thing keeping me still with HSBC at this point is gravity to be honest... moving everything back to TD is too big a pain.
To be nobody but yourself - in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else - means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting. -- E. E. Cummings
Dec 16, 2017
53 posts
I Worked with this bank for a decade till 2017. UK and HK are their primary and secondary markets. Canada operations are not significant to their topline.

I am not their customer in Canada, however I agree their technology may be dated. I know they are aggressively investing and moving towards tech modernization.

They are really a global bank and only a few more like Citi are really as global. Hence they follow a lot of 'globally' compliant processes which in a country context sometimes are frustrating and shows on process delays and dumb customer service experience.

If you need multi country services in UK / HK / China / India / Philippines or a few other EU / Asian countries apart from the retail banking services in Canada, HSBC is your best bet and similarly for business needs too.
Deal Addict
Oct 21, 2014
1470 posts
Burlington, ON
The question isn't do you want to be an HSBC customer, it's do you want to be an HSBC manager. If you become a client you become a manager. You will be managing their staff and correcting their mistakes, you will be motivating and directing them, so be forewarned if you want that responsibility.

I have HSBC Premier, and have been with the bank for about 25 years. They're able to run the operation for the most part, but getting accounts setup can expose you to significant risk. When I bought a new place and set up my mortgage with them three years ago I was told everything was fine, however on closing day they were unavailable and caused a lot of stress as we had to call several times and be put on hold. It took hours to resolve and really soured the day, as well they took out a mortgage payment from my account from the old closed mortgage (!!) and applied the proceeds of that payment to nothing, they were able to fix it but it took a few days.

I also have two RESP accounts set up with them which took forever and the paperwork was misplaced, forcing wasteful delays.

On the good side, mortgage rates are fairly reasonable, free banking if you have advance or higher and once everything is set up I've had no issues and Investdirect is really great, especially their phone support. They should get investdirect to train the rest of the company.

I would not recommend HSBC to new clients, they're not ready for new customers yet.
Sr. Member
User avatar
Mar 23, 2009
782 posts
Yes I agree with Gungnir, I've been with them for 10 years as Premier and am in the process of opening up their Small Business Account since I'd like all my banking together, and my Premier status qualifies me for a waiver of their Small Business Banking account fee as well which is nice. They also have a promo on right now which basically gets you $400 for opening the Small Business bank account. But they do make you work for it!

Here's my experience so far:
Their website makes it sound like an easy process, and highlights the fact you can upload all the require documents securely. Well, I applied, answered the credit verification questions correctly, only to be met with a "You must call in" screen at the end. So I call in, and am told I'll be called back in 24hrs. Well that didn't happen. So 48hrs later I call again and am told I must go in to branch to verify my I.D. (really!? No way to authenticate me with my HSBC Premier cards or personal verification questions?). So I make the trek to the branch, where they have no clue what to do and my reference number can't be found in their system. So they call the Small Business Banking number who basically tell them what to do, and I'm told someone will be in touch. This has to be the most old-school bank in Canada. They definitely need more staff training around processes, and to streamline the processes themselves.

On another note, I opened up a second chequing account a year ago which mysteriously is not a part of my "composite statement" has it's own monthly statement. So I sent two different Secure Messages to get it hopefully added to my "composite statement" but they've only replied back with instructions on how to sign up for e-statements. lol Useless. So when I went in to the bank today I figure I'll get them to fix that. The teller literally told me to phone in and they'll do it, that he couldn't do it there.

Anyways, once it's all setup and you don't need anything from them it works and I've not had many issues over the years, but we'll see how this account opening process and bonus plays out.
Deal Addict
Jul 26, 2018
1128 posts
Canada, eh?
I have HSBC as my primary, TD as secondary. Only reason I use them cause of global transfer and having bank accounts in other countries.

Honestly, customer service is abysmal, and in branch staff are clueless on anything they’re doing.

One time I had to dispute a pre authorized transfer, where it clearly didn’t belong to me and probably someone fat keying the system. Called in, said go in branch. Went into branch, branch rep gave me tons of attitude and told me to call in, says there’s no way to dispute it in branch. Through out this entire process she just gave me attitude and kept on raising her voice asking me why I thought the transaction was not legitimate cause it was clearly a PAP.

30 mins later, suddenly a dispute form was printed out for me to sign.

Outside of customer service, the reason why HSBC is so difficult to deal with is because the scrutiny they’ve gone through resulting in insane risk management practices in AML or whatnot. Everything requires paperwork, paperwork, paperwork. And they’re very conservative I’m dealing with specific requests or new clients.

Another reason is that HSBC’s system is in-house developed and proprietary. They don’t use a commercially available solution that’s commonly used by other big banks. “Innovation” for future product offerings (e.g, Google Pay or whatever) thus are nonexistent, hindered by system limitations and risk management attitudes.
Aug 3, 2019
310 posts
I never had issues with reaching them thru phone which i rarely do, their branches are bad tho. People in there have no idea whats happening unless you ask for the manager or contact your personal manager thru premier.

Only complaint i have is lack of branches, thats why they are not my main bank.
Sr. Member
Apr 18, 2004
886 posts
I really dont like HSBC.
I opened account for my dad half year ago and canceled the account in 2.5 months even they will give $300 bonus if we keep for another 1 month.
Etransfer takes 2 days. They keep charging month fee even my dad is 80 years old while it should free for 65+. CS keeps asking my dad to verify information even we signed the power of attorney in branch when opening the account.
Never again! HTC , Wind Mobile , Air China
Jan 14, 2018
51 posts
hi friend, how are you able to open HSBC UK? i was just in a branch in london not long ago, asking about opening, mentioned that i am premier client in Canada, they told me not possible unless you have residency card! i told them i need to buy land and use local bank...

anyways hsbc closed my account in canada today, no reason given.... cannot close it over the phone either, must come to canada in person to do that

im pretty sure hsbc in HK also told me the same thing, not easy to open...