The Nightmare That is Called… HSBC

I have bank accounts in Singapore, Thailand and the UK, and when I moved to Hong Kong, the last thing I expected to have problems with was banking. Hong Kong, the bright shining financial capital of Asia. Ka-pui… ask anyone who’s had to bank with HSBC here.

HSBC is such an inefficient piece of crap that I find it unbelievable they still exist in this modern world. I used to complain about the Internet banking in Thailand because in the early days, you couldn’t do any online transactions after 10pm. But HSBC’s ineptness, and the difficulty of doing anything online, totally dwarfs all other banks.

1. S-L-O-W

It never ceases to surprise me how slow HSBC is in a city as fast paced as Hong Kong. It took them two weeks to grant approval that I can open a bank account. Once the account was opened, it took another two weeks before I got my ATM card. Once I got my ATM card, it took another two weeks before I could get the security device for online banking. Need to change transaction limits or mailing address? Another five working days.

2. Forms, forms and more forms

In the age of Internet banking, HSBC has a strange opus moderandi of making you PHYSICALLY go to the branch to fill in forms. Update your address? Fill in a form. Change your online transaction limit? Fill in a form. Set up a recurring local transfer? Fill in a form.

3. Then they lose the forms again and again

I went to the Paterson Street branch to collect the form to change my online transaction limit. Filled in the form on the spot, and wanted to give it to the staff there. He pointed to the box and told me to deposit it there, and said it’d take five working days. A week went by, my online transaction limit still said “0”. Called the bank, who said they didn’t receive my form. So I had to then go back to the same branch to fill in the form again, this time with the customer service staff. He told me it’s best to give the forms to the service staff so they can verify everything. Point taken.

A few weeks later, once I got my HKID, I went to apply for a credit card. I remembered his advice. So i dutifully took a queue number, sat down at a table with the staff and duly filled in and signed the forms needed for a credit card application. He made copies of all the supporting documents and told me the card should be ready in two weeks. Two weeks went by, still no sign of the card. Called the bank, who said my application is not in the system. She advised me to apply online, and submit the supporting documents again.

The question is: Where are my missing forms and credit card application? These forms contain confidential information. One sure hopes it’s not lying around for the world to see?!!? I really think heads should roll at Paterson Branch for their blatant lack of disregard for customers’ personal information.

4. Exorbitant fees

Transfers to another local HSBC account: free. Transfers to a local non-HSBC account? HKD 180. Apparently the way around this is to open a checking account. Wow, I can’t remember the last time I wrote a cheque. It is so 1980s.

I wanted to set up a recurring bank transfer to my landlord’s HSBC account. I tried for days to figure out how to do it online, in the same way I did for bank accounts in other countries. I finally decided I must be really stupid because I can’t seem to be able to find a way to do it, and I wrote to ask for help. So the answer was, I can’t do it online. To do so, I’ll need to go to the bank to fill up a form to set up a standing instruction, which costs HKD70!


I seriously want out of HSBC and I’ve been googling on alternatives and found this helpful post. Looks like I’m going to give Citibank or Standard Chartered Bank a go. My experience with HSBC has been the worst with any bank in my life. They really should just close shop.

Yet there is one thing HSBC is very quick at — eyeing your money. On the first day I went to HSBC to try to open my bank account and was told that I had to wait two weeks for approval on opening the account, I filled in some forms, where I put down my Hong Kong mobile number. I had only just got my local number that day and HSBC was the first person/organisation to have that number. They told me in the afternoon that I couldn’t open the account that day. A few hours later, someone from the bank called me to ask me if I’d like to invest my MPF. Dear HSBC, you won’t let me open an account, but you sure would like to get your claws into my money, eh? Great way to win customers over!


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