At HSBC "No Minimum Balance" Actually Means $0.01

Reader Erin found out that when HSBC says, “no minimum balance,” they actually mean, “at least $.01.” What seems like an innocent misunderstanding is actually going to cost Erin some time and trouble. It all began when she had to empty one of her HSBC accounts to make a large purchase. Because her account required no minimum balance she assumed all was well, until she went online and found out that HSBC had conveniently closed her account which can only be reopened in person. Erin writes:

Just wanted to pass on a recent frustrating encounter with HSBC. My boyfriend and I have four accounts with HSBC- checking, savings, line of credit and credit card. When opening the savings account- their Money Market, interest-bearing savings option- we made it very clear we wanted an account with no charges and no minimum balance requirements. We were assured the Money Market account mentioned above was just the thing we were looking for. We received this assurance both verbally from the customer service person when opening the account and in the accompanying printed terms of agreement.

Fast forward six months…we drain our savings account yesterday (afternoon by the way) to purchase an engagement ring. First thing this morning I log into the HSBC online banking service to transfer some funds into the savings account to start replenishing the account. “Account unavailable” is the error message I receive. Call customer service and ask immediately to speak to a supervisor (lesson learned from reading many of the tips on your your site over time). I am informed that because the savings account was $0.00 the account automatically closes. I informed the supervisor that the terms of the account do not require a minimum balance. She investigated and agreed, telling me yes, this account does not require a minimum balance. So again, I asked why the account was being closed. Again, “because it has a zero balance.”

In our experience, most banks will even go as far as issuing a negative balance while keeping the account open. We can’t understand why HSBC would simply assume you wanted to close the account because of a zero balance. So take it from Erin, keep at least a penny in your HSBC “no minimum balance” account, unless you want to go through the rigamarole having to reopen it later. Last place in customer service sure must be a coveted title since it seems like HBSC is fighting hard to keep it.
(Photo: Getty Images)

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