HSBC Cancels Traveler's Credit Card, Pays For Their Mistake

Bank of America isn’t the only bank that enjoys canceling their traveling customer’s credit cards. HSBC canceled my card while I was living in New Zealand, and as part of their “continuing efforts to fight fraud,” sent an active replacement card to my address 9,000 miles away.

I did almost all of my banking in New Zealand with local banks, but I still needed a card for a handful of internet transactions. Unlike here, the Kiwis don’t freely hand out credit cards. Everyone uses debit, and it’s almost everywhere.

HSBC knew that I was abroad, and all of my transactions screamed “traveling customer!” Bus tickets, Skype credits, stuff like that. I only used the card about once every month, but HSBC religiously flagged each and every transaction as fraud. Whenever they did, I’d call international collect and verify that the transactions were legitimate. The fraud alerts were annoying but bearable, and even a little amusing. By the third month, I offered to send postcards.

I didn’t that notice that they canceled the card until I logged into my account and saw that, surprise!, I had a new credit card number. When I called to ask why, the customer service representative responded with: “Oh, you didn’t get our letter?” Sure enough, HSBC canceled the card due to fraudulent activity (there was none,) and sent a new card to my address on file, creating the potential for actual fraud. Whoops!

It took almost an hour to sort out the mess since HSBC’s CSR didn’t realize that the card she was going to send to New Zealand probably shouldn’t have the same number as the one sent to my U.S. address. Afterwards, I spoke with a supervisor and explained that my troubles with The World’s Local Bank warranted a courtesy credit. She offered $25, which I accepted. I also asked her to write into my account notes that I would ask for a credit every time HSBC’s security department interrupted my trip by flagging clearly legitimate transactions. Problem solved? Not quite.

HSBC’s security department called the very next morning to ask: “Was I really in New Zealand?” Sigh! After verifying that I was, in fact, as promised, yes, really in New Zealand, I again asked for a supervisor and got another $25.

All told, HSBC ended up paying me $100 to apologize for their over-eager fraud detection system. I would have preferred to enjoy my trip without the bother, but hey, as long as they paid a reasonable rate, I was willing to chat with them.

If I had been traveling in Russia, and not living in New Zealand, I would have been far less accepting of the bank’s failures. This is why a backup card is so vital. If your bank does screw up, don’t let them off the hook with a simple apology. Demand the service you deserve, and if you don’t get it, make them pay—literally, if need be.

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