HSBC Confuses, Angers Online Customers With Vague New Fees

UPDATE: A rep for HSBC has finally responded to our request for clarification on the fees.

From HSBC:

“A recent communication to HSBC Online Savings Account customers was intended to advise of both an account name change and some account fee changes effective September 23, 2012.

“Feedback from our customers has indicated some confusion about our fee change relating to ‘Funds Transfer-in.’

“This is an existing fee for this account. It relates only to outside ‘wire transfers’ into this account, and it is decreasing from $15 to $12. It does not apply to Bank to Bank transfers, check deposits, or direct deposits of payroll and tax refund checks.

“We apologize for any confusion to our customers and are always available to talk with our customers regarding any questions about their account.”


In the last couple hours, our tip line inbox has been flooded with e-mails from angry and/or confused HSBC customers who received an e-mail from the bank alerting them to a slate of new fees associated with their online savings accounts.

Each of the people who wrote in received the following from the bank:

We want to let you know that as of September 23, 2012, your Online Savings Account will be renamed to HSBC Advance Online Savings…
The following account fees will change as of September 23, 2012:
* Funds Transfer-In, per incoming transfer – $12 each (the transfer of funds from another person’s account, or another financial institution to your HSBC account)
* Foreign Currency Draft (DD Commission) – $25 each* (official bank check purchased in another currency)
* US Dollar Draft- DFT (Commission USD) – $10 each* (official bank check)

It’s that first fee that is causing the most confusion as “the transfer of funds from another person’s account, or another financial institution” is how some might describe a majority of bank transactions.

Does this mean that any deposits to the account would be pinged for a $12 fee? What about direct deposits?

One reader says a HSBC customer service rep claims that the fee is only for wire transfers, and that they could hear several CSRs in the background apparently trying to explain the same thing to other angry callers.

Between those who are angry about the e-mail and those that say they usually make several transfers a month from other accounts to their HSBC savings, most readers who have written about these fees have expressed interest in ditching HSBC.

We’ve made repeated attempts this morning to get clarification on the fees and when exactly they would be charged, but have yet to hear back from anyone at the bank. If HSBC decides to send us a statement, we’ll be sure to add it to this post.


Edit Your Comment

  1. deathbecomesme says:

    Having to switch banks sucks but make sure you have a working account with another bank BEFORE going int to close your previous account. Especially direct deposits! Give your job plenty of time to get that paper work in and get the check routed to the correct bank

    • AcctbyDay says:

      Opening a new checking account elsewhere, setup direct deposit for that account. Wait for direct deposit to take hold, transfer all funds out and close HSBC accounts. Not too too difficult.

  2. Pete the Geek says:

    “Funds Transfer-In, per incoming transfer – $12 each (the transfer of funds from another person’s account, or another financial institution to your HSBC account)”

    In other words, your paycheque, tax refund, unemployment benefits or any other cheque or depost that does not originate from HSBC or is not cash. No doubt there is a separate “teller fee” for cash deposits.

    • Gorbachev says:

      The fees only apply to the online savings accounts. I don’t know if you can even set up direct deposit directly to it.

      The online savings accounts already have Government regulated restrictions on them, including a max of 6 transactions each month.

      I have an HSBC online savings account, and I will continue having one after the fees go into effect, because I do not use my account in a manner that would incur the fees.

      My direct deposits are going to a checkings acct at HSBC, and any money left over after expenses is transferred with an internal HSBC transfer to the online savings account.

      • RadarOReally has got the Post-Vacation Blues says:

        Exactly. I’m warned every time I make a transfer in and out of my savings account that there are laws regulating the number of these I can make a month. I doubt very many people have their paychecks direct-deposited to a savings account, but maybe I’m wrong.

      • AtlantaCPA says:

        Just to clarify, that’s a max of 6 withdrawls each month. Make as many deposits as you wish (your bank might have its own draconian rules but that’s the Fed rule).

      • benminer says:

        It’s 6 withdrawls a month. I am not aware of any limit to the number of deposits.

        There is no way even a major bank would be dumb enough to charge a fee to receive employer ACH direct deposits.

    • Chuft-Captain says:

      No, I don’t think so, though the wording is admittedly vague. This is aimed at wire transfers, not direct deposit.

  3. MickeyMoo says:

    The fear that Capital One will pull this kind of BS over at ING keeps me up at night.

    • kbsparky says:

      ING-direct does NOT charge anything for incoming wire transfers. One of the few places where one can receive money into their account by that method without having to pay through the nose!

  4. stephenjjohnson says:

    I contacted HSBC and recievd the following:

    “The e-mail you received about the $12.00 fee is only applicable for
    ‘Wire Transfers’. Please note that Bank to Bank Transfers are free and
    are different from Wire Transfers. We confirm that there are no fees
    assessed for any Bank to Bank Transfers initiated from or to an HSBC
    account. Please be assured, there are no fees assessed to transfer
    funds between your HSBC accounts.

    All this while, an Online Savings Account had incoming wire transfer fee
    of $15.00 per transfer. This will be reduced to $12.00 per incoming wire
    transfer from September 23, 2012.”

    So – it looks like this is a reduction in an existing fee and only applies to Wire Transfers.

  5. do-it-myself says:

    Yep, I got this email this morning. With 2 other savings accounts I didn’t really use, guess what I’m doing when I get home!!! Luckily for me all my transfers were manual. I signed up with them 2007 when their interest rate was whopping 5.05%…’s been lowered again and again to dismal levels, but this $12 fee is what finally broke the camel’s back. With no local branches near me, they are cut. I joined a local credit union after dumping SunTrust, where they force you to have a savings account with checking, so it’s no skin off my back to close up shop with HSBC.

    Even if there is enough negative press to bring this to a halt, knowing what they are now capable of is enough to get me to leave.

    • PencilSharp says:

      “Even if there is enough negative press to bring this to a halt, knowing what they are now capable of is enough to get me to leave.”

      Any company (bank or not… I’m lookin’ at you Best Buy) that will screw over customers once, shall do so again, and repeatedly, because it gets easier each time they do it.
      I wonder just how many people know HSBC stands for the Hong Kong-SHANGHAI Banking Corporation…

  6. binkleyz says:

    I’m not a HSBC customer, so this is REALLY just guesswork on my part, but this fairly clearly is referring to wire transfers, not ACH (Automated Clearing House) transactions like normal account to account transfers and direct deposits.

    Assuming this is the case, this is really just a poorly worded communication, and will almost certainly be followed up with a clarification of terms.

  7. ospreyguy says:

    I would suggest ING Direct as they are very similar to the original HSBC online accounts but since they were bought by Capitol One who knows when the fees will start…

    I will say I have used them since 2004 and have several savings and checking accounts with them and no problem since the purchase.

  8. GreatWhiteNorth says:

    Good bye HSBC and hello sock under the mattress…

  9. SirWired says:

    Yes, this does sound like wire-transfers, not ACH deposits. Fees for incoming wire transfers are pretty common.

  10. cswanger says:

    Just received this email from HSBC as a result of my contacting them via their website:

    “The e-mail you received about the $12.00 fee is only applicable for
    ‘Wire Transfers’. Please note that Bank to Bank Transfers are free and
    are different from Wire Transfers. We confirm that the Bank to Bank
    Transfers service will continue to be free. We apologize for any
    miscommunication in the e-mail sent and any inconvenience caused.”

    Good news, but what a communications mess.

  11. red92s says:

    Spoke with HSBC and they confirmed this is only related to wire transfers (and the fee has gone DOWN, it used to be $15). They are pretty much in panic mode over the volume of close account requests this poorly-worded notice has prompted from customers. Guessing at least one person got shown the door over this.

    • do-it-myself says:

      “Funds Transfer-In, per incoming transfer – $12 each ) >>>>>>>>>>>>or another financial institution to your HSBC account<<<<<<<<<<<<)"

      Doesn't this count as a wire transfer?

      This is a new addition in which it was $0.00 previously. This is what will affect me. So they get the boot.

      • red92s says:

        There is a difference between a bank wire transaction and the more common deposit/withdrawal transactions processed via ACH. The HSBC notice was worded VERY badly and didn’t make this clear, or differentiate between the two.

        Per Wikipedia:
        “In the United States wire transfers are costly and seldom if ever used by consumers. As an example of the cost, Bank Of America as of November 2011 charged $25 to send a wire and $12 to receive one within the U.S. For international transfer, it charged $35–$45 outgoing, $16 incoming.[4] However, fees may vary from bank to bank.”

      • stephenjjohnson says:

        The fee was previously $15, and it does not apply to ACH transactions. Apart from a poorly-worded email from HSBC, this seems to be a non-story.

        Unless you _do_ use wire transfers,and which case you’ll save a few dollars.

  12. Jelly says:

    I e-transfer funds into my HSBC online savings about twice a month, so I will definitely be ditching them if they go through with this.

    What disturbs me more though is that this posting is the first I’ve heard of it (empty inbox and spam folder). Are they trying to piss their customers off in waves and have only sent emails out to some? I know I receive their account update emails, because I got the weekly “We’re reducing your interest rate” emails a couple of years back.

  13. NobleDrusus says:

    I asked how I could close my account without any fees. The CSR said just do a bank-to-bank transfer down to $0,00 and your account will close with no fees. Let’s see if that’s right too or if I’ll get a $12 fee for closing the account, and then NSF ding of $35 for having -$12, etc.

  14. sonotamused says:

    NobleDrusus – I recently closed out three HSBC accounts (one checking, two savings). The CSR is correct. My savings accounts I closed down to 0 through bank to bank transfers; my checking account I kept a bit in for a few weeks until I made sure everything cleared – I then actually asked them for a bank check for the remaining funds. No fuss, and no fees.

    • NobleDrusus says:

      Hey thanks for the info! I hope I have the same good luck as you and it emboldens other HSBC accountholders to close their accounts as well after this ridiculous email.

  15. Astravian says:

    Yes, I too received the email and promptly called for clarification ready to close my account. While they did explain that it was only referring to wire transfers, I’m probably going to cancel the account anyway. I’ve already been quite disappointed with the emails I receive from them every couple months declaring that they’re incredibly awesome, but that they’re are yet again lowering the interest rate. At this rate, in a couple months, I will be paying them interest to keep my money with them.

  16. antmandela says:

    Yes. I received this message as well. It seems that indeed HSBC would now like to charge their customers to transfer money into their HSBC savings accounts. I guess it is not enough to just make money off of loaning out our savings; now they need to skim a little more cream off the top as well. For me it is the principle of the matter… Since when do banks charge customers to use their money?

    I sent HSBC an email letting them know that I will be closing my account and transferring funds to my online brokerage account. I encourage others to do the same.

  17. spammagnet says:

    Good thing their customer service reps know how to communicate effectively:

    “Please be informed that the information about the $12.00 fee is only applicable for ‘Wire Transfers’. The Bank to Bank Transfers are free and are different from Wire Transfers. A Wire transfer is a method of electronic funds transfer that is used to receive funds from a third
    party. However, HSBC’s Bank to Bank Transfers service allows you to move your money between your HSBC accounts and those you own at other U.S. financial institutions, including banks, credit unions and brokerage accounts…. We regret any confusion caused by this notification.”

  18. SusanK says:

    Be wary of anything HSBC says. They recently sent me a letter saying they needed more personal information or they would close my checking account. I called by their deadline and answered all of the questions. Yet without any other notice, my account was closed on Aug. 21. There was no other notification. All my autopays, direct deposits left hanging. That was fun to sort out. Don’t trust them at all.