Why I hate HSBC

April 22, 2009

- See all 763 of my articles

We have a card with HSBC that gives us 1% cash back on all purchases and 2% back on weekend purchases.  We’ve started charging a lot of things so that we get the cash back.  Note: we have not changed our spending patterns because of the availability of credit on the card; we simply use the card for purchases they we need to make anyway (such as diapers for the young ‘un).  We pay off the entire balance every month.  A credit card should never be used as an excuse for reckless spending. On the face, it’s a pretty cool card.  We’ve had quite a few negative experiences with the card, though.


Soon after getting the card, we started getting telemarketing calls.  My wife is listed as the primary cardholder, so they would always ask for her.  When I would ask what the purpose of the call was (my standard question to weed out telemarketers) they would refuse to tell me.  The only wa y we knew that it was HSBC is that we kept track of the number, which we were later able to determine was HSBC, due to subsequent calls.

When my wife actually did answer the phone, she would ask for the purpose of the call, and the telemarketers would completely clam up and not tell her, either.  This was really bizarre.  I have encountered a lot of strange sales pitches over the years, but a sales call during which the caller doesn’t want to talk about the product or service they are selling is definitely a new trick.  After talking to a manager and threatening to cancel the card if these calls did not stop, they calls eventually stopped.  It’s almost as if these folks were in training and dealing with human beings for the first time.

Wrong name

HSBC had a security breach (widespread, not just us) and issued new cards with new numbers.  My wife’s card looked great.  My card, on the other hand, did not.  My name was backwards (Public Q. John instead of John Q. Public).  As someone with a background in IT, it amuses me that they managed to someone get one name right and the other name wrong – indicating that they do not have a particularly consistent process.

My wife called to get this problem fixed.  She’s the primary cardholder, so she gets to have all the fun dealing with HSBC.

The person she talked to seem to struggle to understand the actual problem at first.  This seems a bit odd, since my wife understood it fully in the three seconds I took to explain it to her (“hey, my name is backwards on the credit card”) – shouldn’t someone in the credit card industry be able to grasp this concept?

Finally, he agreed to send a new card, and then stated that he was going to activate the new cards and cancel the old ones.  Thus began another frustrating exchange for my wife, who pointed out that he should not do this, since this would cause me to be without a card.  The HSBC person said that I would be able to use the new card.  It took my wife a long time to point out that I would not be able to use the new card, since the name on the card did not actually match my name.  Sure, logically a merchant might decide that I am indeed the correct person, but they would be well within their rights to reject the card because the signature doesn’t match the name.

Can we sell you more stuff while we’re fixing our goof?

So I finally get the new card with the correct information and call to activate it.  For some reason, I can’t use the automated method and get dumped to a human.  (sigh).  During the activation, she tries to sell me a credit protection product.  I politely tell her I’m not interested and just want to activate the card.

As she is cancelling the old card, she tries once again to sell me this product, which causes me to get a bit upset with her and tell her that she is really not providing good customer service, and that she should just perform the service that I am actually asking for.  &^%%^$%##$@()(*, I already told you once that I am not interested.  I spend a lot of money with your card.  Are you trying to alienate me on purpose?  No means no.

Paranoid fraud alert

We’re at the mall this past weekend and hit Target and a few other stores.  We use the card a total of five times before it starts getting denied.  It turns out that they had flagged out account for suspicious activity.

Target was a fairly big charge, but not substantially larger than what we spend in typical trip.  We always spend a fair amount at Target, because it is our main place to shop.  We have a toddler, and Target is our main supplier of diapers, baby wipes, baby clothes, etc (which can really add up in a hurry).

The other four charges were pretty small charges (one was at Taco Bell).  All of the stores are places where we have repeatedly used the card in the past.  Additionally, the two locations where the card was denied were also places were we often shop.  (Why did I try at a second store after being denied at the first store?  I’m an optimist and assumed that Barnes and Noble had a problem with their card reader.  Nope, the card reader is fine – the card was the problem.)

At this point, I’m really not sure what was so suspicious about the activity.  The total dollar amount was well within our normal spending patterns, and all of the stores were places we had shopped before.

In closing

Needless to say, we’re looking for a new card.  Has anyone had good expereinces?  We’re looking for something with cash back, rather than airline miles or other “rewards”.

UPDATE: I have recently been contacted by someone from the HSBC executive office.  He is interested in taking a look at this situation and determining why these issued occurred.  I haven’t had a chance to respond to him yet.  I do appreciate the fact that HSBC is looking at this as a learning opportunity.  I will update this post with future developments.

SUBSEQUENT UPDATE: read the exciting conclusion to the saga.

16 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Baker @ ManVsDebt
    Apr 22, 2009 @ 08:06:18

    Haha, funny story. Man do I hate dealing with credit card companies.

    Have you considered using a debit card? Some banks still do offer cash back and points for running your debit card as a credit.

    Not sure if it would change your luck, but you might want to at least consider it!

    Baker @ ManVsDebt’s last blog post..Yet Another 4 Reasons To Hate Credit Card Companies


  2. The Casual Observer
    Apr 22, 2009 @ 08:15:20

    I prefer credit cards because of the lower limits on fraud liability ($50 in most cases). Debit card issuers can have similar limits on their card, if they desire, but this is not required by law, as it is with credit cards.


  3. Jeff Scherer
    Apr 22, 2009 @ 16:45:21

    The only way to go is Discover. We’ve had a Discover card for over 10 years and love it. We’ve never had a problem with them and they reward you 1% back. Every quarter they have a 5% reward as well. For instance, one quarter they may have all Grocery store, hardware store and box stores (SAMS) on the 5% list. You then can take the cash reward or increase it by taking gift cards…nice.

    They are awesome to deal with and they will treat you with dignity and not jam credit card protection down your throat like CITI does.

    Give them a shot!


  4. Catie
    Apr 22, 2009 @ 19:05:09

    Unfortunately, the tale you shared is not unique. I have consulted with several credit card issuers to help them improve their customer service. Unfortunately, none of them wanted to heed my advice to stop selling on an inbound service call unless the product offered would address or prevent the problem from happening again. Selling is a service if the product introduced solves a real need the particular customer on the phone, not just the offer of the day. I continue my crusade to bring selling with integrity to the credit card industry but I’m not holding my breath that I will succeed.

    Catie’s last blog post..Why should I get my credit report annually?


    • Anonymous
      May 07, 2012 @ 06:40:01

      I worked in hsbc in india and i hated the way it worked. Many managers are manipulators and they are supported in this manipulation by the higher management (avp and vp)


  5. The Casual Observer
    Apr 22, 2009 @ 21:24:50

    @ Jeff – Hmm. I have never seriously considered Discover because I have been under the impression that they aren’t accepted in quite as many places as MC/Visa. You’ve piqued my interest, though.

    @ Catie – The real problem isn’t that they try to sell the product (although this IS a problem). It’s the fact that they try to sell it a second time after I have made it very clear that I am not interested. How likely is it that I am going to shift 180 degrees and buy the product. To make things worse, this was an inbound service call that was necessitated solely because of problems that THEY created. If I had made some sort of mistake and was asking for a favor from them, it would be slightly more acceptable.


  6. Tiffany
    Sep 23, 2009 @ 10:03:14

    My boyfriend recently had a run in with HSBC. The unfortunate thing is, he never had any type of account with them. Instead, he recently got a new cell phone with a new number and then about a month later started getting non-stop calls from them.

    The weird thing was that they would never identify themselves and whenever he would ask who was calling, they’d hang up on him immediately. He ended up having to call their corporate headquarters and it was a huge mess. Eventually the calls did stop. Apparently that “collections” department is notorious throughout the company for being sloppy mess and completely incompetent regarding the removal of false info in their system.

    Though, you think if the company was away of such incompetencies, then someone would do something about it.
    .-= Tiffany´s last blog ..Mid Week Freebies & Samples 9-23-09 =-.


  7. someone who has a backgroung in financial IT
    Oct 31, 2009 @ 10:19:25

    The Data Protection act states that financial company’s can’t even disclose that a relationship exists until they have identified that they are speaking with the correct person.

    The fact that they are calling to speak to a woman (your wife) and they have a man asking details may be why they won’t speak to you. all financial institutions must follow this – if they dont they are breaking the DPA, so sounds as though they were just doing their jobs and this was the first time they were dealing with awkward human beings.

    You are allowed to specify wether you want marketing calls or not so they may be calling to speak to you about something important. Hey maybe they called to discuss the fact that your card has been used somewhere that has had a high amount fraud recently (using stolen or cloned cards perhaps) or that you have made transactions outwith your usual spending pattern and they want to make sure everything is ok and above board (as this too could mean that the card is cloned or stolen).

    Sure I will give you that getting offered products or services whenever you phone is a pain. and mistakes happen but from what you have told me I think I will move to HSBC as it sounds as if they have good security rather than the good for nothing bank that I am with who phones up and tells the babysitter why they are looking to speak to me.

    just a thought 🙂


  8. someone who has a backgroung in financial IT
    Oct 31, 2009 @ 10:26:01

    Oh btw, I dont expect my last message and this one to be posted but it may be an Idea to take the time and speak to the HSBC guy as you took the time to slag them off but you can’t take the time to find out what happened & why it happened.

    at least give them the chance to sort out the couple of mistakes they did actually make.

    Just a casual observation

    cya 🙂


  9. kosmo
    Oct 31, 2009 @ 12:06:37

    Your first message got caught in my spam filter for some reason. Not sure why, because the second one didn’t. I wasn’t censoring your comments. Both comments are now available.

    Even when my wife answered the phone, the telemarketers wouldn’t talk to her. See this passage ” When my wife actually did answer the phone, she would ask for the purpose of the call, and the telemarketers would completely clam up and not tell her, either. ”

    Note they didn’t ask for identifying information, they would go completely silent – literally not speaking to her. And were were later able to determine with certainty that these were telemarketing calls, and NOT about something important.

    We spoke with them several times about this, and they continue to make errors. The guy who contacted me via email seemed to want to help, but the person he delegated to wasn’t particularly helpful.

    I guess you’re entitled you your opinion – which I guess is that I am an “awkward human being” and that the mistake were mine.

    What it boils down, to, though, is this – why would we bother to continue a problematic relationship when we have a good relationship with Chase on another card? The rewards aren’t quite as high, but we have zero problems with them.


  10. kosmo
    Oct 31, 2009 @ 12:19:41

    and to clarify, when I mean they wouldn’t speak to my wife, this is how the conversation would unfold:

    Rep: Can I speak to Jane Doe?

    Jane Doe: This is Jane.

    [loooooooong silence]

    Jane Doe: What is this regarding?

    [another loooooong silence]

    After a few more attempts to prod the rep into a conversation, Jane hangs up.

    Now, imagine this happening 4-5 times in a single night …


  11. someone who has a backgroung in financial IT
    Oct 31, 2009 @ 21:57:09

    Fair point – everyone has a choice, Mines is to have my details secure.
    as I mentioned above the company’s cant advise why they are calling (as this would disclose a relationship) unless they have identified first and had confirmation that it is a convenient time to speak – dont get me wrong if the conversation has panned out exactly how you say then there is something wrong somewhere the same goes if you have advised you dont want marketing calls and they keep calling anyway. I have looked in to the security for a few financial institutions and HSBC seem to be the best so far (hence why I am looking to switch accounts to them).

    I will not mention the name of the bank I am with just now but it is safe to say I would rather the tighter security than information given out to anyone.

    Each to their own I suppose 🙂

    Best of luck with the new card company.


  12. kosmo
    Nov 01, 2009 @ 09:11:00

    Oh, I definitely want to have my data secure. And perhaps HSBC is better at this than other companies.

    However, I really don’t think the telemarketer’s actions had anything to do with that, though. And if they didn’t think they were reaching the customer, I’m not sure why they were calling back multiple times in a night – sometimes just a half hour later.

    I’m not exaggerating when I say we were getting 4-5 calls some nights. It was incredible bizarre and very annoying.

    The organization’s name didn’t even show up on caller ID. We eventually Googled the number and found a ton of other people having the same problem, and they had traced the number back to an HSBC-related telemarketer. (No, I don’t have the number – this whole thing unfolded six months ago).

    At that point, we called HSBC and told them that unless these calls stopped, we were going to cancel the card. Magically, the calls stopped.

    We’ve actually had Chase for a while now, so they’re not really a “new” card company for us. We’ve never had any problems with them, we just got the HSBC card in an effort to maximize cash back.


  13. Don Draper@credit card debt elimination
    Dec 27, 2009 @ 22:02:20

    Sounds like a real nightmare dealing with these clowns. You need to RUN from bad credit card companies. They are just not worth it.


  14. Savings Expert
    Feb 01, 2010 @ 09:41:24

    I think the standard practice of a lot of the banks now is getting horrendous we need a complete reform of the banking system and tighter regulation to ensure disappointment like this does not happen.


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