HSBC Bank — overcharged
A couple of months ago I went traveling around Western Europe. Before I left I personally walked into my nearest HSBC branch and informed them of my travel plans, told them where I was going and that I would be drawing money out from lots of different ATMs as I paid for youth hostels and the like. I asked if it was necessary for me to get a separate account for use abroad but they told me my existing one would be fine.
What was initially a problem was that HSBC do not let you check your balance on ATMs overseas (at least not at any of the ones we tried to) which seems ridiculous because if you were to become overdrawn then no doubt they would put huge charges on you.
Later on I was staying in a relatively isolated Spanish village a good hours drive away from any large urban areas and my bank card refused to take out any more money. I phoned HSBC and after putting me on hold for long enough to listen to 6 different songs (including Stereophonics, Madonna and Justin Timberlake and Sting to be specific) they put me through to a man who told me my card had been cancelled for suspected fraud and erratic spending behaviour.
This was a massive inconvenience to be because I only had access to my HSBC account abroad, but in fairness perhaps I should have had a back up plan or another account to prepare for something like this happening. However, it was less the fact that they cancelled me card without telling me and more that their advisor on the phone told me to wait 5 minutes and he would call me back with advice and then never did. I was shocked by this, because I had told him clearly on the phone that I was stuck somewhere with no money. In actual fact I had a friend with me who could let me borrow some but if that had not been the case then the situation could potentially have been very serious (I am a 22 year old female).
Furthermore when I finally came home and went into a local branch to enquire about my card, the advisor there told me it appeared to be working fine on their computer system and they had no record of it being cancelled. They then refused to let me withdraw any money while waiting for a new card unless I brought in my cheque book.
I would also like to point out that the friend that came with me had an HSBC account but didnt use it abroad because HSBC are particularly expensive to draw money out. He also told them in person that he would not be using his account for a couple months while abroad but then they phoned him up while we were away and told him they were going to close his account in 3 days unless he paid in a minimum of £150. This seemed entirely unreasonable since the lady in the local branch had told him that it would be fine to not use his account for that period of time.
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