I have accounts at Natwest (excellent) and Barclays (not bad, but it's just an online savings account so my needs are minimal). My wife and I decided to open a household account and mortgage at HSBC because of their reputation and their global presence. A huge mistake!
We were given a Premier account because of our mortgage and salaries, and we were therefore expecting special treatment - another mistake.
Customer service is very poor. The branches are designed to feel like shops, with music playing and staff standing around. Sadly most of these staff are useless and generally unable to actually do anything for you. In most small branches there is no distinction made for premier customers, so my view is that there's no point having this status - just seems like a gimmick to make you feel good. Sadly it has the opposite effect because you expect special treatment, although what you get is service that's worse than basic service at other banks.
I took out a small loan last year, with the expectation of paying it off early. Since May I have been trying to pay it off but it's impossible to do this even though it's allowed under the terms of the loan. It started when I received my annual loan statement, which advised that I should write to HSBC if I wanted to pay off the loan early. Unfortunately the letter did not say who or where to write to. I don't have an actual branch, just a PO box somewhere, because I opened the account online. So I called HSBC using the number on my debit card. I was asked to enter my telephone banking PIN before I could speak to anyone, although I don't use phone banking. Therefore I didn't have a PIN. After several messages saying that my account would be frozen if I hung up, I finally got through to a call centre (thankfully in the UK). I explained the situation to the operator who wasn't sure who I should write to. She put me on hold to discuss with her colleagues. After a few minutes she came back to say that they didn't know who I should write to!! She also said that I could pay off my loan over the phone - so the statement I received was both incorrect and misleading. They also advised that I could go to any HSBC branch to pay off my loan.
This morning I went to my local branch, only to be told that because they are such a small branch (indeed they described themselves as a 'counter', rather than a branch), they had nobody trained to discuss loans!! And this is one of the world's largest banks! All i want to do is pay them some money and close my loan down, for me this is a very basic banking transaction that any branch should be able to process. They advised that I go to a larger branch, and waste even more of my time. To recap, the letter I received was wrong, the advice given by the call centre was wrong, and the experience in this branch was very poor. I had a second issue to sort out as well. My wife's debit card on our joint account is no longer accepted in shops or online, and we don't know why. I took the card in and showed it to them. According to their systems, the card was fine! Their advice was to try using it in an ATM and see what happens. Thanks!
HSBC hides behind bureaucracy and processes, and doesn't allow its staff to help customers. They are not in the least bit interested in helping customers sort out issues, and staff just pass you from one person to another, with nobody actually doing anything useful. They just follow their own rules and processes, and to hell with the customer. In 30 years of using banks, this has been my worst experience ever.
Ultimately my wife and I have decided to move our accounts to Natwest, where we have both had much better experiences - staff there actually solve your problems. Staff at HSBC just create problems.
I would advise anyone not to open an account at HSBC - even a basic account at other banks will provide you with better service.
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