“ Basic account suitable for people 18 years or over who only need to make a few transactions per month. „
When I left my husband several years ago, I was literally left with the clothes on my back and found myself in need of a basic bank account. At that point in time I wasn't allowed to disclose my physical address to anybody and all correspondence had to be sent to a P.O. box. This made opening even the most basic of accounts extremely difficult, so I jumped at the chance when HSBC allowed me to open one of their basic accounts.
Before I go any further, a word or two about basic accounts may be in order. When the government decided to do away with benefit books they managed to persuade banks to allow people with poor credit ratings to open basic accounts that their benefits could be paid into. The facilities offered to basic account holders by different banks vary wildly, with some supplying a debit card and allowing money to be taken out from ATMs, the post office and physical branches as well as allowing direct debits and standing orders. Other banks are far more restrictive, and the HSBC definitely falls into this category, but more about that later.
Opening a HSBC basic account is, under normal circumstances, fairly easy, you simply need to take ID into the branch and they'll open it there and then. In my case, it was a little more convoluted as I needed to supply an official letter explaining why I couldn't supply a physical address, but still once I had that letter it only took about ten minutes. Once the account is opened you need to wait for your card, PIN number and paying-in book to be sent to you, or you can ask for it to be sent to the branch. Mine were sent to the branch and I picked them up a week after opening the account, so far so good.
As this is a basic account, I really didn't expect any frills, all I wanted was an account that I could have money paid into so that I could withdraw and spend it. As far as money (benefits) being paid into the account, I had no problem and I found it easy to set up direct debits for paying bills. But, when it came to taking my money out, I started to hit a few problems. Firstly, although I could withdraw money from any Link machine, or post office, I could not go into a branch of HSBC and withdraw my money there. This is something I really couldn't understand, but something I could live with. Another problem I had was the £200 a day withdrawal limit, most of the time it didn't bother me that I couldn't take more out, but then there were a few occasions when I had saved for a large purchase and then found I had to withdraw the money over several days. Remember this account does not include a debit card so I could only pay with cash.
The other problem I had was that even though I didn't have or want an overdraft facility, the HSBC would allow me to go £10 in the red. Not so much a problem, except that although I could withdraw the money at the Post Office I couldn't check the balance and I lived miles away from a cash point. So I was going into the red without realising it and even worse this was further damaging my credit rating. After having the account for six months I was advised that I could upgrade to a standard account, only after going through the application process, I was told I couldn't because I had gone into the red on a few occasions. All I wanted was a debit card to make it easier for me to get at my own money, but there was no way they were budging.
After putting up with the account for a year, I finally signed up to internet banking, which was a pretty standard process involving form filling and waiting for an internet ID. I will say that the log in process never seemed particularly secure, but as I only ever used my own, well protected computer to access my account I didn't worry too much. HSBC does recommend that you download their anti-virus software, Rapport, but I will say I never bothered. Once logged into the account I was able to keep a close eye on my balance, check up on direct debits and make regular and one-off payments. So I really had no problems with the website as such.
My real problems revolved around direct debits and the HSBC's rather pedantic behaviour. If a direct debit came out on the day after money went into my account then everything was fine, but woe-betide me if it came out on the same day that money went in. As an example, on one particular day , a direct debit was taken from my account at 1.30am which put my account into the red, while a payment went in at 3am, putting the account back into credit. You'd have thought that everything would be fine wouldn't you? But no the direct debit was returned due to insufficient funds, which lead to me needing to sort out repaying the bill. I really don't understand how the HSBC can justify this, both the direct debit and payment into my account happened before the start of business. To rub salt even further into the wound, the HSBC then sent me a letter telling me if this happened again they would close my account.
Well I'm sure you can guess where I'm going next, yes it happened again this time over a paltry 19p, as I hadn't quite worked out my sums properly. This time around I immediately deposited the 19p and phoned them to try and stop the direct debit from being returned, but to no avail. Oh and just so you don't think, silly moo she should have made sure the money was in the account. Remember that this account is designed for people with low credit ratings who receive some sort of benefit which is paid in to the account at regular intervals. I did my best to ensure that any direct debits came out on day after pay day, but sometimes companies would take it out a day early.
Anyhow, even before that direct debit had been returned I had had enough of the HSBC and how little regard they have for basic account holders and had opened an account with a different bank. And the difference in how I was treated was immeasurable, I was supplied with a debit card and treated like a human being. So by the time I received the letter stating they were going to close my account, I had already transferred all regular payments and direct debits to my new account. To be honest, I was glad to see the back of the HSBC and wouldn't even recommend their basic account to my worst enemy.
So, onto my final recommendation. Well if you want to be treated as a second class citizen, by a bank who won't even allow you to withdraw your money in one of their branches, then the HSBC is for you. But if you have a poor credit rating and are looking for a basic account, where you can spend your own money without worrying that your account is going to be closed because a direct debit was paid an hour before your money hits your account, then go elsewhere. I am giving the HSBC basic account one star out of five, and that is under protest, because if I could I would give it zero stars.