HSBC (Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation) was founded in 1865 in Hong Kong. It was first incorporated in 1866. The company started operating in the U.S. in 1980. HSBC has around 6,000 offices in 71 countries and territories across Africa, Asia, Oceania, Europe, North America and South America with approximately 60 million customers. HSBC Bank USA, N.A. has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau due to its years in business and its response and satisfactory resolution of consumer complaints. HSBC also has had its share of controversy. In December 2012, the U.S. government fined HSBC $1.92 billion over charges that the bank failed to implement anti-money laundering controls and assisted in the laundering of at least $881 million in drug proceeds. The charge also accused HSBC of working with Saudi Arabian banks with ties to terrorist organizations.
When considering APRs, HSBC falls in the average range of its competitors. Most of their cards offer introductory APRs of 0% on credit card purchases and balance transfers for the first 12 months. (The exception is their HSBC Premier World MasterCard® which does not offer any intro APR).
For ongoing APRs, HSBC offers a variable APR for credit card purchases ranging from 13.24% to 23.24%. Most credit card banks and companies offer variable APRs within this range, so HSBC does not stand out with lower competitive rates.
HSBC’s customer support is average when compared to other credit card companies. They do offer an 800 number, but they do not indicate whether representatives are available 24/7. (Most companies list the phone hours with the phone number). Note: Upon calling HSBC during non-business hours, we found that it was a 24/7 automated menu with the option of speaking to an operator. You can also reach HSBC by postal mail. Some companies have several numbers to call for specific functions. For instance, you have a separate number for a lost or stolen card. HSBC wraps everything into one number. However, the HSBC Premier World MasterCard® has its own toll free number.
Foreign Transaction Fees
No company in the credit card industry is more impressive than HSBC when it comes to foreign transaction fees. None of HSBC’s credit cards have transaction fees. This is practically unheard of. Some companies offer one or two cards without these fees, which is typically a travel rewards card. So far, we haven’t found another company offering zero transaction fees for every one of their credit cards. This may be due to HSBC being founded and rooted in other countries. Many U.S.-based credit card companies have to charge fees for other currency transactions.
HSBC Bank USA, N.A. offers consumers four credit cards, three of which offer a rewards program—all of which require that you be a customer with HSBC in order to apply.
Here are HSBC’s credit cards:
- HSBC Premier World MasterCard®
- HSBC Advance MasterCard®
- HSBC Platinum MasterCard® with Rewards
- HSBC Platinum MasterCard®
Options for Rewards
Rewards options for HSBC customers are readily available. Here are the rewards we found most appealing:
- Platinum MasterCard® with Rewards has a limited time offer of 15,000 Rewards Program Bonus Points for new customers who spend $500 or more in new purchases during the first three months. You can also earn 1 Rewards Program Point for every new, net dollar in credit card purchase.
- HSBC Premier World MasterCard® lets you earn 1 Point for every new, net dollar in credit card purchases, with no Points expiration or earnings cap. For example, 40,000 Points can be redeemed for a free flight worth $600.
When compared with credit card companies offering rewards cards, we found that there are several offering a greater variety of rewards such as miles, gas points, etc).
Upon researching HSBC’s security measures and policies, we found they offer all their cardholders a $0 Liability Online Guarantee. This means in cases of identity theft or fraud, you will not be liable for any unauthorized online bill payments and funds transfers on your HSBC accounts made through Personal Internet Banking or your HSBC credit card.
What we didn’t like were the exemptions to this policy. For example, you have to report the fraud within a certain time frame and if you don’t take steps they outline on their website to safeguard your account and personal firewalls, you may bot be covered. Other credit card companies do not have such stipulations on their $0 Liability policies, making it seem that HSBC is being “nit-picky” and unreasonable—and possibly giving themselves loopholes to get out of providing such protection to customers. Sometimes you don’t find out about fraudulent purchases as soon as you should and one should not be “penalized” for not following HSBC’s security tips. Plus, how HSBC determines if someone has not followed their advice is suspiciously up to their discretion. Otherwise, if you follow their rules, $O Liability is guaranteed.
HSBC also offers Theft Resolution, which provides you with an ID Theft Affidavit if you are a victim of Identity Theft.
The company does offer its credit card holders the following additional security features:
- 24-hour assistance with lost or stolen cards
- Emergency temporary card replacement
- Emergency cash advances
Annual fee range
Annual fees for HSBC cards are $0—with a stipulation. You have to first qualify for an HSBC Advance or Premier relationship (depending on the card you want to sign up for. To qualify, you need to open an HSBC Advance checking account and maintain combined U.S. personal deposit and investment balances of at least $10,000 or at least $5,000 with a recurring direct deposit from a non-HSBC source at least once per monthly cycle.
Here’s what it looks like: For their HSBC Premier World MasterCard®, there are no annual fees if you have a HSBC Premier Checking Account. Those without a Premier checking account have to pay a $95 annual fee after the first year. The same goes for their other cards. The HSBC Advance MasterCard® has a $0 Annual Fee if you open an HSBC Premier checking account and maintain $100,000 in combined U.S. personal deposit and investment balances or if you maintain a business account, you can use their HSBC commercial balances to qualify; however, you have to pay a monthly $25 maintenance fee if your account’s minimum balance with direct deposit requirement is not met.
We found HSBC’s annual fee policy for 2 of their cards to be inferior to cards offered by other companies. There are too many stipulations to qualify for a zero annual fee. The remaining cards from HSBC are competitive regarding annual fees since there are none charged.
If you miss your payment date, HSBC charges you up to $37 for late fees. This limit is slightly higher than several competitors, which charge late fees up to $35. It still remains that this fee range for late penalties (although contrary to the Credit Card Act of 2010 which insists late fees for credit cards only go up to $25), is in the typical range across the credit card industry. We also reviewed credit card companies offering lower late fees, depending on the specific card. For example, City National Bank’s credit cards only cost customers up to $15 for late payments. Plus, another reviewer found that the company has a hefty penalty APR that may be applied to your account for at least six months if you are late on a payment.
What we found that set HSBC apart is not necessarily positive. Most companies let you apply for a credit card and get approved without having to do business with that particular financial institution. The HSBC Premier World MasterCard® requires that consumers have an HSBC Premier checking account and $100,000 in combined U.S. personal deposit and investment balances. The HSBC Advance MasterCard® requires customers to have an HSBC Advance checking account and maintain $10,000 in combined U.S. personal deposit and investment balances. The other two cards just require you be an HSBC customer.
Building Credit/Student Cards
If you are a college student or trying to build or repair your credit, HSBC is not for you. They don’t offer “starter” cards for college students or secured credit cards for people with poor credit. There are other credit card companies with big brand names that offer at least one secured credit card or college student card.