Issues with a bank

I have had a truly awful experience and have to share it, and warn off others.

I was told when moving to the UK, set up a bank account before arriving. If you do it once you’re here, you need proof of where you live (like a bill sent to you). You can’t get a job without a bank account, but you can’t set up a bank account without proof of income. Hence I found HSBC has a Passport account. In your home country, you apply online. When you arrive, you provide your documentation (proof of your address in your home country and your passport).

No error issues came up when I said I would provide a British passport on the online form. It was one of the options.

I provided my documents at the Lewisham branch and set up my account. They took a copy of my British passport and NZ Drivers Licence. No issues, all was fine.

I was sent a letter a month later: you need to provide us with documentation, such as a passport. An error, surely? I had already provided my passport.

Then my card started declining. Even though I had enough money. I was having difficulty connecting my card to Paypal and Amazon (there’s a film training that I want to do, and need Paypal to pay for it).

On Friday, an ATM swallowed my card.  I called HSBC. I had been sent a letter asking for documentation. But the woman couldn’t understand the acronyms on her computer, so couldn’t tell me what was missing. I was in tears: what had I done wrong here? What have I done wrong? Why can’t I access my own money? (“I understand that you’re upset, but there’s nothing I can do”). I was advised to go to a branch on Saturday to get some money out, and then call on Monday.

Saturday, I make it to the HSBC in Wood Green. (I am thankful for Saturday opening, and being open to 3pm instead of 12pm). They tell me that my account is being closed because I provided a British passport instead of a NZ passport. Even though it was an option online, even though the branch accepted my ID when I arrived. I said I could go and get my NZ passport and show it to them. Apparently it was too late and they can’t do anything to stop the account being closed. (“We’re sorry, it’s Lewisham’s fault, they shouldn’t have accepted it. And it’s put you in a predicament. But it’s not our fault.”)

I will just add that I don’t carry my NZ passport on me if I am carrying my British one. I don’t want to be pickpocketed and lose both passports. 

It was with the processing centre. Can I call the processing centre? “No. They’re not open today.” Can I call them on Monday? “No, we can’t give out their number. You can’t call them. You can’t do anything to prevent the account being closed.”

“So your account is being closed on Tuesday, and you will be sent a cheque with your money. We can open another account for you on Wednesday. But we can’t open it before this account is closed.”

So, hang on, when do I get my money? You’re sending me a cheque. Which will take days to arrive. And then I have to deposit it? Which will take days to process? So, how soon can I get access to my money? Oh, about a week and a half, or longer, from now? Are you kidding me?

Also, my pay is going in on Friday. No, rephrase. My pay appears on Friday. Which means I have to have a bank account number sorted by Tuesday or Wednesday for it to be deposited to appear on Friday. (Because for some reason in this country direct deposits do not process overnight, so payment takes a few days to process.) So I’m not going to have a new bank account number to tell my employer, which means I have no idea how or when I can get my pay.

“Well you have a British passport, so we can set up a British account. Can you provide documentation of where you live now?”

Um, no. I’ve just moved to my new flat last week. See, I updated my address details on online banking.  I don’t have any bills in my name. I have my tenancy agreement.

“We don’t accept tenancy agreements.”

I have things that have been posted to me, like online shopping. I have the receipts.

“We don’t accept those.”

Then I don’t have any documentation for this address. I have documentation for my last address.

“We need your current address.”

Then I don’t have any documentation.

“What did you provide when you started your account?”

My mortgage documents from my house in New Zealand.

“Then we can set you up with the exact same type of account with your NZ passport and documentation. But not before Wednesday. Because we can’t stop your account being closed. And we can’t transfer your money from your old account to this new account. Because …”

Actually, this is a bit of a farce and it’s not funny any more. The very fact that this could occur – that an option of a British Passport is available online, that a British passport can be accepted, that an account can be closed with minimal notification rather than contacting the person (you have my phone number) – is abysmal.

Compounded by the fact that I only had £2 on me.

And the branch could only get me £50 maximum. Because they’re not a teller branch. Or something like that.

Oh, and then, keeping in mind that I was quite upset and angry (I was in tears. I was furious), keeping in mind that, whilst I made it quite clear that I was unimpressed by the entire situation, I never said it was the fault of the people who were helping me, they made me feel like I was being a bad customer. Believe me: I could have screamed. I could have blamed them. I could have sworn. I could have been an absolutely awfully bad customer, but I didn’t. Yet I was still treated with “I am trying to help you. It’s not our fault. Do you even want help?”

So, let’s recap.

  • Providing a British passport is an option when applying online for a Passport account. If it is NOT an option, then HSBC need to remove it as an option.
  • I provided all of my documentation when I set up my account. My documentation was correct.
  • Apparently I can do nothing about my account being closed. I am yet to understand what I have done wrong or what I have done to deserve this situation or this \treatment.
  • I cannot access my money. My money will be sent to me as a cheque, which will take well over a week to make it into a new bank account.
  • I have no idea how my pay will make it into a bank account, considering I might not have a bank account for it to be paid into.
  • I cannot pay for things online without a card – so it appears may miss out on the filmmaking workshop I want to pay for (and the discount) because of HSBC’s ineptitude. [I have a travel card with GBP, but it doesn’t have enough, and takes 5 working days to transfer any funds from NZ.]
  • I am being penalised for something that is outside of my control. I have yet to understand what I have done wrong.
  • HSBC has the laughable idea that I want to reopen an account with them. After this? Are you kidding? But do I have a choice? I don’t have any bills in my name at my new address (I moved last week). I can’t set up bills, because HSBC took my card and are closing my account.

I posted on Twitter:

An extremely poor experience with #HSBC who’re closing my account because I provided them with a copy of my British passport, not NZ.

I explained on FB (after a friend asked, ‘I don’t get it, what’s their logic?’):

Because I set up a “Passport” account from overseas. EVEN THOUGH providing a British passport was an option and it wasn’t an issue when I went to a branch and opened the account.

So now I don’t have access to my money. They’re closing the account on Tuesday and posting me a cheque (?!?!) and can open a new account for me on Wednesday. Like I want to go with them. But I might not have a choice: I don’t have bills being sent to my UK address to prove I live here.

From that, my FB friends said:

Try Lloyds, I didn’t need proof of address.

omg hsbc is shyte!!!! Taken me 2 months and multiple complaints to set up a joint account with [my partner]. Make a formal complaint.

Lloyds is so much better!

So, moral of the story? I’m yet to find out. I’m going to have to go to an HSBC branch on Monday and try to take out as much of my money as I possibly can, just so I don’t starve  waiting for a cheque. And then I’m going to go to Lloyds and see what I can do there. Because, let’s face it. HSBC don’t want me as a customer, so I am happy to oblige.

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3 thoughts on “Issues with a bank”

  1. The British banking system, from my experience of it as a customer and a bank worker from here, is absolute shite. They are dreadfully far behind our own banking system (as you have evidenced from them sending you a cheque, and direct payments taking days to process). But frankly, the poor way you’ve been treated is nothing short of a complete fuck-up of epic and terrible proportions. You should ABSOLUTELY write a formal letter of complaint – don’t let them get away with this crap. Keep spreading the word on Twitter and facebook too. Keep warning people away from them.
    It absolutely sucks that you’ve had to put up with this utter bullshit in your first few months of the UK. Don’t let ’em get you down luv!
    Banks, eh? Bunch o’ wankers 😉

  2. My mother is having such a bad experience with them. They closed her account without letting her know claiming they had sent her letters notifying her (letters that grew wings and flew in to outer space).

  3. HSBC should change their slogan to ‘THE WORLD’S SHITTIEST BANK’. I just can’t begin to describe how terrible their customer service is and how much they rip you off.

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