HSBC Direct has usually had one of the most competitive interest rates, so I opened an account there. I didn’t open it because I was planning on moving funds from a 2.70% ING Direct account, I did it because the cost of opening an online savings account was near zero and because I could then start funneling income deposited into a 0% Bank of America checking account into the new HSBC Direct account. It doesn’t make much sense to move funds from ING or Emigrant to HSBC, but it does make sense to change the destination of funds from Bank of America.
There were a few other non-financial reasons for opening the account. First, there’s no marginal cost to opening another savings account. HSBC has a well known international name and has consistently been among the leaders in interest rates. I would be hesitant to open an account at a lesser known bank. HSBC’s international presence is also a benefit. When we were in China and Taiwan, HSBC was everywhere (along with Citigroup) and that’s a side benefit. Lastly, my mom has an HSBC account, in part because of the China and Taiwan presence, and having that link is convenient as well.
Opening An HSBC Account
The HSBC account opening process is quick and painless (~10 minutes), though it requires more information than most banks because they try to set up everything in one pass. You start by giving the typical personal information all banks ask including social security number. They do a quick inquiry and ask you for three items from your credit history. Then, you get the option of linking a bank account right there.
They verify your bank account by requesting your login credentials and then login. My bank account was linked within seconds (and the transfer was initiated). No more waiting 3-5 business days for two small deposits, the verification process is done right there. Very nice touch.
After about two days, HSBC starts sending you emails (there are quite a few) about your registration, how to log on and set up your account for the first time. Specifically, they’ll email you a link to the Internet Banking Activation page and a registration code, but don’t bother going trying to activate until you get your temporary password by postal mail. Yeah, they mail your temporary password by pony express.
In all fairness, the letter got here pretty quickly. I opened my account on June 4th, received my temporary registration number by email on June 6th, and received the temporary password on June 7th (the letter was dated June 5th). However, because of the mail, any time that was shaved off in the bank linking portion is now definitely lost waiting for a password via mail (probably why they do that). It’s all done in the name of security but it strikes me as a bit unnecessary and overkill.
From here, you go to the activation page, enter in those codes, set up your account access credentials (which includes a username, password, and security key that must be entered by on-screen keyboard), enter two security questions, and you’re in! (whew!)
Bank to Bank Transfers
One of the features of online savings accounts that was once allowed but now stopped by many online banks was the ability to link online savings accounts. I used to have my Emigrant Direct and my ING Direct linked together so a transfer took only a handful of days, but about a year ago they severed the tie and began requiring paper checks to link accounts together.
Well, I was curious as to whether HSBC would let me link up with ING Direct and they did! I submitted a request through the Bank to Bank Transfer online form, HSBC made two trial deposits to my ING Derect account, I verified the transaction and the link was created. It’s important to remember that Federal Reserve Regulation D limits the number of transactions on a savings account to six a month, so I just expended two in the verification process.
Quicken & Money Data Support
Quicken and MS Money data
addicts users will be happy to know that HSBC Direct offers support for both applications (for Quicken, you get Windows and Mac version support).
At the moment, I’ve been playing a little with my account and it seems pretty standard compared to other online savings accounts I’ve had. The one noticeable difference is that it’s not as sleek as the ING Direct interface and there doesn’t seem to be any way for me to easily create additional accounts. Of course, only ING Direct offers that option at the moment so it’s not like HSBC is really inferior to peers.
Overall I’m pleased with HSBC Direct so far.
Here’s another, incredibly comprehensive, HSBC Direct review written by your good friend and mine, Cap.