HSBC:
Online Savings Account™

Based In:   London (HSBC Bank USA, N.A.)
Bank RTN:   022000020
Customer Service:   1-888-404-4050 // 1-800-975-4722
Minimum Deposit to Open:   $1
Minimum Balance
to Avoid Fees:
   None
Website:    HSBC Online Savings Account

They started in 2005, so they're not a newcomer to the online savings game by any means.

If you're not familiar with HSBC, well, they're no fly-by-night outfit. For starters, HSBC is the second-largest financial company in the world. HSBC Bank USA (via HSBC Advance) is their online-only division, which they say is "... committed to giving savers resources to maximize their savings." Their online savings account (OSA) followed on the coattails of success already shown by ING DIRECT (review) and Emigrant Direct (review) in this arena.

Media sources like Kiplinger's Personal Finance and other magazines have, so far, been very impressed with HSBC's entry into the online-savings fray. Kiplinger's, as it turns out, rated HSBC Advance "Best Online Savings Account" in 2006. Money bloggers, for the most part, have reacted similarly.

So, with OSAs already up and running at ING DIRECT and Emigrant, I decided to give HSBC a try, too.

We wouldn't want Kiplinger's to have all the fun, now, would we?

HSBC Advance Savings: Features & Facts

Let's take a look at what HSBC Advance's Online Savings accounts have to offer:

  • No monthly fees; no minimum balance requirement.


  • FDIC insured.
  • Very important. But you knew that, right?

  • Schedule one-time or recurring transfers.
  • But this is pretty standard stuff for online savings accounts right now.

  • ATM/Debit card.
  • You can elect to have HSBC issue you a debit card (no charge) so that you can access your money via ATM. Only a few OSAs offer this feature. You can deposit or withdraw at any HSBC ATM. This could be a make-or-break feature if there are HSBC ATMs in your area!

  • 24-hour support.
  • Call their Customer Relationship Center at 1-800-975-4722. You can also speak to representatives at any HSBC branch.

  • Strong security.
  • HSBC goes a bit beyond what most other online banks require. As detailed above, their account-opening process isn't a quick, five-minute affair. And HSBC Advance log-in requires a Security Key (minimum 8 characters, input by mouse-click), a Username, a Password, and two Security Questions.

  • Online statements.
  • They're viewable as PDFs or in HTML format.

  • Unlimited linked accounts.
  • As best I can tell, you can link as many external accounts to your HSBC Advance Online Savings account as you like.

  • Quick account linking.
  • HSBC Advance doesn't require that you mail them a voided check from your linked account in order to set up the link initially. Rather, the linking process is handled 100% online, and takes just a few days.

  • HSBC EasyView.
  • I'm not aware of any other online savings account that offers something like this. HSBC's EasyView service appears to be powered by Yodlee. With it, you can access all your online accounts and keep tabs on things with a single password. "With EasyView," HSBC says, "you can view and manage all your online accounts from one source — including your bank accounts, credit cards, mortgages, loans, investment accounts, online shopping, news sources, email and more." Check out the thumbnail image below for more on this super-cool service, and then look at the EasyView Demo if you're intrigued.

    HSBC EasyView Info
  • "Registers" feature.
  • A service that allows you to utilize a checkbook-register-like system for tracking your accounts and categorizing spending. There's a Registers Tutorial available for viewing.

  • HSBC checking accounts available.
  • HSBC is a full-service bank, and they're huge. This basically means there isn't a financial product they don't offer. So you could easily get an HSBC checking account and move your money where it needs to go (up to federal limits, anyway).

HSBC Account Opening Process

When compared with other online savings accounts — such as the aforementioned ING DIRECT and Emigrant Direct — HSBC's account-opening process seemed tedious. In my case (which admittedly might be tougher than others), it required that I work my way through some sixteen screens of data entry and/or verification. They're thorough, that's for sure. So, in my opinion, you'll want to set aside probably 40 to 60 minutes to complete your HSBC online application process.

If you plan ahead for your cash needs, it's easy to work around the extra time it may take to transfer money from one of these accounts to your checking account, and it's certainly worthwhile.
— Laura Bruce, Bankrate.com

Stuff you'll need to round up before you start the application:

  • Your SSN, drivers license number, address, and all the other usual personal info. (Plus the same info for your joint applicant, if you'll have one.)
  • Your employer's name and address (plus the same info for your joint applicant).
  • The routing (RTN) and account numbers for the bank account from which you wish to electronically fund your HSBC savings account. (You can get these from the bottom of your checks, or from the bank or credit union itself.)

Talk about discouraging: HSBC's web process locked up twice during my application. My initial disbelief and frustration weren't warranted, though. Thankfully, HSBC's system saves your application as you progress through and complete each screen. It's quite easy to reaccess the site, log back in, and pick up your application where you left off.

Timeline: Account Opening

I signed up for HSBC Advance on Wednesday afternoon. Their website stated that it could take up to three business days for the test deposits to hit your account, but the verification deposits were in my account the very next day. At this point, as shown on my status page, I was basically "on hold" — waiting for HSBC to fully verify my identity (my credit reports were protected by Fraud Alerts, so HSBC's system couldn't readily access them) and to recover from a "system outage." I figure this was their way of saying "We have to look into your Fraud Alerts," without actually saying those words specifically.

Because my credit report had the Fraud Alert on it, I had to wait for HSBC to call me to complete the account-opening and verification process. The phone call came on the following Monday morning, and HSBC's rep "Robin" was very nice. She asked me some questions from my credit report and past financial history. Once I answered those items to her satisfaction, she told me the account was ready to go, and that I'd receive a confirmation email within 24 hours.

Later that afternoon, I rec'd an email from HSBC telling me that my account-opening deposit had been processed.

The next morning (Tuesday), my opening deposit had been transferred from my checking account. Late that evening I received my "Welcome to HSBC!" email. And the next morning, another "Welcome to HSBC!" email arrived, this time containing a temporary Account Name. All that was left was for me to log into my account and get a look at things. But wait — not so fast:

You can obtain your account number by logging into Personal Internet Banking (PIB). For your security, you will receive your Username and Password separately. Your Username will be delivered via email, usually within 1-2 business days. Your Password will be sent via postal mail; you can expect to receive the password within 4-6 business days. Once you receive both, log into PIB to access your account.

In other words, more waiting.

The snail-mailed password arrived on Monday, April 23, six days after my last email. At this point, I was directed to go to a special "Internet Banking Activation" page and log in with the Temporary Registration (from email) and Temporary Password (from snail mail).

Egads. These guys at HSBC know how to draw things out, don't they?

Finally ... Our Account is Open!

The initial HSBC Savings screen is pretty packed with buttons and info. You'll see lots of gray and white — nothing like, for instance, the color blasts one finds in ING DIRECT's account screens.

I was pleasantly surprised to find a streaming video Interactive Demo of their Personal Internet Banking setup. It covered the ins and outs of paying bills online, viewing statements, and some other topics.

Various Screenshots

Want to get a feel for HSBC's online interface? Click each of the following thumbnails to open the full image in a new browser window.

HSBC Account Summary Screen HSBC Account Details Screen HSBC Account Search Screen
HSBC Transfer Overview Screen HSBC Internal Transfer Screen HSBC External Transfer Screen

Timeline: Funds Transfers

A decent search of message boards will reveal that a large segment of HSBC users believe HSBC's transfer times are longer than necessary. (They'll take a minimum of 3 business days, it seems.) HSBC utilizes the CashEdge network for many account processes, and it's for this reason that many HSBC users believe HSBC's transfer times lag the transfer times of other online institutions.

  • Transfer to HSBC:
  • I initiated a $50 transfer from my checking account to HSBC on Thursday, May 3, at 4:31pm. The money was in my HSBC account on Tuesday, May 8.

  • Transfer from HSBC:
  • I initiated a $20 transfer from my HSBC Advance savings to my external checking account on Monday, May 14, at 11:35am. The money was in my checking account and available on Thursday, May 17.

Account Statements

You can print your account statements anytime, and you can do so in either PDF or regular web-page format. One less thing to get lost in the mail!

HSBC Advance Notes & Caveats

A few more notes regarding HSBC Advance's Online Savings:

  • Web Site Aesthetics.
  • Going back to the screenshots above, HSBC's web site isn't horrible to look at, but it's no masterpiece, either. This is of course a personal opinion, but facts is facts: When I'm doing banking stuff, I like simple design. And HSBC's site is a long stretch from that.

  • Good customer service.
  • I've dealt with HSBC Advance's customer service reps three times now, and they were very helpful, respectful, and pleasant each time. The problem is that I've read more than a few blog commenters lamenting the sad treatment he/she received from HSBC Customer Relations. Let's face it: It'd be hard to find any business (much less a bank!) with absolutely zero complaints lodged against them — especially given the internet's inherent Blanket Anonymity for folks who voice strong opinions.

Summary

Since they arrived in 2005, HSBC Advance has developed quite a following. In a world where online savings accounts now have to work to find ways to differentiate themselves (other than by interest rates alone), HSBC Advance offers some niceties that most others don't: ATM funds access, unlimited external linked accounts, and the Yodlee-based EasyView account management features. That's some pretty strong added value for users.

In my opinion, though, the two items that most hurt HSBC Advance are its drawn-out account-opening and funds-transfer processes. It's great that we don't have to mail checks to HSBC in order to set up linked accounts — this part, as mentioned before, is done completely online — but I really have to question why it is that funds transfers take so long in the CashEdge system which HSBC employs. Then again, is a 3-day minimum transfer time that big a deal for others? Perhaps not. Maybe I'm just too dead-set on finding Online Savings Perfection . . ..

So there you have it. If you can handle the account-opening procedures better than I did (which probably just means not having Fraud Alerts set on your credit reports) then there's no reason not to add HSBC Advance to your savings arsenal.

Michael • Updated July, 2016




Update • Oct. 12, 2007:

I've come to the conclusion that the only thing holding HSBC Advance back is their slow funds-transfer times. Everything else about the account is pretty much top-notch. They just have that one big thing to fix; unfortunately, I don't have much hope that it's going to happen.

Update • Feb. 22, 2008:

A reader emailed to ask why I'm still so sold on the online-bank offerings of ING Direct and Emigrant Direct as opposed to HSBC.

Again, folks: For me, it comes down to transfer times. ING and Emigrant function on one- to three-business-day transfer turnarounds, whereas HSBC and the other online banks I've tried make me wait three or five business days for my money to get where it's going.

I'll gladly take a moderately smaller amount of interest in return for quick transfers!

Update • Oct. 6, 2008

I'm now keeping a small stash of money at HSBC Advance, purely in the interest of keeping the account open so that I can take advantage of HSBC's occasional promotional interest-rate increases. They've shown themselves to be much more likely to engage in these sorts of saver-friendly promos than most other online banks. Article End







Ratings are on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the top ranking.
Initiation:
Is it easy to open an account?
Adaptability:
Do they adequately adjust interest rates over time?
Usage:
Is its usage intuitive?
Is it efficient in function?
Are transactions processed quickly?
DISCLOSURE
Opening an HSBC Advance via the links on this site supports IYM with an affiliate referral fee.
[Learn More]