When I was younger, I didn't look forward to the twenty-four hours of flying it took to get from our home in New York to our family in Taipei, Taiwan.
I always loved it when I got there, especially the street food, but the flight that took us to California, then Alaska, then Japan, and then finally to Taiwan was felt like an eternity for a kid.
It was especially unnerving to sleep for 8 hours and STILL be flying.
What I wouldn't appreciate until much later was how complicated the finances of life could be when your worlds are separated by currencies and banking systems.The banks that operated in Taiwan, especially in the 1980's, were not the same ones that operate here. Nowadays, things are more streamlined but there are still these lines of demarcation.
This was the first time I'd heard of HSBC, which is short for The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited (though the first time I heard of them it was their subsidiary, Hang Seng Bank). They were founded 1865 to help finance trade through Hong Kong and Shanghai with the West. The bank is over a hundred and fifty years old!
HSBC would expand internationally out of Asia in the mid-1900s and would find itself in the United States after acquiring a majority stake in New York-based Marine Midland Bank in 1980. HSBC would acquire the balance of Marine Midland Bank in 1987 and rename it HSBC Bank in 1998.
HSBC Bank USA (FDIC #57890) is the arm of the bank that operates in the United States and is headquartered in New York City, New York.
HSBC Advance Checking Account Details
HSBC Bank USA has a lot of banking products – from deposit to loans to credit cards.
The product that is most interesting to me is their HSBC Advance Checking account. As a long time Bank of America customer, I know that the central hub of most financial maps is a checking account with a physical location so you can withdraw (and in rare cases, deposit) cash.
More importantly, as a traveler and as my parents realized, one of the big benefits of the HSBC Advance Checking account is international support – you get access to HSBC ATMs worldwide (there may be fees, but you can get access). If your wallet is lost or stolen, you can get up to $10,000 USD in local currency at any HSBC branch.
The interest rate on the HSBC Advance Checking account is on par with other brick and mortar banks – a far cry from the interest rates at online banks – but that's to be expected.
HSBC Advance Checking Fee Structure
There is a $25 monthly maintenance fee that can be waived if you qualify as an HSBC Advance relationship. The HSBC Advance relationship requires you to maintain a total U.S. balance (deposit and investments) of at least $10,000 or maintain a $5,000+ balance plus have a recurring direct deposit every month. If you have a business account, that also counts towards the total balance requirement.
If you compare this with other brick and mortar banks, the balance requirements are slightly higher than some others. Bank of America's Core Checking Account has a $12 monthly fee that is waived if you have a qualifying direct deposit of $250+ or maintain a $1,500 minimum daily balance. You don't get the same level of international support (or any kind of opening bonus), but it's a data point to compare.
Chase Total Checking offers $350 for new accounts and their $12 monthly service fee is waived if you:
- Receive monthly direct deposits totaling $500+ OR
- Maintain a $1,500+ daily balance (checked at the start of each day) OR
- Maintain an average beginning day balance of $5,000+ in any combination of Chase checking, savings & other accounts.
HSBC's fee waiver requirements are slightly higher but all within range with similar banks – and you get all the international perks.
Other HSBC Products
Whenever you think about opening a new checking account, it's important to see how it fits into your overall financial map. The checking account is often the hub in your map, so any change here has to be justified by new products that may form the spokes.
HSBC has a variety of other products that may make for a good fit, including a laundry list of credit cards including the HSBC Cash Rewards Mastercard.
This card offers 1.5% unlimited cashback on all purchases with a 10% Anniversary bonus on rewards earned each year. You also have a $150 cash back sign-up offer after you spend $500 in purchases during the first three months, a nice generous cashback offer to start your relationship. Finally, if you need a balance transfer, you have 0% introductory APR for the first 15 months. No annual fee and no foreign transaction fees, keeping in line with HSBC's commitment to being truly international.
Is It Worth It?
If you want ease and integration internationally, HSBC Bank is a strong option.
Many banks have international partnerships. For example, Bank of America partners with a variety of banks that give you the opportunity to use international ATMs while avoiding the non-Bank of Ameria ATM $5 usage fee. If you're in the UK, Barclays UK is your best friend. If you find yourself in France, look for a BNP Paribas. If you are in Germany or Spain, Deutsche Bank ATMs are where it's at.
The downside is that you are still responsible for a 3% international transaction fee since the funds are converted from USD to the local currency. You can always opt to have the local bank do the conversion, which may be more or less than 3%. You avoid the $5 fee though.
If you are willing to jump through a few hoops, you may be better off going with one of our favorite online banks, Ally Bank. Ally Bank charges a 1% fee when you use international ATMs but they also pay you interest on your checking account.