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Details About HSBC Direct's Online Payment Account


HSBC Direct's new Online Payment Account (OPA) (aka moderate-interest checking account without paper checks) is now publicly available. I just opened the account. Since I already have the Online Savings Account, the sign-up process went quickly. If you already have the Online Savings Account, the only reason you may want to hold off is in the hopes of a possible future sign-up bonus. The main benefit of the OPA is that it gives you 3 non-HSBC ATM fee reimbursements per month.

Here's a quick summary of the OPA features:
  • 2.50% APY on all balances over $1
  • $1 minimum opening deposit and no minimum balance requirements
  • Reimbursements of 3 per month ATM surcharges at US non-HSBC ATMs
  • Instant transfers to and from your HSBC Online Savings Account (savings account not required)
  • Links to unlimited number of external accounts
  • No limits to number of transactions per month (similar to most checking accounts)
  • Free online bill pay. Corporate check will be issued if required by merchant.

In the online application, they provide Terms and Charges Disclosure (pdf). Some of the important details in this disclosure include:
  • Use of paper checks is not permitted. This account is intended for electronic transactions only. Checks presented against this account will be returned.
  • No branch transactions are allowed
  • Account requires use of E-statements
  • Deposits may be made at an HSBC ATM or by mail.
  • $25 account closing fee if closed within six months of opening
  • $25 insufficient funds (NSF) fee for each withdrawal

When you sign up for the OPA, approval is not immediate. I received this note:
You will receive an e-mail confirming that we have received your request and we will process your application within 5 business days.

It's surprising the approval isn't immediate for someone who already has the Online Savings Acount. There was no wait when I signed up for ING Direct's checking account (see post).


I don't think I can recommend the OPA for those who don't already have a HSBC Online Savings Account. There are better checking account deals available. The best deal in my opinion is currently from Salem Five Direct (see post). This account has a yield that ranges from 5% to 5.30% APY. In addition to a much higher yield than HSBC's OPA, it has paper checks (with the first order free). The one advantage of HSBC's OPA is HSBC's ACH transfer system (if you don't mind the delays). For other high yield checking account alternatives, please see my best checking account post. More discussion and readers comments on HSBC's OPA is available at this post.

[Update 6/4/07: Correction in the recommendation.]

  Tags: checking account, HSBC

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Comment #1 by Anonymous posted on
Hi Banking Guy,

First, in your last paragraph you say "I don't think I can recommend the OPA for those who don't already have a HSBC Online Checking Account." but I think you mean you mean "already have a HSBC Online Savings Account"?

Second, I wanted to relay my experiences with the OPA. I previously had the combination of Free Checking with Online Savings and when the OPA was announced, I requested by HSBC's BankMail system to have my Free Checking account converted to OPA. They agreed to this and now I have the OPA with the old Free Checking account number, which simplifies things for me.

Nothing else has really changed though. Transfers from OSA to OPA are instant just like they were from OSA to Free Checking. There's no new options in the HSBC interface, my account just has a new name and the checks they gave me are useless now. I basically traded the ability to write physical checks and the ability to deposit to checking within a branch for the ATM rebates and the APY.

Also, as far as I can tell, there's no reason why one couldn't have the OPA and Free Checking along with Online Savings if one wants to write a few checks from time to time.

It means having three accounts instead of two, and you need to make sure the debit card has the OPA linked as the checking account to use in ATMs, and you need to watch out for the "three months of inactivity changes Free Checking to a different checking account with monthly fees" issue, but at least it's possible to keep traditional checks unlike INGs account.

I actually think HSBC dropped the ball here a bit though -- not just for the low APY, which has been commented on a bit already, but for a chance to distinguish themselves from ING more. Not only can you not get traditional checks from ING, you're requiredto maintain a link to another checking account. I think HSBC should have offered limited physical checks -- something like "three physical checks allowed, any more charges a per check fee" -- that would keep the same goal of reducing physical check traffic but allowed some security for those of us who rarely use checks but can't give them up altogether.

I think I used ten checks total in the last year, but those times I really needed to have a physical check to hand someone within a limited time frame -- too long to wait for ING to send a check. And as I said, one can have free checking and the OPA with HSBC if one does the research to figure it out, but this could have made HSBC stood out more from ING by offering this as a feature of their OPA. Right now it just looks like they are copying ING but not bothering to match the APY.

Comment #2 by Banking Guy (anonymous) posted on
Banking Guy
Thanks for the correction and for sharing your experiences. I've updated the post with the correction.

That's a good idea of adding the OPA for those who already have both the Free Checking and the OSA. That does give it an edge over ING.

I wonder if anyone is totally paper-check free these days. As you mentioned, there always seems to be the need to write a quick check. I find it ironic that ING requires you to have a paper check to sign up for the EO. I think ELOAN is the next one planning an online checking. It'll be interesting to see what they will offer.

Comment #3 by Justin (anonymous) posted on
I had only HSBC Online Savings account and was given an ATM (not debit) card only. Now since I opened the OPA checking account, I am wondering if they will send me another debit card? or I have to call in and ask them to replace the card for me?

Does anyone already receive any debit card HSBC send you?