Consumers looking for a good free online checking account might be pleased with HSBC. They offer online bill pay, free checking, and the ability to zap money back and forth to various banks. Perhaps most importantly, you can move money almost instantly between the online checking account and HSBC’s OnlineSavings account for a competitive interest rate.
Overview of the Online Checking Account Solution
HSBC has a variety of accounts. If you want checking, you just apply for one of their checking accounts. They have a variety of offerings with different bells and whistles, but most people will be satisfied with the Free Checking account.
The free checking account offers:
- See update above - the account is no longer free
- Free online bill pay
- Ability to transfer money within HSBC and link to other banks
- Move money quickly to and from the OnlineSavings Account, which pays a competitive rate
Online Checking Account Setup
To open an account, just visit HSBC’s Website. You give them standard information that any bank would need. In addition, you must mail in a signature card and photocopy of your ID (driver’s license, passport, etc).
After a few weeks, you’ll get your checks. If you already use the OnlineSavings Account, you will be able to see both accounts with just one login.
Drawbacks of the Online Checking Account
As of 2009, this account charges $3/month unless you were grandfathered in and continue to actively use your account. There are some free checking options at HSBC, but you have to keep funds on deposit with HSBC or set up direct deposit into the account.
There are a few things that make it difficult to use the online checking account at HSBC. First, for many people in the U.S., there is no branch access. You’ll have to do everything over the phone, online, or via mail. Branches are mostly located in the Northeast and the West Coast.
The only other drawback is that it is fairly difficult to figure out how to open the online checking account. I consider myself to be reasonably intelligent (of course I’m biased), but it was tough to figure out what needed to happen next. Don’t expect to have your account opened overnight.
To HSBC’s credit, the customer service people were very friendly every time I called. Only one person told me he would do something that he never followed up on.
If you’re going to use the HSBC Free Checking account as an online checking account, be sure you know some of the more general disadvantages of online bank accounts.