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HSBC Customers: Welcome to First Niagara

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HSBC plans to sell 195 of its bank branches in upstate New York and Connecticut to First Niagara Financial Group as part of a $1 billion deal. If you’re a current HSBC customer in that region, it’s time to reassess the merits of your checking account.

As part of the deal, First Niagara will acquire more than one million bank accounts and roughly 250,000 credit card accounts, says spokesman Jeff Schoenborn. HSBC and First Niagara will be reaching out to affected accountholders in coming days, but say it’s business as usual until the transaction is completed, likely early next year. At that time, First Niagara will give customers new account numbers, as well as new check books, debit and credit cards. “Customers should expect a seamless transition,” says Robert Sherman, a spokesman for HSBC.

Those HSBC customers in transition can expect changes to the terms and fee structures of their accounts, bringing them more in line with First Niagara policies, says Greg McBride, a senior financial analyst at Bankrate.com. Mark Rendulic, the executive vice president of retail banking at First Niagara, says most will be transferred into a comparable First Niagara banking account, but that the bank is also considering creating new products.

As it stands, some current HSBC customers may see costs decrease. HSBC, for instance, currently charges a monthly fee of $3 for its basic checking account, while First Niagara offers a similar product for free. Both offer similar higher-tier “Choice Checking” accounts, but First Niagara has a lower balance requirement to waive the monthly maintenance fee ($300 versus $1,500). It also offers two benefits HSBC does not: a free order of checks and two free non-First Niagara ATM transactions each month.

Those ATMs may prove a boon for some customers and a pain for others. Customers primarily looking for local ATM access will see more options under the transition. Schoenborn expects that First Niagara will have about 200 bank branches in New York after the deal closes next year, up from 117 currently. But travelers used to the broad ATM and branch access of HSBC, which operates in 88 countries, are likely to feel cut off. First Niagara operates in just four states: upstate New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Massachusetts.

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    • Long wait time disconnected twice and no satisfaction. Credit card decided not to work on log in this time. Now I have to re-register…locked out.
      Card and checking acct cannot be linked….very inconvienent.

    • To use the same currency of corsue it hard for a poor country among the other to sale thire production. But for a rich country among them of corsue it is easily. They are richer and they have higher tech so they can do better, faster and they can sale cheaper. So rich country keep growing bigger and faster, but the poor have nothing to do, no money, low tech, move production slower, but have to sale at the very competitive price !. It means the poor keep poorer and the rich keep richer. Therefor, the poor country have to stay away from the community and run thire economic independently by thire own county. So the euro union will have to turning up side someday in the futur with no doubt about it.

    • I live overseas as well. Wow, this entire FN thing is silly. Not helpful. Just “call us during our operating hours” – woops that is in the middle of the night for me on the other side of the world. Not a nice change. I’m closing my FN account.

    • Ive have gotten nothing but a run around on this change.I think that the bank should take care of everything Not us customers thats what we pay you for Also the on phone banking sucks cant get anything done I was on hold for a half hr. and finely just gave up

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  • Pay Dirt examines the millions of consumer decisions Americans make every day: What to buy, how much to pay, whether to rave or complain. Lead written by Quentin Fottrell, the blog examines these interactions, providing readers with news, insight and tips on shopping, spending, customer service, and companies that do right – and wrong – by their customers. Send items, questions and comments to quentin.fottrell@dowjones.com or tweet @SMPayDirt.

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