This is part two of a long-running saga. Read part one.
Every time I call the Hong Kong HSBC customer service center I cross my fingers and hope, “This is it! Today I’ll finally manage to retrieve my Hong Kong checking account’s money.” Every time I slam the phone down after hours of Escheresque automated phone menus that trap callers in infinite loops and telephonic cul-de-sacs, I put my head between my legs and take deep breaths.
While working in Hong Kong in the summer of 2009, I opened an HSBC checking account for the sake of direct deposit. I didn’t know the convenience of a debit card was far outweighed by the ordeal of accessing my account once I left Hong Kong.
While talking to a customer representative I found out my acount had become inactive after not using it for nearly a year and a half. The customer rep told me I needed to write a check for 10HKD to myself in order to reactivate my account. 10HKD will be debited from my account and travel through electronic clearinghouse pipes only to arrive at the same destination and render my account active. Then I can submit an overseas wire transfer for the hundredth time on HSBC’s website and cross my fingers hoping I’ll reunite with my long lost money.
There was only one problem: I’m not flying to the other side of the world to deposit this check in an HSBC Hong Kong ATM. The customer rep said I’d have to write a letter, bring the letter to an HSBC US branch to verify my identity and account authorization, and then mail the letter.
The HSBC department that handles overseas wire transfers called me to reactivate my account and transfer the money. Hallelujah. HSBC is not so bad after all.
Advice to other people especially Columbia University’s CEO Hong Kong interns. Do not open a bank account. It’s a time-consuming process and a pain to close. Just ask your employer to pay you in cash. I’m not sure how my fellow interns handled their payroll processes, but it must’ve been a hell of a lot easier than how I did it.