I have been a MasterCard / Direct Merchants Bank / HSBC Card Services card member consistently since January 2006. During these past 3.5 years, I have made consistently substantial payments on time every month with the intent to quickly pay down my balance. For any legal assistance I had chosen to confide in, I would be glad to provide copies of all statements, or a list of payment date details that demonstrates my history of early, timely payments every month.
From January 2006 to May 2009, HSBC had consistently mailed statement/billing materials to me on time so that I typically received these items on about the 25th of every month. In response, my most consistent date range for mailing payments has been between the 26th-2nd of the following (due) month. The HSBC due date range has always been 12-15th of each month. Again, I can provide a list of this information along with proof, if so desired (i.e., a list including all statement dates, payment mail dates, HSBC receipt dates, amounts paid, amounts due, and actual due dates throughout my entire 3.5-year history with HSBC so far).
As it is my monthly habit, I began watching my mail starting on June 25, 2009 for the usual HSBC billing materials. When I still did not see anything by June 30th, I became concerned about this unprecedented problem.
On the morning of July 1st, I accessed my account on the HSBC website to explore all possible payment options. On their "contact" web page, they list 3 ways to pay; online, over the phone, and they provide physical addresses for mailing payments. I recognized the "City of Industry" address that is always printed on my HSBC envelopes. Since it was only July 1st, and I had until July 13th, I felt encouraged to mail my payment just as I have always done in the past. I very carefully copied the appropriate address listed on the "contact" web page, I double checked that information, and I mailed my payment in my own plain, generic envelope. I have very clear (print) handwriting, and I was very careful to double check the legibility of my written address on the envelope. At that same time on July 1st, I printed out 2 copies of my "Account Summary" from the HSBC website; one for my records, and one to include with the mailed payment. On a separate sheet of paper, I used my printer to clearly list my name and full card account number. I included these 2 pages along with my check so that I could be quickly and easily identified.
On Friday, July 3rd, the HSBC billing materials had finally arrived...8 days later than the usual arrival time.
On Monday, July 13th, it occurred to me to check my bank account online and my account on the HSBC website to verify when my payment was posted. I had expected to see something posted anywhere during the week of July 6-10th, as this would be close enough to my usual timeframe. I was shocked to see that nothing was posted yet.
I called 1-800-379-7999 and tried to explained that, because the HSBC bill/envelope did not arrive to me until July 3rd, I had mailed my payment without it on July 1st in an effort to be on time. However, while I was talking, the representative interrupted me to verify which address I used. His voice was so extremely loud that I sometimes had to hold my phone 2 inches away from my head to avoid ear pain.
Without responding at all to what I had just said about the HSBC bill/envelope not arriving until July 3rd, and that I had mailed my payment without it on July 1st, he immediately launched into what sounded like a well rehearsed, glib speech about how regular mail payments take an average of 10 days to arrive.
It became clear to me that he was not listening to me. With his big "10 day" speech, he seemed to think that I had said I mailed my payment on July 3rd. Based on his "average arrival time" theory, I had actually given my payment 12 days to arrive since I had mailed it on July 1st.
When I tried to explain (again) that the HSBC bill was very late and did not arrive to me until July 3rd, I heard him make what sounded like a smirking sound. He proceeded to blame the US postal service and continued with his talk about "an average of 10 days." To this, I finally said that my own personal experience has been that there is an average of 5 days between my payment mail dates and the HSBC receipt dates. But in his big "10 day" speech, it never seemed to register with him that I said I mailed my payment on July 1st. He indicated that I would just automatically be charged a late fee...and that is all there is to it. He also made a lame attempt to just immediately blame the USPS.
On Tuesday morning, July 14th, I noticed that HSBC simply penalized me over someone else's mistake. Also, when I looked back in retrospect at the "contact" web page on the HSBC website, I noticed that there is a typographical error in the posted "City of Industry" address. Two numbers are switched around in the zip code. Ironically, I had very carefully copied down an incorrect zip code in the address provided on the HSBC website. By July 14th, I was comparing this error to the "City of Industry" zip code provided in all of my paper statements from the past 3.5 years.
Of course, it can be possible for regular mail to be outrageously slow...both coming and going...for a single monthly transaction...even though this has never been the case before in my 3.5 year history with HSBC. I have never received a bill this late before. Ultimately, however, I have to ask myself...what are the odds? I also have to consider this together with the suspicious behavior of that call rep on Monday evening, July 13th, as well as the payment mailing address zip code typographical error on the HSBC website. At the time of this writing, it is July 16th, and my payment is still not showing up anywhere. This has never happened to me before.
It looks as though my best recourse for the future is to make online payments just as soon as new monthly statements are posted on my account web page...immediately after I print out a few copies for my own records. This can also eliminate the HSBC ability to try to blame USPS. The only reason I have not made payments online in the past is because of the sleazy and insulting little rip-off gimmicks MC/DMB/HSBC is always mailing me, which only cause them to lose credibility in my view, and I did not care for the idea of letting such people have direct electronic access to my current bank account.
As far as the unfair late fee is concerned, I am also considering the possibility of acquiring legal assistance in this matter. If anything, it should be ME who charges HSBC a late fee.
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