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Is HSBC about to slash its regular saver to 1%? Fears sparked after customers sent wrong welcome packs

Is HSBC about to slash its regular saver to 1%? Fears sparked after customers sent wrong welcome packs

HSBC has raised fresh fears that it could be about to slash the interest rate on its regular savings account after accidentally sending emails to customers showing a reduced rate of just 1%, MoneySavingExpert.com can reveal.

HSBC and First Direct both currently offer regular savings accounts paying 2.75% AER, which are among our top picks. But when sister bank M&S Bank closed its own regular savings account – which also paid 2.75% – to new customers earlier this month, we warned that HSBC and First Direct could follow suit and cut or withdraw their own offers.

Now we've had two separate reports from MoneySavers who recently opened an HSBC regular saver and got a  welcome email listing the account's interest rate as 1%. The emails said this rate was correct as of Tuesday 24 November, suggesting an interest cut could be in the pipeline for next week – though HSBC has refused to confirm whether this is the case and insists the emails were sent by mistake.

Both customers later received follow-up emails from HSBC apologising for a "technical error" which led to them receiving the wrong welcome packs, and were sent a new version listing the current 2.75% interest rate.

Even though it's unclear if the rate on HSBC's regular saver will drop next week, if you bank with it and have savings, then it's worth opening an account now as it offers 2.75% interest, which is locked in for a year. To check if a regular saver is right for you, and for all our current top picks, see our Regular Savings guide. And for help searching out the best savings interest rates, see Top Savings Accounts.

What did the emails say?

MoneySaver Man Tai Tseung, 55, from Manchester, told us he applied for an HSBC regular savings account last week, but was surprised when the welcome pack he received this week listed his interest rate as 1%.

He said: "This looked strange until I saw 'Rates correct as at 24 November 2020' at the bottom of the summary box, which is in the future.

"I contacted HSBC and they confirmed that they had mistakenly sent me an email which was intended for new customers after 24 November 2020."

MoneySavingExpert.com has also seen an identical email which was sent to another customer, who asked not to be named. Though it's not clear exactly how many people were sent the wrong welcome packs, HSBC has admitted they were received by a "small number" of customers.

How to max out your regular savings interest

We've already been telling HSBC and First Direct current account customers who want to take advantage of the 2.75% regular savers to go quick in case the banks follow M&S Bank and cut their offers. And while HSBC hasn't confirmed whether there will be a rate cut, these emails should be an extra nudge to get your skates on.

You'll need a current account with the relevant bank to open a linked regular saver, and once open you can deposit £25-£250 a month with HSBC, or £25-£300 a month with First Direct. Both let you carry your allowance over, so if you don't pay in the max each month, you can pay more in later. No withdrawals are allowed during the term and, after 12 months, your money will be transferred into an easy-access account with the relevant bank. 

If you don't have an HSBC or First Direct current account, we're checking with the banks how long it would take to open a current account with them and then take out a regular saver. But in any event, you may be able to beat HSBC and First Direct's current rate of 2.75% with a regular saver linked to a different bank.

For example, NatWest and RBS both pay 3.04% variable interest on their regular savings accounts, and let you deposit £1-£50 per month. Again, you'll need a current account with the relevant bank to open a linked saver – and both banks currently have switching bonuses, of £125 for NatWest and £100 for RBS. We've full info in our Regular Savings Accounts guide.

What do the banks say?

HSBC told us a "small number" of customers had been sent the wrong welcome packs, but declined to comment further on why this had happened or rule out a rate cut next week.

A spokesperson told us: "We regularly review our products, and at this time have not announced any changes to our Regular Saver. Should we make any changes in the future, we will update you accordingly."

When we asked HSBC's sister bank First Direct whether it had any plans to change its regular savings offering in light of the HSBC emails, we were sent the same statement.