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General

HSBC Credit Card and Plat5 offer: Beware!

I have been getting calls from HSBC about their “Premier Circle” program where they offer:

  • Free 3 day/2 night stay at certain hotels all over India
  • Two return flight tickets to destinations of my choice
  • 5% cash back upto Rs. 500.
  • Some kind of “buy a cruise or a sport ticket outside India and get reimbursed”.

This is administered by Plat5 (Ok, they can’t spell “principles”, but so what).

Note the specific terms and conditions.

  1. You pay 6,067 rupees. First.
  2. You wait some 25 days to get some vouchers.
  3. You fill the hotel vouchers in painstaking detail – three alternative hotels and dates at least one month away. And send them by post to Plat5. Within four months of receiving the vouchers. And not within an “exclusion” period, different for each hotel. Bookings are room only, no breakfast, no taxes.
  4. They will call or email you within 15 days, maximum 7 days to the booking date. And choose one of them dates/hotels, or tell you nothing is available and you get to choose again.
  5. You pay Rs. 250 for booking and all the taxes are extra (10 to 15% of actual room rate)
  6. That’s hotel. For air tickets, you need to send Plat5 the airline vouchers – again, 21 days before travel and before a “last date”, 2 alternative dates and 2 destinations. And pray you get one.
  7. Only the basic fare is free. Taxes and charges are extra. Those are usually more than 75% of the fare!

They have no online process. In this day and age, when I pay my card bills online, get online statements and all that. The telephone process is just to make it less useful – after all, you pay upfront, no?

And would you trust a provider whose website has no phone number, but supposedly conducts its entire business on the phone?

I had to fight to refuse the offer but HSBC has been quite persistent. I finally said I will decide after look at the terms and conditions – and they’re supposed to call back tomorrow. But my worst fears have been realized – many other people are utterly dissatisfied with the scheme.

Look at Consumer Complaints (and another). Typical problems – no one answers the phone, they are rude, your choices are limited, you get ridiculous answers like this is not possible and so on. What’s the point? You already paid up! When you pay upfront, there is no incentive to service you, the money is gone.

(Just like I noted with Mahindra Holidays – while they are now public, such complaints continue to flood the internet. When you ask people to pay upfront, you need to provide exemplary service, and Mahindra Holidays doesn’t have the capacity to service all customers. But I digress)

Now, let’s look at the financial viability of the offer.

One of the hotels mentioned, Logoa Azul, is a 3 star, and currently costs Rs. 2000 per night including breakfast and taxes. That should be Rs. 1,500 a night excluding them. Two nights = Rs. 3,000.

Air tickets – the base prices, consider the cheapest ones. I went to Cleartrip and tried a flight ticket on July 30 to Bangalore from Delhi. The base fare for the WHOLE journey is Rs. 780. So two return tickets = Rs. 1500 value, approximately. (Btw, the ticket price was Rs. 7,000 = meaning, even with this silly HSBC/Plat5 offer, I will pay 90% of what I would pay otherwise)

The cash back offer = Rs. 500, maximum.

There is one other benefit – refund of a sporting ticket in a different country – which is of no use to me.

In total, that’s a value of Rs. 5,000, for which I need to pay Rs. 6,067?

And go through all the pain – I pay HSBC, I fill up vouchers, I go back and forth with Plat5, and then I don’t know how the experience is with the actual hotel or airline. For that kind of trouble, I need a DISCOUNT, definitely not going to pay Rs. 1000 extra!

It makes no sense. Buyers, beware. You have been warned.

Note: If you’re already in, there’s next to NOTHING you can get complaining to HSBC or Plat5. The money is gone. You can take them to court for misrepresentation if you like, of course, but expect no relief without a court order. HSBC is a well known entity and if there are enough instances of abuse (or a court order) they will terminate the relationship with Plat5.

Also note that Plat5 is not doing anything fraudulent; under current laws, you as the buyer need to read terms and conditions before buying.

  • Mohan says:

    >Thanks for the post. I think by now, most of us have grown to distrust all offers that are made through cold calls or SMS.
    I got a similar sounding offer from MakemyTrip with the additional pressure of "offer valid only today, sir". On digging deeper, the caller refused to send across documentation of the terms & conditions – a clear indication of hidden evilness.

  • Veerendra says:

    >thanks for info .. sharing it.

  • Anonymous says:

    >Dear Deepak,

    I was offered this plan as well . HSBC folks were so insisting that if you don't take this plan, you are the foolest one on the earth. I also escaped by asking them to send mail with complete details about the deal. I told them that I don't have any plan to travel abroad and does not plan to go for Holidays. The lady was screaming on phone to take this offer. These are cases of gross cheating.
    Thanks for putting these things for public. I appreciate it.
    Regards
    Keshav

  • Px says:

    >Totally unrelated
    U must post on the DTC revised draft, id love to have ur take
    there is interesting stuff and PFs as predicted would remain EEE

  • Oracle says:

    >Yes. DTC version 2 blog post please.

    And there are always fools to take these kind of offers..ULIP being a daylight robbery, even govt defend that..

  • Anonymous says:

    >I had a HSBC credit card from 2005 and I left india on 2008. The card was expired on 2008 Nov itself, but my parents got a call from Fraud dept of HSBC asking me to pay 19000INR immediately.
    Being top on technology, having all required knowledge on credit card, i couldnt do much as they gave me two options,
    1. They will file a complaint against me and report CIBIL(Credit dept in India). I need to run a case against HSBC -prove -Get things cleared.
    2. Pay 19000INR.

    Guess what, I cant lose my time with Legal dept and CIBIL(which is insane), rather i choose d to be victim!

    I had 8 CC and all well maintained-now cancelled each one of them!

    My sincere Advice to every person – AVOID any cards. Have one card with lowest limit in pocket to use transactions. Use Cash. Live free and happy.

    -Indian

  • Anonymous says:

    >Thanks Deepak for sharing this info. Your blogs are a must read!

  • Yash says:

    >Thanks for reminding me, I got conned into this one last year:(. We live and learn I suppose.And wait for an opportunity to strike back, in my case;)

    Having said that, for most people, the easiest justification for the offer is the air ticket, which everyone reckons on using quickly. And then you realise the fraud called taxes and other charges in air tickets. I mean, we all know it exists, but the scale is simply amazing, and worth a post in itself perhaps. I think the cicil aviation ministry and the minister have been parroting about the need to do away with the fuel surcharges for more than a year now, with threats to go with it, but noone seems to care a damn about them. Or maybe the minister thinks his job ends with the threat.
    The same frustration applies for the Kingfisher Amex card redemptions too, where for a specific card spend, you earn 'free' tickets. The same shock awaits, when you redeem those tickets. You end up paying 85-90% of costs in any case. And these two can at least came to be customer focussed organisations, relatively. That just shows how far the maalaise has spread. Consumers really ought to beware like never before, before there is no spirit of service anymore. Everything is in the T&S, and if you miss reading those, you will not be able to stop the vacuuming of your pockets till they take out even the lint in those.

  • BRS says:

    >Wow – the devil is truly in the details. Thanks for sharing so much information, Deepak.

  • Anonymous says:

    >Hi All..

    Contrary to what is mentioned above I have personally availed the said offer from HSBC Plat5 & went for a holiday at Avalon Resorts Mussorie.. I had to pay Rs. 250 towards the booking charges & the accommodation (As they told me over the phone call) was totally free… I went my husband & it was one of the memorable trips..

    The property was really nice though not 5star..And above all its location is marvelous.. So from my side I would say that unlike others I have had a wonderful experience & I am waiting for another offer from Plat5 HSBC team.. It doesn't matter who the service provider is…cos any service provider would not loose upon its customers..

    Shiney

  • Jal says:

    >Beware the dreaded 'terms and conditions'. Especially with credit/debit cards. This problem is universal.

  • Jacky says:

    >Deepak,
    Awesome post…cleared many things and makes a good read…Cheers

    DAJ also has been working for quite sometime now to help people invest in improving their Financial IQ…Visit http://nobleconsultants.blogspot.com/ for providing your valuable comments

  • unanymous123 says:

    >THIS COMMENT IS ABOUT HSBC PREMIUM CIRCLE OFFER WHERE THEY PROMISE TO GIVE YOU SOME WATCH OF RS. 4000/- ABSOLUTELY FREE ALONG WITH OTHER TALL CLAIMS. THIS WHOLE THING IS A COMPLETE FRAUD.

    Dear All,
    Today, I received an email from Heritage Group/Plat5 Consultancy in relation to my Ticket Bookings. I had already paid Rs. 6055 on 30th January, 2010 by debit of my credit card amount. At that time, I was promised to give a watch worth INR 4000/- , a two nights three days stay in some resorts which I choose from the list and to and fro air ticket to certain destination. At that time, I was not told any extra payments required to be done. However, when I got a reply for ticket booking Hyderabad-Delhi and Delhi-Hyderabad, I was told to email an authorization to Heritage Holidays to bill Rs 5,640/- ( Rs 5,640/- towards Airport Tax/Surcharges ) on my HSBC credit card.
    I not only got a shock but almost fainted by looking at such a massive fraud.
    I have replied them saying that I will not authorize them to debit my credit card account and not to proceed with the ticket booking. I am also contemplating to initiate legal actions against HSBC Bank, and Heritage Group.
    I agree with the Complainant. The service is pathetic. The paltinum5 Premium offer of HSBC Bank Credit card offer is a fraudulent offer. They make so many tall promises when they call you up but when you get to know details, it will be too late as the options are very limited. In fact, regarding hotels and resorts, they say that it is 4 stars and 5 star but they are not. For example, recently, I stayed in a Resort called Logoa Azul in Goa on self expense which is one of the resorts selected under this programme of Premium offer. This resort is NOT a 4 star one. Rather, this is not a resort which deserves any star. Similarly, there are many conditions and terms and very stupid policies they have which makes the offer useless most of the time. Like, there are restrictions on utilization offer like some months depending on places are excluded during which you cannot utilize your voucher. Another funniest thing for example is you can fly Kolkata to Hyderabad and from Hyderabad to Kolkata, but you cannot fly Hyderabad to Kolkata and Kolkata to Hyderabad on which point I am still fighting with them.
    The whole scheme looks like a scam orchestrated by HSBC Bank in connivance with some private company. I am soon lodging a complaint on this with HSBC Bank or its banking ombudsman and if no satisfactory reply is received, I am thinking to complain it to RBI. I am not sure and do not know if there will be anything positive, but I think we must try not to let this scam happen.
    Another irritating aspect is their call center heritage. Most of the time, they do not receive the calls despite phone ringing, and ask in typical Hindi accent and in a very monotonous sound and frequently say 'Haan ji' in Hindi without anything caring about whether the person calling knows Hindi. While customer will be talking in English, they start immediately talking in Hindi, sometimes leaving the customers wondering what she is saying.
    Another absolutely disgusting thing about them is that it looks they are shortage of men power or have been crowded with cheap labour in the markets who do not have enough energy to respond calls. Even when phones are ringing, no one picks up the phone and bothers to respond. It happens 9 out of 10 times and this will make a really frustrating experience to you.
    We must protest against this corporate scam.

  • Anonymous says:

    >Dear All
    As a shreholder in HSBC I am very concerned about their behaviour.I am building a case against HSBC Bank, I am going to ask The RBI to investigate the Bank with reference to the complaints that is being lodged.

    Please go to this site http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cB3vbb9Tx7E

    This is an interview that I did concerning HSBC.
    If you would like to send me your complaint I will do everything to help you.

    Kind regards
    Michael Mason-Mahon

    E-mail: ckmdm@aol.com
    Mobile: 0044 7834763544

  • Anonymous says:

    >Thanks for this post

    I got this program through SBI privilege circle and it was thru PLAT 5 . It turned out to be a big trap , lost my money . No one should go for it . There something grossly creepy about Plat5 group.

  • Das says:

    Dear All,
    HSBC PMS had collected 25 lakhs from me along with other 600 – 700 members in 2007 with Capital Guard security. After four years, they paid me 2,550,000/- a mere gain of 50,000/- Rs. Don’t ever trust the HSBC PMS. They are fraud. More so with any such Fund Managers as they think, it is someone’s money, why should they make profit for others. They get their salary and all other benefits even when their clients loose their hard earned money. I bet, Fixed deposits are best and risk-free.
    More details can be furnished with in this column if any member of this scheme or reader wishes to know. Pls. email me at vhdas@yahoo.com
    Regards,
    A Victim

  • Ansal says:

    Thanks for this article, now I will be alert about the HSBC CC Fraud.