What happened to HSBC in Canada?

RBC bought HSBC Canada — its 130 branches and 4,200 employees — for a cool $13.5 billion. And while that’s not a ton of branches or employees (RBC already has over 1,200 branches and 90,000+ employees), the real appeal is both HSBC’s international reputation and its mortgage products, which were traditionally offered at lower rates than other major banks in Canada (thus bumping up RBC’s competition).

The decision to leave Canada (and North America more broadly) shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone watching the news. According to an article published in The Guardian, HSBC has been at the centre of a political tug of war between China and the West, with some Chinese critics accusing the bank of being complicit in the alleged framing and arrest of Huawei’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Meng Wanzhou in Canada in 2018. Western commentators haven’t been any kinder, lambasting HSBC for siding with mainland China during the 2020 crackdown on protesters in Hong Kong.

Basically, even though Canada was a profitable market for HSBC it was time to get the hell out of Dodge, and focus on areas of its business that are even more profitable and less scrutinized.

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How will the HSBC to RBC transition impact me?

Well, the big change is that you’re now an RBC customer, not an HSBC one (at least as of March 28, 2024). This means your previous online accounts to HSBC will no longer be accessible, and instead you’ll receive communication from RBC, likely in the form of both mail and emails, about how to set up your RBC access. You can enroll in online banking with RBC using your existing HSBC credentials, until this March cut-off date. If you didn’t receive an email with a link on next steps (sent out on or around February 20, 2024), check with your HSBC bank representative.

You’ll also be sent your new card, if you had an account with HSBC that had a debit or credit card. The RBC product you’ll be issued will be as close an equivalent as they can offer to the HSBC product you had. For instance, I currently have the HSBC World Elite Mastercard, and I’ll be receiving an RBC Avion Visa Infinite (which will be my third, actually), and they’re adding on the no FX fees bonus, plus a $200 travel credit, which is pretty great, actually.

HSBC points to Avion points

But what about our points?! Well, you have until March 14, 2024 to use your HSBC points towards a mortgage credit, savings credit, to book travel, for merchandise, make donations or get a physical gift card. You have until March 25, 2024 to use HSBC points for a travel reward credit, a digital gift card, a credit card statement credit or a travel enhancement credit. Any points you have remaining after this end-of-March cut-off date will get turned into Avion points.

And here’s some good news: RBC has officially stated that HSBC Canada clients will have access to their Avion points within a week of migration. Plus, these points will be maintaining comparative value during the transition. In fact, their specific phrasing was, “all HSBC Bank Canada clients migrated to RBC will receive an Avion points balance that will have equal or higher value in the flexible travel redemption category.” Good news for travel fans, myself included.

Pros and cons of HSBC Canada’s sale to RBC

Let’s get the big con out of the way first: This transition is a major hassle as a bank customer, and if you feel frustrated (like me) I absolutely think that’s fair. Scrambling to make a decision about what to do with your points, doing research on your new RBC product, setting up entirely new online accounts… probably not what you signed up for when you became an HSBC client.

Despite all that, I think this transition could end up better for many, if not all people, assuming RBC keeps their promises and maintains parity with the product and point transitions. For one thing, HSBC Canada — and I say this without a hint of exaggeration — has the worst omnichannel experience of any bank I’ve ever been a customer of (and I’m a customer of a lot of banks). I once had to commute 45 minutes to the nearest HSBC branch because I attempted to set up online banking and didn’t receive a security code. Which completely locked my account until I could visit a branch and verify my ID. Ugh.

Suffice to say, I think most people will prefer working with RBC. And for travel enthusiasts and points collectors, Avion points are pretty darn good, certainly as good or better than your HSBC points were. In my opinion, while no doubt a headache, I actually think the transition will shake out better for most people, myself included.

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Alternative options to your new RBC Card

If you loved your HSBC card, you’ll probably be pretty content with your RBC replacement. But if this shakeup is enough to get you thinking about alternative cards here are a few to consider:

RBC Avion Visa Infinite Privilege

If you got moved to the RBC Avion Visa Infinite Privilege card, congrats! It’s a darn decent one with high earning potential and great insurance coverage. The only downside is its high ($399) annual fee, which puts it in a weight class with a lot of heavy hitters. Before committing, I’d recommend checking out the Amex Gold, and even the Amex Platinum (if you can stomach the $799 fee). Both of these cards probably edge out the Visa Infinite Privilege for point collection, and if you haven’t had them yet, you might qualify for a welcome bonus. Final verdict: Serious contender.

More: Apply for the RBC Avion Visa Infinite Privilege Card

RBC Avion Visa Infinite

The RBC Avion Visa Infinite is decent, but what really makes it special is its welcome bonus. Unfortunately, HSBC customers transitioning to RBC won’t be eligible for the welcome bonus. Still, the reason you might want to keep this card is that RBC is grandfathering perks from the HSBC card, including no FX fees, and a $200 travel credit. That might make this one of the most attractive travel cards out there right now. Final verdict: I’d keep it!

More: Apply for the RBC Avion Visa Infinite Card

RBC ION/ION+

If you get bumped to an ION (or the + version) you should know that Avion ION points are actually valued at about half of real Avion points. Meaning its earning potential is significantly nerfed. In the case of the ION+ there’s also a $4 monthly fee, eating into any potential value. I’d ditch your ION cards quickly, and either spend a bit more for a real Avion Visa Infinite Card or check out the Amex Cobalt, which also has a pay-by-month set up. Not looking to spend fees? Check out the Tangerine World Mastercard — you’ll probably earn more in cashback value than you would in Avion ION points. Final verdict: Upgrade or shop around.

More: Apply for the RBC ION+ Card

RBC Visa Classic Low Option

Ditch this card, and fast. To put it bluntly: There are better options out there for people looking to build their credit score. For instance, the RBC Visa Classic Low Rate credit card has a $20 annual fee attached to it — yet, you could get the MBNA True Line Mastercard that offers the same low interest rate but charges no fees. Final verdict: Advance to a better option.

More: Apply for the RBC Visa Classic Low Rate

Bottom line

In the world of credit cards, there really are plenty of fish in the sea. If the transition from HSBC to RBC has provided you an opportunity to shop around and make sure you’re getting the best bang for your buck, I think it’s ultimately a good thing.

For anyone looking to comparison shop to find a new credit card to best fit their needs, head over to the Money.ca guide on the best credit cards in Canada.

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About the Author

Cameron Smonk

Cameron Smonk

Freelance Writer

Cam is a content marketer with a passion for saving, financial independence, and pulling off elaborate credit card point schemes. He has worked in Fintech and Finserve (specifically Group Retirement) and loves researching and writing about finance.

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