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Avoid The Union Plus Credit Card

by on November 30, 2010

Update 3.14.2011: The card has made a few updates that we think are great. Now the card has no annual fee, (instead of $0 to $39). Kudos to HSBC.

We are appalled at the popularity of the Union Plus Credit Card, issued by HSBC. The UnionPlusCard website states that nearly 2 million people carry this card, but after analyzing the terms, we are perplexed as to why anyone in their right minds would apply for the card.

Since the card is geared toward union members, and specifically offers discounts and benefits for union members, we can only imagine that the card is popular solely because of clever marketing.  Much like card companies make a killing offering sub-standard credit cards for college students by aggressively marketing on campuses, Union Plus and HSBC probably work with union leaders to target their members.  And much like most college-branded student credit cards are intrinsically flawed, the Union Plus Credit Card is not the best deal for most union members.

The bottom line

If you qualify for this card, then you qualify for a better card somewhere else. Never sign for a card simply because they claim to have your best interests at heart; do some research to find what’s actually best for your own lifestyle.

  • If you pay off your balance every month, you should be earning rewards to the fullest extent possible. You can score an awesome rewards credit card, which will effectively get you something like 2% rewards. The Union Plus pays no rewards.
  • The main perk advertised by this card is access to “exclusive discounts”, yet most other issuers offer similar, if not better, discounts through their own online credit card malls.
  • If you don’t pay off your balances every month, you can find a low interest card geared towards your own level of credit.
  • Either way, you can get a card with no annual fee, instead of this card’s annoying $0-$39 annual fee. “Apply first, we’ll tell you later”, seems to be UnionPlus’s mantra.

Here’s our beef

  • The Union Plus card earns no rewards. Even many tiny neighborhood credit unions offer rewards. This means by using this card, you’re losing out on rebates of at least 1-2% on every dollar you spend.
  • Instead, you get Union Plus benefits that can be found almost anywhere. Like access to a coupon center. See for yourself.
  • The UnionSafe hardship assistance advertised here really has nothing to do with your credit card, and is a benefit that almost any union member can apply for, as far as we can tell.
  • In our opinion, the website appears to violate US consumer protection laws by not showing a “Schumer Box” detailing pertinent information about rates and fees. We’re not lawyers, but this is probably a breach of the Truth In Lending Act of 1988. If you want to find out what’s going on with the card before you apply, check page 11 of this PDF. Chances are, most applicants won’t find this before clicking “Apply Now”.
  • The listed annual fee ranges from $0 to $39, but you don’t find out what you’re going to be charged until you apply. This strikes us as odd, because it’s not only bad business, but it’s bad marketing. That’s not a common combination in the credit card market.
  • The upfront balance transfer fee and cash advance fee of 4% are very high. These fees are generally 3% or less at other banks. Fees of 4-5% are the exception, not the rule.
  • The interest rates are off the charts, and you can be charged up to 23.24% interest, but the actual rate isn’t specified until you apply. Your cash advance APR is also guaranteed to be atrocious – it’s 23.99% no matter how good your credit is. Meanwhile, if you’re looking for a credit line rather than rewards, you can get 0% on balance transfers for 21 months with a few credit cards right now.

It’s not all bad

  • The foreign transaction fee of 1% is actually pretty decent.
  • Many other banks charge 3%, and since networks like Visa and MasterCard charge 1% fees of their own, very few credit cards charge less than that.

Unfortunately that’s not nearly enough of a benefit for us to recommend this card.

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  • Agreeablesort

    I agree the HSBC Union Credit Card and HSBC SUCK! I was told by HSBC it was the best card to have while traveling abroad. I called Union Plus before leaving for europe to tell them I would be using the credit card abroad. They said “no problem” and supposedly made a note of it on my account.
    I left for Amsterdam and I was charged for meals which I did not eat. When I checked in to hotel I was told by hotel staff breakfast was not included with the room. Breakfast would be an extra charge. It charged 16 euros per breakfast. There was no description on my reservation whether breakfast was included or not. When I checked out I was charged by the manager for breakfast everyday I had stayed at hotel. The manager told me I had received “bad” information by the staff but breakfast was included and it did not matter if I ate or not I was going to be charged. I notified HSBC I was over charged and they told me there was nothing it could do for me.

    Later on in the vacation I was locked out of my HSBC card rendering it totally useless. I received an email saying I needed to contact Union Plus to get it straightened out. I emailed back and I asked if I could get it straightened out via email and they wrote back saying “no” I would have to contact them in person. I had to pay $2.99/ minute to contact Union Plus and after several minutes on hold they said they had fixed the problem.

    It was a week later and I was locked out of my Union Plus card again for no reason. My payment was not delinquent nor was it over the limit. When I got back to the states I paid off the balance in full and destroyed the card. One would have to be desperate to apply for the HSBC Union Plus card. It and Union Plus and HSBC are worthless.

    • Irina

      I have three types of balances on my Union Plus Credit Card account, two types of balances are transfers with 2.99% interest rate and one type – purchases with 14.99% interest rate. I made payments on my account which significantly exceeded the minimum payment. When I tried to find out how much money I had in my purchases account with higher interest rate before the payments and after, even their Managers could not answer my question. They advised
      to send my enquiries in writing to their PO Box in Salinas, CA.

  • Coopcomgrp

    Have had the card since 1992. Called today to check on a rewards program and none. Would like to use the card but I’ll put it back in the safe. Great reward for having the card for 20 years.

  • A. Hearod

    short version…. HSBC called my husband and said we were 8 days past due on 50.00 payment. My husband feeling bad for forgetting…agreed to make the payment plus the next months payment. The next months payment went up 75.00 as a penelty for being late on previus one. after logging on to my checking I also see that their was a 14.95 fee for paying by phone. My husband swears that they did not inform him of this either or he would have never agreed. He knows that I could have made the payment online in about 30 seconds for free. Sad thing is so does the HSBC representative also knew this!!! Why would she not suggesst that we do that instead of ripping us off 14.95!!! so you see it did no good for my husband to make an extra payment…..we still gor screwed!!! I will never recommend this card to anyone else!!!

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  • rykytr

    Union people are not very bright. Heck a 30 watt bulb is brighter than most Union members. They are too dumb to figure out their Unions figured out another way to gouge them to bankroll Union officer’s outrageous salaries, benefits, jets, and “entertainment”.

    • Agreeablesort

      I do not understand you rykytr. Are you saying you have never been lied to about anything in your whole life? If you have been lied to then tht makes you in the same catagory as those you critisize. It sounds like you are quintessential imbecil that does not have the ability nor capacity to stay on topic.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1268793520 Sean Smith

      Cut it out, you moronic troll.

    • bigdaddy

      hey numb nuts you can thank union members for all benefits,health care,paid vacations.paid holidays,pensions,annuities,THE FIVE DAY WORK WEEK.In 2005 my nine year old daughter needed a liver transplant,she got one praise the lord,and now she is doing great.The total cost of the transplant:over one million dollars.My wife and i paid less then $250.00 in co-pays.Her anti rejection medicine costs $550.00 monthly.We pay $0.When ignorant people dont understand something they look like idiots in front of the whole world.Yes lets do away with unions and watch us all have working conditions like China.Happy now?

    • mac mc cabe

      the only plausible reason i can see for this blog is the opportunity to take a slap at unions. having been a union guy since ’55 i’ve seen the good, the bad (and yes, the ugly). put them on a scale, good far outweighs the others.
      oftentimes a remark like this is from someone disappointed s/he couldn’t join a union and that’s sad because s/he missed a good ride.

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  • Ron

    Without unions we would all be like the Mexicans,working long hours,no benefits having to come to work sick and passing their germs off to everyone and for all of their so called hard work still live 10 people in a two bedroom apartment.As long as they get to play soccer on Sundays they are stupid oops i mean happy White man takes a job charges an arm and a leg lets say $50,000.00 for trade he probably knows nothing about pays 10 Mexicans peanuts lets say a thousand dollars a piece that’s 10 G.Net profit for whitey 40G.

  • disqus_rEsIA0wrxu

    Article not accurate I get rewards of 2% on my union plus card.

  • disqus_MzvnMDMSp4

    Had the card and used it for 21 years. It used to be a great card for union members – low interest and skip payments. My husband died this year, and I charged his funeral expenses. Then was I late (less than 60 days)with a payment, and they slapped on a fee and jacked the interest rate up to 25 percent. I called to see if they would reverse the penalty rate, but they would not. Way to treat a loyal customer. I cancelled the card, and I’m posting my unhappy reviews.