HSBC announced that it would be rolling out a €5 fee to account-holders for banking services in Malta unless they deposited €2,300 over a period of three months.
Anyone aged 61 and over had to deposit at least €1,250 over three months otherwise they would also be asked to pay the fee.
Unsurprisingly, the new charge was not received positively by most quarters, with account-holders, private individuals and even organisations calling out what they saw as a cash-grab by a multinational bank amidst a pandemic.
The Malta Consumer Association said that banks charging fees to customers changed the entire dynamic of why people use banks.
“This system has been totally upended,” they said in a statement. “Before, consumers would deposit their savings in the bank and the bank would use the money and give consumers interest on top of their deposits. Now, we’ve entered a situation where the interest given by banks is ridiculous while they use consumers money to loan out and make more interest there than anything given by depositors.”
The Association said this change would unfairly harm pensioners and low-income earners, and warned that this might set a scary precedent where other banks begin charging consumers for previously free services.
Many took to social media to share how outraged they were over the charge, especially seeing as it was rolled out amidst a long and dragging COVID-19 pandemic.
“Do they think we print money?” said one person online. “Between feeding your family and the €800 given by the government, how can anyone deposit that kind of money? Instead of helping, they help push you down…”
“There will come a time when, just like the elderly, everyone begins leaving their money at home in a safe… that’s what these banks seem to want…” said another.
“This is a shame. Banking was made a must for the client, now we have to pay and obey their control system,” lamented another.
“This is legal robbery.”
Many urged livid account-holders to change banks if they felt uncomfortable with the new fee, with others lamented how the bank was “destroying relationships” with its customers for more money.
The new charge was announced in a note sent by the bank to its account-holders. This is just the latest serious development for HSBC over the last few years in Malta, having closed at least eight branches, including in towns like Bormla, Mellieħa and San Gwann.