Signs of the re-branding of the former Republic New York Corp. as part of HSBC USA Inc. are already evident in New York City, with branches sporting placards that trumpet news of the change to customers.
A quieter shift is also under way. Beginning Feb. 1, the automated teller machine network that Republic owned will no longer offer a free ride.
Republichad heavily advertised that it did not surcharge noncustomers who use its machines, or charge a "foreign fee" to its customers who used ATM terminals owned by competitors. With 117 ATMs in New York City, it was the largest of only four banks in the city that did not surcharge, according to the office of New York City Public Advocate Mark Green.
London-based HSBC Holdings Inc., which bought New York-based Republic at the end of 1999, will extend its surcharging policy to all 163 former Republic locations. A $1.50 fee will be imposed on noncustomers at more than 580 ATMs in New York State. Noncustomers will be notified of the charge when they use the machines.
"We don't want our customers to be subsidizing noncustomers for their use of the machine free of charge," said Linda Stryker, spokeswoman for HSBC. "We didn't want to have to pass that on to our customers or inconvenience them."
Ms. Stryker said HSBC charges its customers foreign fees depending on factors such as the type of account and number of transactions made. Those practices will be extended to former Republic customers once the accounts are consolidated later this year, she said, and customers will be notified of the changes.
Mr. Green had urged HSBC to maintain its free access policy after releasing the findings of its annual "Ranking Banking" study in December. Since the 1998 study, the number of city banks that surcharge rose to 38, from 20. The study did not reflect the HSBC merger or surcharging policy change.
A spokesman for the public advocate said Wednesday that he is "disappointed" but not surprised at the development. Jamaica Savings Bank, with 12 ATMs, is now the largest deployer that does not impose a surcharge.