Mon, 12 Mar 07

Frustrating user experience with Hsbc online banking

Update – 9th Jan 2013
I received an email toward the end of last (thanks, Nick) pointing out that when you choose a payee from the list of beneficiaries (e.g. HMRC SA AS SHIP) you’ll be presented with their sort code and account number on the next screen. If it doesn’t match what you’re expecting you can go back and choose another entry from the list.

Update – 15th Feb 2012
I’ve removed the table of sort codes and account numbers that used to live at the bottom of this page. I received an email from someone (thanks, Adam) that had found this page and realised that at least one of the entries in the table was incorrect (the one for HMRC SELF AS CUMB). I don’t want to host incorrect information but also don’t want to maintain the table so the easiest thing for me is to remove it.

I’ve also just had a quick play with attempting to pay a HMRC bill using the HSBC friends and family mechanism. It looks like the error message is at least a little clearer now, beginning, “Sorry, the details you have entered match a beneficiary on our pay a bill or organisation list.”

Update – 27th Feb 2010
I’ve updated the table of sort codes and account numbers based on comments (via disqus) and emails I’ve received. I obviously can’t make any guarantee as to the accuracy of this data.

Update – 15th Apr 2009
I’ve updated the link to the hmrc bank account site and added a table (to the bottom of this post) of sort code and account numbers to their cryptically named counterpart based on some of the comments to this post.


I needed to pay some money to HMRC to cover my tax. HMRC kindly supply me with their sort code and account number so that I could transfer the money directly from my bank account. Logged into Hsbc, I entered the relevant details and tried to make the payment. Instead of going through like a good payment should, I was presented with this useless error message.

“We are unable to deal with your request. Please call us on 0845 600 2290 quoting reference 841, and we will be happy to help. Select an option from the left-hand menu to continue.”

I happen to know that, in English, this means, “You have tried to make a payment to a known bank account using the Friends and Family option. You’re a dumbass. It’s obvious that instead of blindly typing in the sort code and account number, you should select from this helpful list of accounts that we already know about.”

Hmm, now if only I knew which of 12 cryptic names to choose I’d be away… Anyway. A short phone call later, filled with such insights as “lots of people seem to phone up about this”, and, “we can’t give out the list of names vs sort codes as it’s against data protection”, I was all set. For anyone that cares, the sort code and account number I had (10-50-41 and 23456000) match to the incredibly obvious ‘HMRC CORP TAX SHIP’. Actually, I’ve just come across a page detailing all the different HMRC accounts and what they’re for. A quick scan suggests that you can probably derive the cryptic Hsbc name from the more human friendly name on that page.

If anyone happens to come across this page while searching for the error above, maybe you could leave details in the comments of the sort code, account number and Hsbc cryptic name, in order to help out any future visitors.

It’s been pointed out, by Zaib via email, that there’s a list of these bank accounts on the hmrc site. I’d definitely recommend checking that official site in order to be confident that you’ve got the correct sort code and account number.