Moving to the UK – Bank account
4. Getting a bank account
I knew the day would come when I would need to get a bank account. I had read in a number of blogs how complicated it was to get a bank account. The banks require proof of address in the form of say a utility bill. So getting a bank account is not the first thing you would do it would seem. Turns out there are some options depending on what bank you go to. I think that they’ve caught on to the fact that a lot of people want to come to their country and want to establish credit and purchase things with debit cards.
I’ll admit that this was the driver in me getting an account, I kept trying to order things online and hitting the road block of my billing address being in the US and my delivery address being in the UK… most site just don’t like that. So I called HSBC and asked what the process was. I picked them because I had a credit card with them at one point in my life and was thinking this would be to my advantage. The guy in customer service was very nice and helpful and told me to make an appointment and go into a branch along with my passport. So I did just that.
I walk into the bank and notice a light and button beside the door. Do I push it? The door won’t open. I notice there is someone in the vestibule and there is another door that they just went through. The door inside shuts and mine is allowed to open. I get into the vestibule and have to wait for the exterior door to shut in order for the interior to open. This woman who walked in with me keeps hitting the HC button and the door keeps opening prolonging the experience. Finally she gets it. Stop hitting the button lady! It doesn’t open the door you want!! Anyway. I can see how helpful it would be if someone was trying to rob the joint and maybe you could lock them in the vestibule on their way out.
The woman I spoke with is so very unhelpful and basically talked in circles, talking me out of getting a checking account. Literally. She said that there is an account that I could qualify for, a very basic account, but because I don’t have a job the bank would have to take things under advisement and it could take up to 15 days to get an answer and then there is no guarantee that I could even get one. I was in shock. A bank that doesn’t want my money? Strange. So I left and told myself I would figure something else out. Who wants to bank with an institution like that anyway?
Skip to a few days later and one of the banks I walk past almost everyday is Natwest. I went in and asked the nice man at the desk if I could open an account. 30 minutes later after showing the nice man my passport (proof of person and legal right to be in his country), council tax bill (proof of address) and answering some questions I walked out with a checking and savings account! The branch manager was amazingly helpful and kind and remembered me when I went in a few days later. Well done Natwest.
So then I started the waiting process for my debit card. Now in the states you get one card that you use to access all of your banking accounts. Not in the UK, you get one card per account. I was surprised when 2 cards arrived. It’s the same process with the PIN, they mail it to you separately, for good reason. The things that made me laugh and scratch my head were the fact that I couldn’t just log in online to get access to my account. It was another process entirely. You have to register online and then they mail you a registration number and you have to keep track of your customer ID number that you got during your initial registration online. Then… you can get online access to your account.
The second time I got online to check my balance I laughed outloud at the complexity of signing in. It’s not like back home where you use you username and password and that’s it. You use your PIN here and a password… but in cryptic form.
and each of those fields are different every time! Needless to say, it takes some thinking. Ohhh… that made me laugh. But it’s a good thing, and like all things overseas, takes some time to get use to. Like the fact that my checking account is called a select account.
So I’m happy now with my debit card that I can use everywhere I go. The other thing about purchasing things in the UK is they use their PIN only, nobody signs for purchases. Apparently it’s an American (and I’m sure a few other country I don’t know about). And if you have never been to the UK you will also notice that in a restaurant they will not take your card to the machine to pay your bill, they bring the machine to you because they are not allowed to take your card out of your sight. I’m adding that to the List of Things I Like About The UK.