Opening a UK Bank Account
17 Feb 09
Before I headed over to the UK, I had many conversations with people on various aspects of moving to the UK, setting up a UK bank account always prop up, it seemed not to be a straight forward task. Since I wanted to come over and work straight away I did some research. I found quite a number out dated forum posts of people dealing with UK banks, some had countless problems while other didn’t have any hassles.
Proving who you are to open a UK bank account is easy; as a passport is sufficient, the second and most difficult part is proving your UK address. Since I just arrived I only had my rental agreement which apparently wasn’t good enough, I needed to produce a utility bill or a UK bank statement from any British bank to open an account. Here are few of my experiences with the banks over here:
- HSBC & Citibank – Before heading off to the UK I inquired at HSBC & Citibank branches in Sydney to if they could help me setup a UK bank account. Unfortunately they don’t provide this service, as their ‘officers around the world don’t communicate with each other’. However, both banks did notify me if I had a cool $500,00.00+ lazying around they could help me sort out an account. So its true, money does talk.
- Lloyds TSB – I wanted to come over already prepared with a UK bank account, I used a third party company, FastTrack UK to open an offshore bank account on my behalf with Lloyds TSB Offshore located in the Isle of Man. FastTrack UK charges around AUD$200 (Nov 08) to open the account on your behalf and include a few extras, the only useful item was a Gold Membership to hostelworld.com. I was setup with an account & visa debit card which I collected from the branch once I arrived in London. The only downside is after 3 months a hefty monthly account fee of £7.50 kicks in. Even though this was an expensive option I am glad I went through with it.
- Abbey – Went into my local branch on a Saturday and they where unable to help me, so that was the start and end of them.
- Barclays – They made a great first impression, don’t think I have even been into a more helpful bank in my life, this happened on multiple occasions too, which is rare in my experience as a customer of any bank. Somehow they could open a bank account without proving my address (have no idea how they got around this), a passport was sufficient. It seemed too good to be true, but 30mins later I had all my account details and it was already to use. Almost 3 months down the track I still haven’t received my debit card with enables me to withdraw fund & use internet banking, but they where able to send me a cheque book without a hitch. So im still waiting for this account to be fully setup. Ill keep you updated on this one.
- Nationwide – These guys are the world largest building society with over 15 million customers. One of the main features of there account were transaction abroad didn’t incur any fees (the standard rate is around 3% for each transaction). Since I was planning to travel this was ideal. I handed over my £100 pounds (which was required) to open the account and used my statement from my offshore account to prove my address. A week later my card arrived and my account was open. To my surprise they didn’t issue me with visa debit card to use aboard, instead it was a connect card (similar to an EFTPOS card in Australia) which can only be used in the UK and doesn’t allow any internet purchases. I have to meet their list of requirements for the next 7 months before I can apply for visa debit card. Not sure if I will jump through all their hoops to get there fee free visa debit card.
Nationwide were the clear winners, but without a visa debit card the account is useless to me. Looks like ill be keeping my Lloyds offshore account until things get sorted out with Barclays. I could have tried more banks but as you see from my experince things do take time. Ill keep you posted on any updates.