A System of Cheques and Imbalances

Living in the nation that inspired Pax Britannica, there are plenty of times when I just want to yell…

“You conquered two-fifths of the world, now ACT like it!”

…but never more so than when I’m dealing with the bank.

Oh. My. Goodness. I could start an entire blog just on my rantings about the banking system in the UK.

In fact, I think I will.  I know, I’ll call it “Lloyds is Pants” just to see if it gets deleted.

(Go ahead. Click on the link. I’ll wait…)

When our bank isn’t busy changing its customers’ passwords, it’s…. well, I’m not exactly sure what it does…

There is the time when our bank LOST a huge transfer only to realize six weeks later that they had actually credited it  to the account of a Mr. M. Durby rather than ours…That’s something, right?

Wait. I shouldn’t even call it “our” bank since apparently I’m still not allowed to bank there. This is in spite of having personally submitted the paperwork to be added to the accounts over a MONTH AND A HALF ago.

Of course, we couldn’t just go to the branch around the corner from our house. Oh no! We had to go to the branch in the middle city…

… during lunch

… on a Friday.

There were several bank employees basically milling around since Friday isn’t really considered a work day here. (Come to think of it, neither is Thursday and definitely not Monday…)

We still stood in line for over an hour to see the one sucker who was actually still taking customers.

Once it was our turn, we handed over the paperwork- completed, signed, and dated. We provided proof of our identities and our London address, copies of our marriage license, and even references and past statements from our American bank.

(All required before you can even discuss having a account in the UK, by the way, but this was just to add me to an existing account.)

It took all of five seconds for the teller to see that everything was in order. She promised to mail the papers to their home office in only God knows where and that I should be added to the account straight away…

Two weeks later, Mike received a call asking him to clarify if I was opening my own accounts, or simply being added to his. (HIS! ugh!)

Assuming it was handled from there, I didn’t think anything of popping into our local bank branch to deposit a check… er, cheque into our account.

I pulled out a deposit slip from our book, helped Avery with his raincoat, and the two of us headed across the street.

Teller: You can’t deposit a check into this account. Your name isn’t on the deposit slip.

Me: I know. It’s an old slip, but I should have been added to the account by now.

Teller: Should have?

Me: (explain, explain explain…) So, you see, my name should be on the account by now.

Teller: Well, it’s not. Do you have your own account? I can deposit it there.

Me: No, I don’t

Teller: Why not?

Me: Because I was supposed to be added to… Wait, can I open my own account?

Teller: Umm… no.

Me: Well, what can I do with this cheque? Can I cash it?

Teller: No, we can only deposit it into an account for you. If you could just give me the account number and sort code…

…and we went through this about five times. Each round my frustration and volume increased until I realized that I had become noticeably hysterical loud. I backed off and just left, too exhausted to come up with something more dramatic.

Not that arguing would get me anywhere. Anyone immigrating into the UK starts off with ZERO credit history. Even if you moved here for a job, it takes YEARS before you can get one established. So ,basically being “jobless” here leaves me… persona non grata.

Some banks will let you get around this by depositing a sizable amount of money from your home country. In our case, it was the amount that they  had “lost track” of for over six weeks…

Unfortunately, having a British bank account is a necessary evil. Most employers will only pay by direct deposit and a checking account is needed before you can set up utilities or rent a home.

The problem is, in addition to the various documents mentioned above, first and foremost you need a valid UK address before you can open an account here.

An act of the Crown helps, too.



Filed under Banking, Rantings, Undiplomatic Behavior

7 responses to “A System of Cheques and Imbalances

  1. That article is fantastic! Sorry that you aren’t on the account yet. 😦

  2. I had no idea that “pants” had that sort of connotation! Hilarious!

    Have you tried calling every single day to inquire as to the status of your paperwork and account? I find that if you can manage to get an individuals name/direct line (or even repeatedly asking for that one person if you have to call a general line) and leave a VM every day that can help.

    Still – what a pain!

  3. Paul Hayes

    Sounds like a complete nightmare! You have my sympathies.

  4. You have my sympathies too! My DH and I joke about leaving the US to either London or Paris for work (both are possibilities with the companies we work for). I’ve been reading up blogs on expats in both places. The London ones always bring up issues with BT and setting up checking accounts. Lots of luck getting this sorted out soon.

  5. Bec

    I understand completely!! 😉
    I had the bad luck to choose Lloyd’s as my bank when I moved to the UK in 2003. Your post made me smile becuase I have had the exact same “conversations” with the bank many, many times! It did not get a whole lot easier once I got my account with them…sorry! And I guess I can only smile now that I am safely back home in Oz and it was all so long ago!! But, then, as I am now planning to move back next year, at least I know what I’ll be in for!

  6. Ugh. Ugh. If you get so frustrated you decide to kick this bank to the curb (kerb? cerb? Isn’t it spelled differently here?) maybe HSBC’s international account could help– we set up a US account with them while we were still stateside and got our UK one started (they even used the bank address to start the UK account). It’s gone… okay, or at least better than it sounds like yours has gone, though I still haven’t attempted writing a UK style check, er, cheque. This is probably just assvice, though, as I’m sure they’ll get things sorted any day… or fortnight… now.

  7. That all makes any go-rounds we’ve had with our bank seem childish. Good luck getting all this sorted out.

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