The Joys of Trying to Open a UK Bank Account


On Tuesday I set out to perform what I considered a fairly simple task – opening a UK checking account. Well, as I continue to learn, nothing in this country is ever really simple.

At Verena’s suggestion I try to open an account online with the Cooperative Bank. Because they are ethical and have good rates. I fill out the form and it wants my previous address, since I have been at my current address less than 3 months. Problem is, I can’t enter a US address. So I call and talk to one of their representatives, here’s what happens:

Them: Hello, this is [name] at the Cooperative Bank, how can I help?

Me: Hi, My name is [name] and I’m trying to open an account online. I just moved here from america and your online form doesn’t seem to want to accept an american address.

Them: Oh, let me look into that, please hold for a bit

Me: fine

Them: Ok, I just checked with somone here, and you have to be a UK resident for 3 months before we can open an account for you. You’ll have to try again around Christmas.

Me: Right, I’ll put that in my calendar.

OK, so that didn’t work, on to plan B. I head to the high street thinking that Ill just pop into a bank and talk to someone about my options. I choose Abbey because in my mind pretty much all banks are the same and Abbey Bank/Santander is a title sponsor of the McLaren F1 team. I go in and stand in the que for like 10 minutes and get to the lady behind the glass and ask who I need to talk to to open an account – she says everyone is busy and that she can make an appointment for me on Friday. Good enough for me.

Friday comes around and I get up early (9:00) and head over to the bank. I go in and talk to the bank lady and after half an hour of putting things into the computer (during which time I learn that she has a cousin who moved from atlanta to minneapolis) she informs me that because I have not lived here for 3 months, the best they can offer me is a cash machine card.

me: what is that?

her: it is a card that lets you take money out of a cash machine (with a look that says “are you retarded?”

me: so I can’t use it at a restaurant or anything like her?

her: no, only at a cash machine.

me: what about to buy things off the internet?

her: no, only at a cash machine.

me: why would anyone want that?

her: I’m sirry, but based on your residency, that is the best I can offer.

me: Ummm, yeah, that;s not really a great solution for me. I’m going to try somewhere else.

her: Ok, good luck.

So… I head further down the high street – and I gotta say, this is the nice thing about the high street, everything is there, in one place. Every major bank has branch there, ever coffee chain has a store there… which is both good and bad. Good because everything is more or less centrally located, bad because every high street looks more or less the same. Anyway, I head to the next bank and talk to a nice guy and tell him the situation I’m in and explain that I have a bunch of american money and I’ve been here couple weeks and I want a regular checking account. He says that should not be a problem and so an appointmnet is made for next week.

At the appointed time I head back to the bank, provide my information and chat about things… I learn that he went to a “charming sports bar” in Beloit, WI while in america on business. I’m guessing it was a Champps. After all the information inputting I am finally approved for a checking account that not only works at any cashpoint and on the internet and all that, but it pays interest as well. Success!


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