Sunday, October 03, 2004

Historical post: a blank slate (7 May 1998)

Anyone who moves to the U.K. faces the same problem, eventually: Getting a bank account. If anything, it's worse now.

From: Eamonn Sullivan

To: diary entries

Subject: a blank slate

Getting a bank account in England is turning out to be harder than getting a place to live. My first attempt, last week, was a total failure. Without a permanent address (a work address isn't good enough), there is simply no way to get an account. I now have an address, so it should be easy, no? No.

I planned my second attempt a little bit better. I picked my company's bank -- The Royal Bank of Scotland. I brought a letter from my previous bank, a letter from my company, my lease, my passport and several other forms of identification. I even called ahead and made an appointment with my company's account representative at the bank.

The Bank of Scotland is located across the street from the Bank of England, in a section of London full of banks. In the center of this section is a giant statue of a guy sitting on a chair. I don't know who he is, but the posture is appropriate. I entered the bank at 3:55 for a 4:00 appointment and sat in a waiting area with about six other people. At 4:20, the rep finally led me to his office. Of the people waiting when arrived, I was the first one seen.

An hour later, I was still answering questions and filling in paperwork. All this for a checking account! At the end of the meeting, the rep's computer was telling him that my application was rejected. No need to fear, he said. He'll simply call my company tomorrow and get yet more information about me. Then, he'll talk with the bank's directors and put in a good word. Maybe next week they'll take my money. Wonderful.

It's an interesting sensation, being so untrusted. In the states, I have a good credit rating. I've paid off two cars, student loans, credit cards, etc. Here, I'm a complete unknown -- no credit history whatsoever. Why they just can't consult my credit rating in the US, I don't know. From what I can see, the British don't trust any information that they don't gather themselves. I'm not worried. I'll eventually get an account. But it's been an interesting walk on the other side of the credit society.

Next time, I'll move to Switzerland. I hear they're less particular.

Time for bed. Please let me know if I'm being annoying. I can send these out less frequently (and probably will when the rest of the family arrives).