Opening a bank account in the UK was probably my biggest struggle. Most banks wouldn’t go near me because I didn’t have proof of employment or bills going to my address with my name on it (to prove I lived here).
When I arrived, I stayed with a friend in his spare room for no cost. I, therefore, didn’t have any bills. I didn’t have my name on anything coming there, so I couldn’t prove my residence, essentially. Your best bet, to get your address, is to get registered for your National Insurance as soon as you arrive. Additionally, you should get yourself on the Electoral Register. This will help down the road with credit applications.
Once you have your National Insurance number, you’ll have post from the Government with your address on it. Yay! Now, you’re one step closer. Your best bet is to call the various banks once you arrive. Don’t try to do this whilst you’re still abroad. They’ll all just tell you to sort it out upon arrival. From calling around, the only bank that would consider me without employment or without anything other than proof of address in the form of my National Insurance and my passport, was Lloyds.
What you’ll need:
- Proof of Address. Get your National Insurance sorted! You’ll need this anyway, so might as well have that as your proof of address. Otherwise, if you have a utility bill, wages slip, or rental agreement with your name & address on it, that’ll usually suffice.
- Proof of Identity. You will need your passport, with your visa in it.
Other than that, I wasn’t asked to provide anything. My appointment was at a local branch and took approximately 45 minutes. After that, I was posted documents & my card, as well as my pin. Unlike Canada, you do not get a temporary card whilst you wait for your card. This was my experience three years ago. Please keep in mind, that due to money laundering laws tightening, opening a bank account seems to be getting more and more difficult.
How did I deal with not having a UK bank card for the first month of living abroad? When I first arrived, I took out £500. I used my Canadian bank card (TD) and made a withdrawal. There is a fee for this. Be prepared to pay $5-$10, depending on what your bank charges (check before you do a withdrawal). I also brought £300 with me. I figured £800 would be enough to get me by for a while. Any time I needed more money, I withdrew a large amount. The fee for doing so was the same, and I figured, since I was going to be here long term, I might as well take out a large sum, as opposed to taking out smaller sums and paying for the withdrawal fee every time.
What should you do before you leave Canada? Notify your bank that you’re moving abroad. Tell them that you’ll be abroad, but want your account to remain active/open. Tell them to expect foreign transactions. If you are paying a monthly fee for your bank account in Canada, see if you can switch accounts to avoid this. You won’t be using your card regularly so won’t need unlimited transactions. Downgrade to a free account if you can.
With respect to transfers back home, etc. there are plenty of options. The best I’ve found so far is Transferwise. For a promo code for a free transfer, click here!
With respect to credit, this is another challenging one. I was approved for my first credit card after being in the UK for 9 months. It was a mega high interest card and I was approved for a whopping £150! I spent the £150 every month and paid it off. I then applied for another card (again, another high interest card) and was approved for £1200. Flash forward three years later and I have two cards and a much better interest rate & credit limit. Alternatively, one of the best ways to build credit is to get your name on your Council Tax bill, Internet / Cable bill, TV License, and to get a mobile phone contract.