Moving to the U.K. — Banking Labyrinth

So far, the leading candidates for my mobile communication needs are (a) jailbreak the iPhone, or (b) break the AT&T contract and just get a basic cell phone and plan from Three (thanks for the advice, Catherine!). I’m not sure how piratical I feel about the iPhone, though it would be excellent to not have to keep track of two distinct electronic devices.
 
The second topic in my international-transition enigma-thon concerns banking. Since Margaret will be living in the U.S., and we will retain some assets (and some very significant bills) on this side, what’s the most sensible way to order our financial lives with minimal exchange-rate losses? I gather that banks in the U.K. don’t pay any heed to credit ratings based on U.S. history (can’t imagine why that might be the case), and I won’t be able to transfer a significant lump sum when I arrive. This may make getting a U.K. credit card impossible. Any recommendations on a way of banking that maximizes ease-of-transfer to U.S. sources and also gets any possible benefit from having been a responsible financial citizen for thirty years or so?

5 comments / Add your comment below

  1. No, credit ratings don’t transfer internationally. Same when I moved to the US – you get to begin over. I suspect one of your best options may be HSBC – it seems to truly function internationally, where as things like Citibank, while having branches overseas, aren’t really international.

  2. Yes, I’m afraid it can be something of a nightmare re the credit history, as we discovered greatly to our cost when moving to the US and trying to get a mortgage. I wouldn’t be surprised if it is similar in the UK. But opening a UK bank account won’t be a problem, I am sure, as long as you have an address and some ID.

  3. While you are getting established, you can use your US credit cards at
    most ATMs and commercial venues in the UK. The exchange rate will
    be about as good as a retail (that’s individual) can get, and you need to
    check with the CC issuer about how much ‘service fee’ they will charge.
    TANSTAAFL.

  4. Hi AKMA – I’m one of those enthusiastic grad students you met at Glasgow – very excited to welcome you to the department. My husband and I found banking to be one of the most frustrating aspects of moving to the UK and it took me years to get a credit card. He managed a bit better, partly because he started having mail sent over to the UK before we even got here. Proof of address means a lot in this country. To do much of anything significant (even get a library card!) you need to have proof of address in form of bank statement or bills or the like. If you have an address in Glasgow already, it might be worth asking your American bank to start sending statements and whatnot there already (obviously the circumstances indicate whether or not this is feasible). And I would also recommend HSBC as more internationally-minded. However, they don’t have many branches in the city, which can be annoying. I would also suggest trying the Bank of Scotland. Or the Co-op bank – also not a lot of branches in the city, but they are known for their ethical investment policy.

  5. Hello. I’m one of ELizabeth’s fellow UG postgrads. I can reaffirm that banking is a massive pain, but Halifax Bank of Scotland has just unveiled a new online banking feature which allows for funds transfer between international accounts for something like £12 a transfer. To date I haven’t had any problems with the size of a transfer.

    A credit card is again a different issue as your application will hinge on how long you’ve lived in the country (cell phone plans are also this way—we’ve been here 2 years and still have to use the pay-as-you-go deals).

    Also, acceptable proof of address can only be utility bills or council tax bills. Utility bills by the way usually only come 2-4 times a year, so don’t expect one soon!

    In terms of credit it will probably be like starting from scratch, but I haven’t tried to take out a mortgage so I don’t really know the full extent of it.

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