How to go insane---Banking in the UK!

For the most part, life in London is "quite nice" (a UK-ism for something that is either just ok, or sarcastically really really good--you choose!) . Some of you may have even heard me casually say that my three-year vacation here may not be long enough.  But, for all the amazing bits of London, there are seriously a few that could make one jump-off-of-the-bridge insane!

BANKING is one of them.  HSBC, you have come very close to driving me crazy!

First of all, there are the hoops one has to go through to open a bank account as an expat here. It's not like in the US, where you go into a bank with $100, say, "I want to open an account" and it's done in 10 minutes.  Here, it's more like a 2-week climb of Mt Everest without oxygen.

1.  First, you need to have a place to live (which is a vicious circle all its own, because you first need a bank account!)

2.  You must show your residency Card (which you have to apply for and then pick up with an appointment, at the Post Office) and your passport.

3.  You need a letter from your employer, validating your salary and confirming that you are gainfully employed. (In the USA, who needs a job to have a bank account, lol?) 

4. You also must show a copy of your lease and a letter from your utility company listing your address. (another vicious circle, because you need a bank account and a flat, to gain utilities!)

5. You must make an appointment with the bank! (which will never be the same day--call on a Monday, you will surely get a Wednesday appointment).

6. You deposit £1750 (about $2000).

7. You wait 3-5 days for your cards to arrive. 

8. You pray that your cards work.

This is where my story officially starts. My cards arrived, and wouldn't work. Nor did the next or the next or the next ones work!  It seriously took them SIX TRIES to get a card to me with my correct name and account number! I'm not kidding! I saved them. Wrong spelling, wrong account number, wrong type of account. Who is in charge of printing cards? HSBC, there are serious improvement opportunities here!

Proof! i saved all the cards that were wrong, as i didn't think even I would believe it later!

Each time it was wrong, I had to make another appointment. By the time I went in for the 5th time, I knew Gloria's grandchildren's names (Chloe and Sophie), and she had invited to show me around the English Countryside.

English Countryside

One of the recurring themes in the UK is internet safety. To give you an idea of the security measures in place that keep us safe from Nigerian money-laundering schemes, every time an online purchase is made over £30, additional questions are asked and one goes through a "verified by visa" process... daughter's middle name and what is the 1st, 2nd, 9th digits of your password, etc....

But, if you ever happen to type in the wrong password 2 times on your Debit Card, you have to go into the bank and have your account reset. If you happen to enter the wrong password on your credit card (which is under my husband's overall account, because I'm not working and have no letter from my employer--see #3 above), then your husband must call and be on hold for an eternity, or he must go into the bank personally and reset it for you, which he loves doing.

So with all of this security in place, you might say I was a bit surprised to find that my card was once again frozen. I made an appointment, and two days later found out that it was on a possible fraud hold. Gloria goes through my purchases with me (I was not permitted to access that information by myself because of the aforementioned account freezing), and found out  that the possible fraud transaction was a £1200 pound purchase purchase of GLOW IN THE DARK NECKLACES! (about $1500!!!!). 

Actually, i'm not sure if the bracelets were included. I hope they were. Its always more fun to have both.

Many of you who know me well would say, "Oh, that's just Jean. She's must be planning a party and we are each going wear about 100 glow necklaces."  Sadly, that wasn't the case...but just try to convince the lead investigator, and it's quite another thing. So, my card was frozen for another month while they determined that it wasn't me. I had 3 sets of interviews, and by the end, I was honestly scared that somehow I really had done it and just didn't remember! 

My card is working at the moment, and I'm hoping that it stays that way.  Otherwise, Gloria and I are taking a cruise together... 
Far, Far away from HSBC.


  1. You are a hoot, but I know there is a very serious undertone here. Sorry it can’t be as easy as getting us a pod! 😁

  2. I’m so sorry for your hassle but this really made me laugh! I could have written the same story except someone tried to buy a BOAT on my account! �� I’ve lost count of how many debit cards I went through in two years.

    1. kim, that is hilarious!!! a BOAT!!!!!???? OMG!!!! I'm actually not surprised!!!!

  3. Curious, can you keep and use your American bank account/card there?

    1. Yes, we can use American cards here, but we generally don’t, for a couple reasons: we r trying to keep USA n UK charges separate on the advice of our tax consultant; also, there can be some non- favorable exchange rates and transaction fees involved.


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