Opening a UK Bank Account
The only thing nearly as frustrating as getting an NI Number is getting a UK bank account. Bank staff seem to take great pleasure in giving you misleading information, making you have to come back to them loads of times hoping that one day, you might have enough information to open an account.
I was lucky because I was able to get a bank account with the Bank of Scotland up in Glasgow very easily. All I needed to show was some ID, proof I was employed and proof of address. I used my passport, a letter from my temping agency, and a handwritten envelope from my mum that had come from Canada with a letter in it. Proving your address can be the tricky part for new arrivals, and I was so incredibly lucky that the letter from my mum was enough. I'm pretty sure that 99.9% of banks wouldn't have let me open an account with that.
The only major problem with this new account of mine was that the cash card I was issued with - a 'Solo' - is only good for use in the UK and can't be used overseas. I enquired about getting a card I could use elsewhere but was told I had to have been resident in the UK for three years.
In London opening an account is far more difficult. There are so many travellers in the city and the banks are onto us. To open an account with Barclays, I had to have Bank of Scotland statements for three previous months as well as a utility bill or something similar to prove my address. It wasn't enough that my address was on my old bank statements. To make things worse, I had to arrange an interview, taking time off work to sit down with a consultant who went over all of my documents before granting me an account. By the end of the ordeal I think I had shown her three months worth of bank statements, a gas bill with my name and address on it, my passport, and a letter from my employer.
I decided to fill in a creditcard application and was amazed when a Barclays Visa card arrived at the house a few weeks later. I was also issued with a Visa Electron cash card which isn't very good as you can't usually use it on the internet. The best card to get is a Switch or a Visa Delta. Barclays also has Visa Delta cards but, even though they felt I was worthy enough to get a creditcard, they wouldn't issue me with Delta which is essentially just a cash card! Can't understand it.
If you want to pass by all the red tape of the world of banking in the UK then I'd suggest getting in touch with First Contact. This company will, for a fee, somehow make getting a bank account much easier. It doesn't seem fair that you should have to pay to be able to get a bank account quickly, but if you've just arrived and don't have proof of address then this might be the only option.
UK BANK ACCOUNTS:
MONEY & COSTS