Wednesday, October 23, 2013

You Can't Take It With You. You Also Can't Have It When You Get There. Basically, You're Screwed No Matter What You Do.

OH HEY THERE YOU GUYS. Guess what I've been doing? Nothing! Because I'm completely broke. Except that I'm not actually broke. I'm just not allowed to have any money apparently.

So here's what's happened: when I was preparing to move to the UK, I took a few hundred pounds with me to pay for things until I could get a bank account set up. I maintain that this was a good decision: given that it took me over three weeks to accomplish that (because you can't have a bank account here without a utility bill proving your address. You also can't get added to a utility bill without having a UK bank account. THERE IS A FUNDAMENTAL PROBLEM WITH THIS SYSTEM), I wouldn't have wanted to have piles of cash laying around the house all that time, and I wouldn't want to have to declare the piles of cash I was bringing into the country when I got here either. You want to try not to declare anything, really, if you want to leave immigration the same day you got there. So, I brought enough cash to last me roughly a month, intending to transfer the rest from my American account later. I figured this wouldn't be terribly difficult - people move to different countries ALL THE TIME, and I've been a client of my bank for nearly 30 years, so they will totes help me out, right?


So it turns out, I can't transfer money using online banking to a foreign bank account, even if it's mine. My only option, according to my bank, is a direct wire transfer. But before I can do that I have to register. In person. At a branch. Which is 4000 miles away. No way around it. No exceptions.

I tried everything I could think of. Can I add an authorized signer to my account, such as my dad, who can register in person for me? Not without coming into a branch to sign a new signature card. Can I close my account entirely forcing them to cut me a check? Not without coming into a branch. Can I do ANYTHING, AT ALL, to make the bank give me the money that belongs to me? Apparently not without an $800 plane ticket and a 9 hour flight so I can go to a branch. After literally hours of phone calls back and forth to customer service, the best advice they could offer me was "Maybe you should try Western Union."

No problem, I stupidly thought at first, because I am a stupid, stupid, stupid human being. I'll just open a PayPal account in the UK with my UK bank account that I now have, and transfer the money from my U.S. PayPal account to my UK PayPal account. A good idea in theory, not so much in practice. Because my new UK PayPal account is new and therefore withdrawals are limited to almost nothing. That's ok too, I'll just send them a bunch of verification crap and they'll lift the restrictions! Turns out no, no they won't. Instead they will limit my account on suspicion of fraud. They will also hold the money I did manage to transfer hostage: I can't withdraw it, and I can't refund it to my US account.

No problem, StereoNinja and I stupidly said to each other, because optimism in the face of no reason for optimism is contagious. StereoNinja's PayPal account is verified; I can send him the money and he can give it to me. We tried it. His account was immediately suspended on suspicion of money laundering; my U.S. account was suspended for reasons they haven't condescended to explain to me. I completed all of the account verification requests and backed everything up with documentation. Sorry, no go. We don't believe you are who you say you are, even after 10 years of using PayPal without a problem.

In desperation, I wrote a check to myself from my U.S. bank and took it to my UK bank to beg them to deposit it. This, apparently, can be done, but only by sending that check away in the mail to somewhere to have it verified, which may or may not take up to 60 days to hit my account. It's been roughly half of that and I haven't seen it yet, despite the fact that I did see the check clear my U.S. account after 3 days.



Anonymous said...

Banks are wankers!

Why don't you transfer the money from your US bank to StereoNinja and get him to wire it to you in the UK.

S said...

What a bollocks system. Can you mail your dad your bank cars and pin so he can withdraw the cash from an ATM and transfer to your UK account? Aside from that, I hope you're enjoying our green (grey) and pleasant (miserable) land.

Chrizine said...

Oh my god, that stuff sounds like a big pain in the ass... Glad to see that you are still there, I was beginning to be worried.

As an easier variation of S's suggestion: How about transfering money to your Dad's account via online banking (which should be possible, assuming he has a US account) and making him walk into a branch of his bank to transfer it on to you?

Anonymous said...

PayPal have all the power of a bank and yet none of the responsibility. I'd avoid dealing with them if at all possible.

Raposa na Cozinha said...

Hey, there!
I stumbled on your blog through your reviews of the "50 shades of shit" on, and I read almost all your blog! You're an awesome writer, and sound like an awesome person as well! =D

I'm sorry about your problems with the bank - I hate dealing with banks, makes me so freaking angry! They're just... argh. But hang on, everything is going to be fine =D

[Sorry if my english is a bit off, but it's my second language. I'm brazilian]

R said...

My friend who moved to England recently ran into the exact same deadlock. Here's how he broke it:

- the way to break out from the lock is to have the employer be on a very specific "verified employer address" database, his was
- banks accept certain template letters from companies on *that* list, effectively shifting the burden of providing proof of address from the person to a known company
- so the bank gave him the template, he brought it in, they wrote the thing on company letterhead, had it signed by the head of HR, took that letter to the bank, and *now* they could finally break the lock
- also, the branch in which you do this matters; one branch knew nothing and the other dealt with similar things on a daily basis

Hannah said...

But surely, as a recent immigrant, you should be entitled to a palace and have people throwing crisp new £50 notes at you so won't need to transfer any money ... (Have our newspapers reduced you to a frothing frenzy yet?)
Sorry it's all been a big pain in the arse and I hope it gets sorted soon.

Jasmine said...

Ugh, what a nightmare! Is there way you can do an online transfer from your US account to someone in the US? Then they can do the wire transfer?

I remember the drama with UK banks when I came over from Canada. It doesn't help you now but a very naughty teller told me to get a UK learners' licence with my current address on it as proof of residence.

Paul Anthony Shortt said...

My wife and I tried a move to England back in 2006. We ended up coming home to Ireland 5 months later, but getting a bank account was one of the most stressful, needlessly convoluted, and lie-filled processed we've ever gone through. Seriously, we called one bank's customer care line, where told we could bring one form of proof of address, and when we got to a branch, were told we needed two, and they were really snotty about it, as well.

I never bring cash when I travel anymore. I pay money off my credit card using online banking, and find an ATM to take the money out on that. You don't risk losing your money, and you don't pay foreign exchange fees!