Friday, April 11, 2008

O Happy Day!

I finally got the PIN to my ATM card!!! Dance of joy!!!

Now, while this may seem like a non-event to those of us who have spent our lives in the US, let me explain. I don't think I've yet told the saga of "kristina trying to get her ATM & Credit Card.." If I thought Ikea was Hell, Banking in the UK is surely Purgatory!

I knew several weeks before moving the UK (that's like 2 months ago by now..) that with Amazon's help, I could set up a bank account and get a credit card at NatWest. Cool. I was told the process would take 2 weeks for the bank account and another week or so for the credit card. Cool! I even emailed the paperwork over from the US before leaving. Two months ago. remember this.

I arrive in the UK, and after a week am told the bank needs the 'originals' to the paperwork. OK. No problem. I mail it in. On March 26-3 weeks after I arrive and 5 weeks aftere I've submitted even the first hint of paperwork-I get my bank account. I then am told, my ATM card is on it's way to your home. Cool.

Two Saturdays later, I just happen to be home at 9a, when the mail courrier comes. I have a package to sign for. It's my ATM card. I had NO IDEA I had to be present to sign for it (which likely explains why Sarah never received her card...), I just happened to be at home. Cool. I'm in business!

Wrong. I still need my PIN. Which, I have to apply for seperately, and will be mailed to me seperately. OR I can go to my local branch bank and receive. There's literally a NatWest downstairs, so I pop out at 9.30a on Saturday, March 29-10 minutes after receiving the card. I am told by the teller, 'oh. your account is in Jersey. we can't do anything for you in the local branches.' Jersey, folks, is the offshore place I was told to set my account up at-for tax purposes. whatever. like i ever have to do anything 'for tax purposes' given what my income is here. the best the branch can do is mail the application form for me. but WAIT. the address the bank has for me is the corporate housing address and I'm moving to my permanent housing in the next weeek. so, I have to also change my address. which the local branch can't do. grr..

Monday comes, and I call Jersey to request an address change. I have to mail in another form. And pray it gets there and gets processed before the PIN is issued. Well, thank my lucky stars it was-hence the delivery of my pin to my house just now. 8 weeks after I started this proces.

Oh, and the credit card?!?! First one was mailed to the old address last week. A. I have to be present to sign for it. and B. It's my old address. So, I then had to call the bank up (not Jersey..) and request an address change, have the first card cancelled, and request a new card. I requested that it be mailed to work. If I'm lucky, it will come some time next week. 9 weeks after I started this process.

So, in the time that I've been here, I've charged just a few things on my US credit cards (freakin 3% 'international transaction fee'), and paid for most things with cash. Food, beverages, touristy things in Edinburgh, transportation, 'stuff.' I feel like I'm bleeding cash. Which, I basically am.

But, with the arrival of my PIN today, I can stop tapping into the US account and start actually using the money that's been sitting in my UK account and inaccessable.

This process has been the bane of my existence since I arrived, and has wasted so much of my time. I don't know if it's this bad for folks who move to the US from outside the US, but if it is, I can certainly sympathize.

My American Optimism has certainly been crushed, but maybe with the arrival of the PIN today, I can buy a bit of it back later tonite! :)

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