The British Banking Experience
Recently I have discovered another thing, in addition to Trump, corruption and consumerism, that makes me flip and use bad words: opening and using a bank account in the UK. I have lived in three countries for a considerable amount of time: Romania, Germany and, for the last six months, UK. So I made the banking experience in all of them. Things have probably changed over time in all three systems, but the differences are remarkable and they piss me off.
From the beginning it must be said that I have the mind of an engineer. I embrace change when I see the purpose, don’t want to keep my money under the mattress, I like online banking, am not a very financial savvy person, but not the most retarded either and I hate to be taken for a fool.
For the average person who wants to open an account and have his money somewhere other than his pocket, between Germany, Romania and the UK, the British banking system is by far the worst I have experienced. To be fair, I am now referring to HSBC Bank, although I believe the services must be more or less similar for all British banks, since they all have to obey certain laws.
1. They require a whole shit load of papers to open a damn bank account. I understand UK is the recipient of many emigrants and they have to make sure. In my humble opinion there is, however, a limit to the extent you have to go through in order to prove them you are worthy. For example, you have to prove your identity (oh, ok!) and your address. The latter one is done by providing a tenancy agreement of the place that you rent. Funnily enough you cannot rent a place, any place, if you don’t have a bank account. See what they did there? Ok, say you are staying with friends till you get your own place. Then you have to provide a gas or power bill from the address of your friends. And that is a whole new story right there.
2. Because it takes ages to open an account. You have to wait for the nice lady to print a ton of papers, double and triple check them. Sign, choose 10 passwords, I am not joking, ten passwords, for different stuff you don’t even understand, 10 passwords containing numbers, letter, capital and small, special characters you will have to remember in the future.
3. You finally have an account, a card with your name on it. Great! You have opted for the online banking, because you live in the 21st century. Not to great. Remember the 10 passwords I was talking about? They will come in handy now. Unless, of course, you want to use “my voice is my password” option and give away a bit more of your privacy. Speaking of privacy, here comes 4.
4. They have absolutely no respect for privacy. I know UK is probably the most watched nation and I know they have passed a law in which they indulge every whim Big Brother ever had, but check this out. If you have to leave UK for any reason whatsoever, you must inform the bank. Doesn’t matter that it’s business, doesn’t matter your family member just died or that there is an Armageddon, the bank must be notified! Otherwise you might just be left penniless in a foreign place you had the audacity to fly to. And wait! There is more: not only you have to inform them about going there, you have to tell them when exactly you are coming back. I am dead serious about this. There is no exception.
5. Shitty information structure on their website. I might be an engineer, but I cannot make sense of the information in there. It just seems that they missed the important stuff, but brought on all the other things they have to sell to you.
6. Last, but not least, phoning them might take ages, so forget about emergencies and stupid stuff like this.
Following the same points, I give you Stadtsparkasse Muenchen.
1. Some years back when I opened the account there I had to give an address, any address where I could receive the card, a phone number and some details about what I am doing in Germany.
2. The actual account opening took 10 minutes, including introduction and goodbye, and speaking in English, which delayed the process considerably.
3. Online banking? No problem: a card, a device, a computer, a password. Even kids could do it.
4. In all the 7 years of experience, we had one discussion about travelling. Through my own intention I informed them I will be travelling a little in a given perimeter. No details about the exact date, country and so on.
5. Really straight-forward website, especially for finding the everyday information.
6. In case you couldn’t find the stuff you need on the website, there was always somebody at an Email or phone call reach away. The same person, not a call center.
In the case of ING Romania things were very similar to Stadtsparkasse Germany. I haven’t used them for too long, but I never had any problems so far.
The argument HSBC mostly make is security. Everything is for our own security. Is it just me, or this sounds a little more like a line for brain washed people? How come Sparkasse can do it easier, without prying into my life? Aren’t they secure?
So yes, I feel pissed. And violated. And angry all the time when I have to transfer money or check anything online. It’s a fucked up system, meant to create more difficulties than to solve and to watch over people’s every move. Goodbye freedom!
Originally published at lifeoftwo.co on January 25, 2017.