Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Money, Money, Money: How to Open a UK Bank Account & Send Money to Canada

Besides getting a visa, plane ticket, accommodations and a teaching job, there's also the added task of opening up a UK bank account & arranging to send money home. This is easier said than done.

I joked last year that 100% of my teachers were teaching in London, but only 50% were able to open a bank account. They were all able to get visas to work in the UK, but when it came to filling out the bank forms, half of them messed up. That's not to say they can't fill in forms! But a bank account is more difficult to get than a visa.

Part of the reason this is such a big deal is that you can't get an apartment without a bank account, and you can't get a bank account without an apartment.

See the problem?

You have to prove to the bank that you live where you say you live, and you are who you say you are. Living where you say you live is shown through a bill addressed to you at your address. If you're not yet in the UK, how do you this? OR, if you are in the UK, how do you prove you should get an account when you're staying at a hostel?

So, here's what you do.

If you are still in Canada (or your home country), and want to get your account before you go, then Lloyd's is your best bet. You can try to get an account with HSBC, or another international bank, but in my experience they are much more expensive & more difficult to get accounts with. Lloyd's has a fairly simple process and costs less than 10 pounds/month. You don't need a UK address, as they open the account based on your Canadian address.

Here's the link:
www.lloydstsb-offshore.com/International and quote 222320 on all correspondence.

Proving You Are Who You Say You Are
Along with your application form, send them a copy of your passport, with the following taken into account:

Passport - A clear black and white photocopy (both parties for a joint application)
Passport must be valid (i.e. not out of date) and confirm expiry date & date of birth.

This must be certified by one of the following:
• Lawyer
• Chartered Accountant
• Serving Police or Customs Officer
• Notary Public
• Member of Judiciary
• Senior Civil Servant
• Actuary
• An Embassy, Consulate or High
Commissioner of the country of issue of the
• Director, Officer or Manager of a regulated
financial services business (e.g. Bank Manager)
operating in an equivalent

Proving You Live Where You Say You Live:
You do this by providing them an original bill, in your name at your address.

This must be:
  • An ORIGINAL gas, telephone (not cell phone), local authority rates or electricity bill. Alternatively, a mortgage, credit card or bank account statement from a recognised bank.
  • Must show your name and residential address
  • Documents must be less than 3 months old
You also need to send them a 100 pound cheque addressed to yourself. This is your money, so don't worry. You're just using it to open up your account.

You have to send your passport photocopy (certified) and a bill, as well as your completed application form. They will also need a letter from your employer which confirms your earnings. So, if you've registered with an agency, then the agency provides you this letter, or mails it to the bank for you.

That's the whole process in a nutshell.

The only other option is to wait until you arrive in the UK. Most people just do this. Your agency will likely have a relationship with a UK bank, where they write letters for their teachers confirming their income. You then take that letter, along with your passport and your proof of where you are living (ie. your lease), and bring these to the bank. Some people are lucky and get their account within a couple of weeks. Easy-peasy. Most aren't though. It can take 2 months to actually get a bank card & your PIN number, and if you're waiting to be paid that long, it can be a bit of a nightmare.

Sending Money Home
The next issue is how to send money home. If you're like me, and plan to pay your student loans (or mortgage) while you are away, then you need to figure out how to get that money home quickly & cheaply. The banks charge about 15 pounds for a wire transfer, and those can take 30 days. You just walk into your UK bank & ask them what to do.

I was with RBC, and they mucked up my wire transfers every time for a year. No joke. Many of my teachers have had the same experience. For some reason, when receiving money from the UK, they would act as though it was the most foreign concept ever! It should be easy right?

So, I found the company, Tranzfers - they charge 7 pounds per transfer, and it only takes 6 business days. It's ridiculously easy, and relies on internet banking. So if you're reading this blog, chances are you know how to use the internet for your banking as well.

Here are their details:
  • TRANZFERS is a service for expats where you can send money to or from home for a maximum fee of only £7 without even visiting a bank branch.
  • It only takes a few minutes to get registered and start sending funds between the UK and Canada
That's it, that's all! If you're reading this & think I've missed something, please add a comment below. Or, if this post helps you, please let me know!


  1. When i went to the bank to get the bank manager to notarize my documents she informed me that bank managers in ontario are no longer allowed to act as notaries.

    other then that. the bank account process was pretty painless and took about a month and a half.

  2. The Royal Bank is now saying it takes 3 - 5 days to get a wire transfer from the UK. I hope they are right because because my husband is working in Afghanistan for the British and they are transferring his salary once a month. His contract says on the 10th or before the 10th. So far they have just have for SWIFT/BIC code and our IBAN number but no money.

  3. Well we have entered the fifth day. My husband's companies bank (HSBC) has traced it 10 times now. Guess what, it is at the Royal Bank processing center. I am really starting to think it has been stolen. Whatever anyone does do not try to wire money into a Royal Bank account. They are rude, condesending and arrogant.

  4. Hi Fran,
    I am so sorry to hear that the RBC hasn't really changed in all these years! It's a shocker. With our globalized planet, you would think that working abroad would be easier for individuals, and not just for businesses.
    Is it possible for your hubby's company to just use Tranzfers rather than the bank wires? I've never once had an issue with them, and neither have any of my teachers (that I know of...).
    Let us know what happens,

  5. That is what they will do in the future. They hadn't realized that our bank was the Royal Bank till after they sent the transfer. Let's just say I wish I would have listened to you from the get go. Our other option is to open an HSBC account here in Halifax. There would no delay because the transfer would just be one from branch to another albeit in different countries.

    Oh wonder, the Canadian military are not suppose to use Royal Bank. I guess the Royal Bank has a lot of issues.

    I have an anxiety disorder and this bank stuff is making it so much worse. Gives new meaning to the word stress.

    All I can say is it better not hurt our credit anymore that our credit already is.

  6. International banking is enough to give anyone an anxiety disorder! Seriously, it just shouldn't be this hard.

    The HSBC option is a good one, although the last I checked the account was costly, and they didn't seem to make transferring money any easier. They are run as separate companies, so your Canadian HSBC account doesn't really help you with the UK. That's old research now though (it's been about 2 years since I really looked into it).

    Good luck. I'll be thinking of you,

  7. We are now entered into our sixth day. HSBC in the UK is going to call Royal Bank Processing Center to walk them through the process. I have a question shouldn't the Royal Bank Processing Center already know how to do this. It is a global world.

    HSBC in the UK says that our wire is getting to the processing center of Royal Bank in Toronto and being rejected. Very frustrating.

  8. Use PayPal. Create a PayPal account in Canadian funds, and create one in GBP funds. You can then send money between the two. I haven't seen any other method cheaper than PayPal.

  9. Hi Jon,
    Good idea! I think I'll try that and see if it works - I don't know why I never thought of that before...
    Thanks for the comment & idea

  10. Has anyone else had experience using paypal to send money home?
    What kind of fees did you encounter using paypal? the website says its like a 3.9% fee for cross border payments?


Thanks for sharing your two pence!


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