“So how did you figure out how to open a bank account in Northern Ireland?”
I seem to get asked this a lot.
In the beginning of February we moved our family from Kansas City, Missouri to Larne, Northern Ireland. During our first week in the UK, we were recovering from jetlag and lounging around the house while the boys ran circles around us. One day, we heard a loud beeping noise! Something we had never heard before, and we had no idea where it was coming from. When we texted our new Northern Irish friends, we learned that it was our electrical box beeping to tell us we had no more credit left. I found the card that our landlord had left behind and I went to the website to see if I could pay online. No luck, I needed a debit card that was registered in the UK. I couldn’t get one because I had no bank account, so I would have to go to a shop and pay in person. Well unfortunately, it was 7pm and we had no car. We called our mentor and she came over on this cold, rainy evening with her son and they took me to the grocery store where I was able to top up our account with cash. This wasn’t a huge deal, but it was inconvenient, and we were nervous about our electricity shutting off! Inconveniences like this kept coming up and inspired me to take the bus into town, walk into a bank, and try to figure out how to open up an account.
The bank was very kind but basically told me that I had no proof of address, even though I had a signed lease. All my bills were either paid by someone else or they were on a top up system so we couldn’t use any of those things to prove our address. The bank told me there was nothing they could do and sent me on my way. Well if any of you know me, you know that I research things. Thoroughly. So I put my research skills to task and figured out how to prove my address in order to open an account.
First, I got a pre-paid credit card through cashplus.
Note that I did not qualify for most of the perks that go along with being a card holder, but this was only a means to an end. The card took about a week to get to our house and then I took the bus to the post office where they let me top up the card with cash.
After topping up the card I called the customer service line (which costs) and requested a credit card statement be sent to my house. The customer service representative tried to talk me in to getting an electronic one, but I persevered and had the statement sent to my house (which cost £10). It took about 10 days to get the statement in the mail.
Now that I had the credit card statement, I had a piece of mail that confirmed my address. I took this along with my visa to Ulster Bank where I was able to open a current (checking) account. This provided me with cheques, deposit slips, and a debit card.
Voila! Bank account opened. Now I am able to start my free Amazon UK Prime 30 day trial, switch my iTunes account over to the UK store to download some of the free apps (that are only available in the UK), accept cheques from people wanting to help us financially, and pay with a card instead of cash at the grocery shop! If you try this, I hope it works out for you as well as it did for us.