Banking options in London
London is one of the largest financial center in the world. As New York has “Wall Street”, London has “The City”. Two decades ago, “The City” relocated to “Canary Wharf” where you will find most of the corporate and financial banks. For individuals, several large and small banks operate in London. As a result, there is huge competition amongst banks to gain customers. Banks are open Mon – Fri, while some branches (but not many!) are open Saturdays. Banking hours are generally 9am – 4pm or 5pm. Chequing accounts and savings accounts are standard, as are investment options and guaranteed investments.
ATMs, known as ‘cash points’ are everywhere in London (many tube stations have cash points) and those run by major banks do not charge a withdrawal fee. Beware of small cash points in mini-markets, as they likely charge a high service fee.
Just about all UK banks offer online banking and this is the most efficient way of dealing with your day-to-day banking needs, especially if you want to avoid queues and bureaucrats. User discretion is advised when it comes to online banking, as no one knows just what scam will surface. That said, online banking is generally safe and used by millions worldwide. Each bank will have a specific online banking set-up procedure; the most strict being NatWest which issues a card reader that must be used to make an online transaction.
Like many of the institutions in the UK, banks also require proof of address to open a bank account. Utility bills are the best to bring, but note that many banks will not accept a bill from an internet provider. Bank bureaucrats can be picky so make sure you’ve checked the details from your chosen bank’s site before arriving to open an account. Also have your passport ready.
If you are looking to compare savings account interest rates, the best site to check out is http://www.moneysupermarket.com.
The international bank HSBC has a big presence in London and offers savings and chequing accounts, as well as loans, mortgages, credit cards and investments and flexible international current account for baking USD, GBP, euro. HSBC Bank International is a leading provider of offshore financial services and a wholly owned subsidiary of the HSBC Group. The head office of HSBC Bank International is in Jersey, Channel Islands with offices in Guernsey and the Isle of Man.
NatWest has locations everywhere in London and is a popular bank. They have a large range of accounts, from current accounts to commercial banking options. NatWest advertises dedicated expat relationship managers and multiple currency accounts.
Lloyds is another big UK bank with a huge range of accounts. Insurance is also available.
RBS – The Royal Bank of Scotland: http://www.rbs.co.uk. Like its competitors, RBS offers a wide range of services and accounts among which “Royalties International” is a popular option. It is an account to handle all currencies thus avoiding the need to separate bank account numbers. RBS offers postal banking as well as phone and Internet.
Barclays also has locations just about everywhere in London and offers lots of accounts, travel and home insurance and more. Its iBank offers a wide range of international banking services.
Metro Bank: http://www.metrobankonline.co.uk
Metro Bank are a new bank in the UK with branches opening over London. They pride themselves on their opening hours (they’re open late and at weekends) and the simplicity of the services they offer.
Most banks make it easy to transfer money internationally. You will need your IBAN and SWIFT numbers, which are printed on bank statements. But bear in mind that to change money or to transfer large amounts overseas, most of the foreign exchange brokers will offer far better rates. These services will prove important if you want to transfer large amounts overseas. The leading companies in the UK are World First: http://www.worldfirst.com, Currencies Direct: http://www.currenciesdirect.com, Moneycorp: http://www.moneycorp.com.
There is a difference between Debit Card and a Credit Card (Visa or Master Card). With a Debit Card your money will be debited directly from your bank account. You can use your Debit Card to buy goods or get cash from one of the very many ATM’s or shops offering cash back. With the Debit Card you are debited from a specific account, that you will pay back at a later date in agreement with the provider as stated in your contract. When you withdraw money with a Credit Card you might incur a commission and/or interests.