22 October 2009

How to...Open a Bank Account

Just in case you ever find yourself in the UK, this "hypothetical" situation should prepare you for the finacial process...

Step 1: You go to Rhodes House on your first day in England in order to sign up with the Royal Bank of Scottland (Ok, maybe this isn't realistic hypothetically, but it's my hypothetical situation...). When you meet with the bank representative, they will ask you if you want a check book. When you ask if you need a check book, they will say no, so you will decline the offer. Then, the bank will tell you that it will take five days for your account to open, a few days for your check to clear, and then you will have access to your account. Translation: They will lie to you. (Switching back to English teacher mode: This is what we call foreshadowing. Now would be the time to "make predictions" about how this story, I mean hypothetical situation, will unfold.)

Step 2: A week will pass and you will not hear anything. When you inquire, a few days will pass before you are informed that you can pick up your bank account information. However, you have no checks, no debit card...and oh yeah, there is no money in it. You are told that in a few days, your debit card and pin number will be mailed to you--separately. For security reasons, of course.

Step 3: After checking your pidge (mail slot) every day, you will be excited when you have an envelope from RBS. However, when you handle it, you realize that it is much thicker than a debit card or a pin number. When you open it, it is a checkbook. Wait a minute...you didn't ask for a check book. Don't ask questions. And don't write any checks because there is still no money in your account.

Step 4: You have a bill due, so you visit the RBS to find out the status of your account. Good news: there is money in the account. When you inquire about online banking, you are told that you will need your debit card. When you ask about your debit card, you are informed that the debit card will come separately from the pin. The banker is unsure as to which order the information is mailed out (Apparently there is no pattern). This must be a security measure to keep the theives on their toes.

Step 5: You have an envelope from RBS. It's your deposit slips. This is almost as exciting (and confusing) as the day you got the check book that you didn't request.

Step 6: Your pin number arrives. You set it aside until you receive your debit card...Two days later.

Step 7: When you go to register your debit card, you realize how many security measures were taken to protect your information--in addition to all of the other smoke and mirrors (read "No one knowing what was going on, or at least no one being able/willing to explain to you what is going on.") that they clearly just did for your protection.

The pin number is not only sent separately. You have to scratch off a metal cover to reveal it (which would definitely confuse alot of theives, especially if they don't have any coins on them or have never used a scratchers ticket...which they may not have in the UK, so maybe that's legit.). But, it is even more secure than that. Because before you can reveal the pin, you have to open a flap on the back of the paper, then scratch off the metal cover (from behind), then you have to lay the hologram over a white piece of paper to read it--kind of like a secret code. If you are wondering it the process was confusing or if my description was just unclear, it was definitely the former--the system is not at all intuitive, unless you're a Mason. The reality is that no one could really figure this system out (theives or customors alike)--but there are directions. So, if a given theif can't read, your information would be safe. Otherwise, you might just be confused.

Step 8: After following a maze of online instructions, including providing codes and passwords that you have not yet been given, you will have a bank account. Congratulations. It only took about 3 weeks...

Step 7:

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