Opening a bank account in this country is difficult. I heard it could take a couple of weeks to get a bank account so I brought a fair amount of £s to tide me over. I also signed up for the Chase Sapphire card which is money (in more ways than one!) for anybody traveling abroad. No foreign transaction fees, and it's made out of metal instead of plastic so you feel like a boss every time you throw it down to pay for something.
My first week here I applied online for a student account at Barclays. You have to choose a specific branch location, so I chose the one closest to my school since I'm not sure where I'll be living next year. After you submit the application you have to book an appointment at the specified branch to basically prove you're a real person. You have to provide your passport and proof of address like a lease or utility bill. I have neither of those since I'm renting from a friend of a friend but figured I'll cross that bridge when I get there. I scrolled through their calendar of available appointment times... none in September, none in October, none in November... at this point I figured I'd just go to the branch and see if I could get a walk in appointment and also ask about what other documents I can give them since I don't have a lease.
I arrived at the bank, waited in line, and then spoke to a man explaining I'm a student and filled out the application online but don't have any proof of where I'm living. He told me that was fine, I just need to bring in a letter from my school and my passport. Sounded easy enough! So a few days later I got the letter from my school and went back to the bank. I waited in line again, spoke to a different man, told him I had all the required documents and he told me I needed to book an appointment to open an account. The next available one wasn't for almost 2 weeks. Would have been nice if the first guy could have told me that. So I booked an appointment for October 5.
The appointment was pretty easy, they set everything up and said I should get everything I need in the mail in the next 5 business days. My bank card arrived 2 days later. The pin to be able to use my card, 2 days after that. I also deposited my loan check but it takes 5 days to clear. So literally JUST yesterday the funds were available for use. It's kind of exciting having the whole chip and pin thing now. I can also just use the contactless feature if my purchase is under £20 (just wave it over the machine reader!)
My very first purchase? A ticket to Thorpe Park for their Fright Night this weekend. I may not be able to attend Howl 'O Scream this year but I WILL have my halloween amusement park experience!!