Wednesday, December 29, 2010

US Personal Banking for UK Citizens

If anyone outside of the US has attempted to open a US Bank account, and worked with it outside the States, you will probably be aware that things are not all together smooth and easy.    I am a Consultant that has recently setup a US LLC (Limited Liability Corp) together with a US partner.   I thought in todays electronic age that it would be relatively easy to transfer funds between the US and the UK.

Unfortunately, this does not appear to be the case.

First attempt - open up a Business Account with TD Bank.

Well - they say first impressions count. Well.   I cannot recall a customer service experience less positive than when I signed up for a US TD Bank account.    Any question related to online banking was responded with... I suggest you call the Technical Support line... etc. etc.   'Could you give me your US Social Security number' - "I don't have one"... 'Oh..  I don't know how we can open up this account for you....'   In the end, it was discovered that performing a wire transfer from the US to the UK required a physical trip to the bank...  ok.. let me just jump on a plane to New Jersey...

So - TD Bank... not suitable.

Next - Bank of America.  I walked into BofA in New York.  1hr later I had a new account, with a temporary bank card.  30 minutes later, I had used it to purchase coffee.   Wow.  Great service....


Logged in online - everything seemed good.  Online banking system looked nice and clear.  So.. now to make a wire transfer...   ah.. problem.  There is a limit on the funds you can transfer unless you use a SecureSafe device.    Right - I have 2 options.    Option 1 - to receive a code on a mobile phone or Option 2 - to receive a SecureSafe Card.    Well... I need it soon.  So lets try the mobile phone...

Aaargghhh.  The mobile phone needs to be a US mobile phone.. I am in the UK... no joy there.

So... need to go with option 2... Order the SecureSafe Card... I go through the screens to order it....  'There has been an error processing your request...."...   Tried it 4 times... same error.

Called customer support.

OPERATOR:  ... 'I'm afraid your IP address is not recognized.. Are you located outside of the US...'

ME:   "ah... yes.. I am in the UK.   I need this device to make transactions outside the US".    '

Operator:  'I'm afraid you can only request the device if you are in the US'.

ME:  'But I am not in the US... I don't want to fly to the US to request the device.   So I cannot do anything?'

Operator:  'You could pass on your secure login details to someone you trust and they could order it'...

ME: 'You are suggesting I hand over my username, password etc.   to someone else?'

Operator:  'Yes sir...'

So.... end of Bank of America account... except... I now have all my funds in the account.... How can I withdraw them.... Only solution appears to be to fly to the US... switch on my US mobile... receive text message... transfer funds out of account... Close Bank of America account.  Or, I can use my Bank of America Visa Debit card.... and be charged 3%... So... fees for moving 5000 USD this way 150 USD.

So - if you are a UK citizen, and you want to open a US bank account and work on it from the UK, you cannot do it if you are a business with TD. You cannot do it unless you order up your Securecard device while you are in the UK.

Next option   HSBC...

Currently working on this.  They claim to be the World Bank....  I can open up a UK account and a US account (from the UK) and use an online system to transfer funds between accounts for no fee....   well.  I will report back on whether this works.