Crunch!

Those relatively new to this blog will not have heard the stories of my fights with Barclay’s bank when I first moved to the UK. For the backstory, see this: the general banking debacle and my repeated rejections when trying to get a UK credit card. I eventually was able to get a credit card but only when I got some very serious help from a very influential person, and the shiny new card came with a meagre £1000 limit. About nine months after I got the card (using it regularly and paying it off every month) I requested a new limit (£2000–didn’t seem outrageous at the time) but was rebuked by the bank that this was “too much” although they did raise it to £1500. Now this was still chump change compared with my American card, which carries a limit in the range of the price of an Audi. So in light of all of this, imagine my surprise when I opened my mail yesterday to find a letter from the bank congratulating me on my credit and noting that they had–without any request from me–doubled my limit to £3000. Still an order of magnitude behind my US card, but starting to become useful–the limits of £1k or £1.5k were of course a bit too small to use for reimburse-able business travel, and as such I’ve STILL (after 2.5 years here) been primarily using my US card, a royal pain given the crash of the pound against the dollar in the last few months. The reimbursement for some summer travel, conducted at more than 2 pounds to the dollar, did not come in until the exchange rate had crashed and of course I’m just eating the difference. So I’m delighted to be able to use the UK card more often–still generally paying it off each month, and thus imaginably building a UK credit record finally. But what ho credit crunch? Unsolicited doubling of credit limits in this economy? Interesting.

I just had to see my sister off, she got picked up in the darkest hour before dawn for her trip to Heathrow and back to China. I’m a bit weepy now, combination of being overtired (after way too many late nights and early mornings having adventures with her) and just generally sad about going back to my solo existence. Given the nature of my career, I’m surrounded by men all day long and don’t really have too many good female friends in this part of the world. But most importantly, at the end of the day there truly is no friend like a sister.

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9 responses to “Crunch!

  1. You’re actually kind of lucky. I know it may not sound like it but here in Spain it’s much harder to get a credit card. It really doesn’t matter who you know, no one will look at you unless you have a steady job, reliable income and the paperwork to prove it (you can’t even get a Carrefour card!). And once you do manage to get one, they function like debit cards so the limit is tiny and if the money you’re spending isn’t in your account, you won’t be allowed to spend it! On the bright side, it’s really hard to build up significant debt. Coming from the US, this system was a super shock to me.

  2. Thanks for posting this update. We (Americans->Scotland) have finally been able to get a banking account after being here almost 4 months, but we hadn’t tried to get the credit card yet. Now I know what to expect.

  3. I have been here for 4.5 years now and still don’t have a credit card that’s just mine… only shared accounts with my husband 😦

    I’m so pleased you got to spend some quality time with your sister… too short but very sweet I’m sure.

  4. I feel your pain in the Credit Card department. Its like pulling teeth to get one. I did end up with one through my bank, but my oh my the hassle! The phone calls! The interrogation!

  5. We were told that getting credit in the US with no history would be very hard, but our experience has been nothing compared to yours. That’s what I love about blogging. It challenges all my preconceived notions. Pretty much anything I think about the US/UK divide, I find Americans in Britain thinking the exact opposite – with concrete experience to back up their opinions.

  6. After more than 25 years living in the UK I moved back to Omaha for a 12 month period a couple of years ago. Trying to open a local bank account and get a credit card was stupidly difficult and in the end pointless. Banks just don’t work globally when it comes to individuals.

  7. Trust me the crdit thing works against you in both directions. 3 years here and still not got a score high enough for a store card!!

  8. I agree with Iota!

    I used to go wild, and sometimes still do, at the arcane banking procedures here. Now, I’m beaten down and used to it. However, there is nothing on the planet more complicated then trying to get a phone line installed in Manhattan to that’s my baseline in frustration.

    Also, I always get sad when my sister leaves and I’m not living a solitary existence.

  9. I find the banking process of moving over here to be a complete disaster….we tried to get a car loan here after living here for 6 months and could not even think about getting any rate LESS than near 17%. It is ridiculous! In a world where banks operate in multiple countries it is amazing that your credit history cannot follow you. I have never felt so much like an immigrant as I have since moving here and not being able to do simple things such as set up a cell phone plan, due to the fact that I have no credit history here…. I definitely did not anticipate such issues with credit cards too. Congrats on being able to get a new limit!

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