June 5, 2010

Cards, Accounts and Accommodation

One of the points brought up in the pre-departure briefing the other day was how to deal with accounts while away. As we may already know, Australian banks do like fees, an issue that shows itself quite obviously when asking about transfers in currency and overseas usage of a card. With a 3% conversion fee and a withdrawal fee of $5 when using any overseas ATM, regularly using a bank card from Australia does not seem like the clever choice for a year long stay. As one of the Study Abroad Office staff said, it is quite common for exchange students to open a local bank account while away.
Having done a bit of research on the matter, it became obvious that I would be comparing equivalent offers by the main players: Natwest, Barclays, RBS and HSBC. At this point, the accounts offered to students are quite similar to each other, the difference that may become important to me may be the ease of application. Some banks require you to be a UK resident or need proof of address in the UK for up to 3 months prior and this can pose a problem for someone in my position. For the Barclays student account, they require that you be a UK permanent resident. For the RBS account, they do have a clause saying that international students should contact a local branch but RBS is only in Sydney on a corporate basis. Natwest offer a special international student account but it has a 7 pound a month service fee for little perks such as discount concert tickets (limited), free 16-25 railcard and mobile insurance. While I'd rather get the basic account this 'student option' upgrade is based on, I'm afraid the base account once again bites me with the UK resident requirement. Currently, of the four, only HSBC has an office in Perth that would mean that transfers and applications could be more seamless with local consultation prior to departure. They offer an 'HSBC Passport' which does not require UK residence and costs 8 pounds a month. If I could have all of the proof of residence and could have my eligibility sorted out in Perth, that would be ideal. This being said, August is apparently the month for wild bank offers in order to recruit those wandering students in the hope that they will continue using the account later in life. It may be worth checking out the application criteria more carefully in order to grab a good deal later on since most of these deals would only be open to UK residents.

While pondering the locations of the banks in London, I reminded myself that I should check on the state of accommodation just prior to the start of term. Having been told in the pre-departure session in passing by one of the UK girls that the colleges were open a good two weeks prior to the start of semester, I am now glad I have checked. I thought I'd start with my first college preference, calling Ramsay hall to find that the move in date for students commencing on the 27th of September would be no more than 2 days before that date. I asked about early arrival and the man assured me that while it could probably be arranged, it would not be possible to more in before the 22nd of September, certainly not as early as I first suspected. I thought I'd also check Commonwealth hall but they couldn't comment and referred me to the central body. The UCL residences office was more helpful and said that while the colleges I had applied for may not let me stay more than 1 week prior to the start, they could probably find accommodation in another hall for that time even if it wasn't my allocated one.

With this news of temporary uncertainty, I did check out a couple of possible places to stay in the meantime (and directly after the choral course). I had a little look at the nearby hostels first up, including Generator Hostels and Clink78. They were both nearby and looked like rather fun places to stay in the short term but it's probably a little early to be thinking such specific things. I think I will leave those bookings till after exams (or till the week before I check in).

1 comment:

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