One of the reasons we picked the Phoenix area is the mostly clear, epic skies. They have not disappointed and have been a bit of a minor difference from our life in the UK. Whenever we were out at night, we’d always try to find what stars we could in Brighton despite the clouds and light pollution. Even though plenty of people live here, possibly due to the Phoenix area not being especially full of high rise buildings, there is much less light pollution. From our balcony, we get a regular array of sunrises, sunsets, planets and stars.
Due to still being in the northern hemisphere, many of the same constellations are present here, but often in very different positions. The moon looks different as well, which is also something I was keenly aware of when I lived in Brazil.
This week, Chris received his first paycheck. Another minor difference is that American companies prefer to give the first paycheck as a physical check. Due to delays because of all the snowy weather out east and it being sent from Georgia, it arrived at the very end of the week. We spent our Friday night madly trying to find a bank. Our banking situation has been quite messy. As we were barely working while traveling and have a UK dollars account, we were in no rush to get a US account. For the few things we needed to with a US card (usually things that asked for a zip code, the US version of a post code), we could use my Wisconsin credit union account.
Credit unions are a major minor difference. Most UK banking is national and centralized. There are a just a few major chains like Lloyds or RBS. The US has these too in chains like Wells Fargo and Bank of America. Despite this, the big chains have not had an all and out victory in the market. Every city, every state, every region – they all have their own credit unions with names that often clearly show you were they are located like Central Minnesota Credit Union. You are a member and own a share in it instead of just being a customer. They also tend to give loans on more favorable terms.
I am told the UK used to have something like called a building society, but they were, for the most part, bought out by the big banks. They are still huge in the US. It also turns out they are connected. I spoke to someone at the credit union in Wisconsin and was told I could indeed deposit the paycheck without having to go to Wisconsin. I could go to an affiliated credit union locally. It is also easier to move money between accounts in associated credit unions across the country than it is from the big name banks.
We originally had thought we’d have to go with one of the big chains because a must for us is inexpensive international transfers as we still own our flat in England and will need to transfer money to England for connected reasons regularly. It turns out Bank of America and Chase both have horrible fees – 45 dollars a pop. For what will probably be near monthly transfers, that would add up quickly.
The credit union in Wisconsin charges 80 a time as well, so they were not a good option. Just when we really thought we were screwed, we went to deposit the check in the local credit union recommended by the Wisconsin one. It turns out they have a points system. Once we get a few points, the international transfers will be 100% free. That is more than we could have hoped for. We were thrilled and instead of depositing the check into Wisconsin, we kept it right here and set up an account that very night. They also had the fab facility of being able to print our new debit cards on site, which was quite the improvement as when Chris’s card got cloned, the UK dollars account bank would only send his card to a UK address even being a dollars account, causing us to have to have to ask his mum go to the post office on our behalf yet again.
Here’s a short video: