Current accounts: a change of bank might do you good
During boom times, a plethora of providers were vying to offer you the best deal – not so any more
And then there were six. Not so long ago Irish consumers had a feast of choice when it came to choosing a current account provider: Halifax/Bank of Scotland, Postbank, Danske Bank and ACC Bank were just some of the options.
Indeed a staggering 14 institutions signed the Irish Banking Federation’s (IBF) switching code for current accounts back in 2006.
Now however, the market has shrunk considerably, leaving just six providers for consumers to choose from.
Not only that, but one of these, EBS, is actually owned by another, and doesn’t offer typical current account services such as an overdraft, while the future of another, Ulster Bank, remains a little hazy. So what’s a consumer to do?
Well, if you’re one of the 100,000 personal banking customers at Danske Bank, or the 6,500 at ACC Bank, you will be in the market for a new current account provider. And if your bank is still in business but you’re fed up with the raft of charges imposed in recent times, you might also be looking to switch from your current provider.
If you are a Danske Bank customer, you will need to start making a change soon as the Danish bank is set to phase out its personal banking services during the first half of 2014.
Somewhat surprisingly however, the bank told The Irish Times that to date, customer queries in relation to its announcement have been quite low. The same is true at ACC Bank, where at the time of writing no current account switches have been completed.
So why aren’t customers rushing to switch? Perhaps it’s because the options out there aren’t all that enticing.
Not so long ago all the banks had easily accessible free banking options. Now you’ll really have to search them out.
Best of the bunch at present is Permanent TSB. Yes, you will have to commit to certain transactions on your account, but the level is considerably lower than at other institutions.
If you deposit at least €1,500 a month into your account (your pay-cheque for example) you will qualify for free banking, thus saving yourself a quarterly transaction fee of €12.
Ulster Bank is perhaps next best: you can either lodge, or deposit, at least €3,000 a month to save yourself a quarterly fee ranging from €12-€42.
AIB also offers free banking, but to avail of this you’ll need to keep €2,500 in your account at all times – a figure which may just be out of reach for many, particularly considering you won’t be paid interest on it.
Bank of Ireland does offer free transactions if you keep €3,000 in your account - but there’s no avoiding its €5 quarterly maintenance fee.