If you are a client of Ulster Bank or KBC, you may want to start thinking about which bank to move to when they pull out of the Irish market.
While both banks say no action is required at the moment, it is worth preparing well in advance of closing.
Ulster Bank said it will contact customers directly early next year, and plans to give checking and deposit account holders six months’ notice to close their accounts and switch.
Meanwhile, KBC said it will give customers at least 60 days’ notice.
From bank fees to online capabilities, there are a number of things to consider before deciding which bank is best for you.
How many banks are there to choose from?
Once Ulster Bank and KBC withdraw from the Irish market, there will be eight providers offering checking account services here.
These are AIB, An Post, Bank of Ireland, The Credit Union, EBS, N26, Permanent TSB, and Revolut.
We asked Daragh Cassidy of comparison site Bonkers.ie to identify the main differences between the checking account services offered by the remaining bank.
What banks have the most branches?
If you are someone who likes to walk into the bank every week to deposit a check or withdraw cash, then you should make sure you choose a provider with a nearby branch.
AIB and Bank of Ireland both have a similar sized branch network, which is the largest in the country.
AIB has 170 branches, while the Bank of Ireland has 169 branches.
The permanent TSB has a much smaller presence with 76 branches, although Cassidy said it is set to acquire 25 Ulster Bank branches over the next few years.
An Post has more than 900 post offices across the country and it allows AIB and Bank of Ireland clients to do their day to day banking at its offices.
Meanwhile, Revolut and N26 have no physical banks, as they are only real online banks.
If you’ve never put food inside a bank and prefer to do online banking – physical presence may not be something you need to consider when choosing a new provider.
What are the best banks for cash users?
If you prefer to use cash for credit or debit cards, online banks are probably not the best option for you.
Cassidy said cash users may want to avoid N26 and Revolut.
« Because they both have no bank branches, you won’t be able to deposit any cash – and withdrawing cash can cost you dearly as well, » he said.
Cassidy said people should be aware that the N26 allows three no-fee ATM withdrawals per month – but then a fee of €2 per withdrawal applies.
Revolut allows you to withdraw a maximum of €200 per month without fees and you are only allowed five free withdrawals per month.
After you reach either limit, you are charged €1 or 2% for each withdrawal, whichever is higher.
Meanwhile, AIB will charge 35 cents for each withdrawal.
While that may not sound like much, Cassidy cautioned that these fees can add up quickly.
The Bank of Ireland and the permanent TSB do not charge anything extra for cash withdrawals and both have a prominent presence.
« These can be good options for those who use cash a lot, » Cassidy said.
On the other hand, he noted that the PTSB pays you 10 cents every time you use your card in the store or online, up to a maximum of 5 euros per month.
« This could make it a good option for those who use their card a lot, » he added.
Which banks have the best online services?
The capabilities of each online provider vary greatly, so if you plan to do most of your banking online, choose carefully.
“N26 and Revolut lead the pack here and have nearly revolutionized what you can do on your phone with your money,” said Mr. Cassidy.
He noted that EBS on the other hand doesn’t even have a mobile app – although it does have online banking that you can access from a laptop or desktop.
Cassidy said the PTSB app is « completely basic » and does not yet provide fingerprint or face login, for example.
Meanwhile, AIB requires a card reader for some online transactions, which means you could be caught if you don’t have the device on hand.
If you want to tap and pay using your phone or watch, you should take into consideration the mobile payments offered by the different banks.
« Most providers now at least offer either Apple Pay and Google Pay, but FitBit and Garmin Pay are not widely available, » Cassidy said.
However, he noted that the EBS account does not offer any mobile payments at all.
What banks have the highest fees and charges?
It can be difficult to keep track of banking fees and costs.
While some banks charge a flat monthly fee, others charge a fee per transaction.
The credit union charges a monthly fee of €4, €5, €6 PTSB and €6 from the Bank of Ireland.
After that, most of your daily banking is free with all these providers.
However, Mr. Cassidy said An Post will charge you 50 cents for every cash or check deposit, and 60 cents for every ATM withdrawal.
« Although that’s down to 50 cents at a post office, and you get one free withdrawal per week, » he added.
With a credit union, you get five ATM withdrawals with no fees per month – then a fee of 50 cents applies.
EBS, N26, and Revolut do not charge a monthly fee.
However, as mentioned earlier, hefty fees can apply when withdrawing cash only from online banks.
Meanwhile, AIB charges fees for nearly every type of transaction, and Cassidy said this can be too expensive for people with medium to heavy accounts.
But if you are a student, graduate, or over 66 years old, the good news is that all providers waive most fees.
None of the banks, Cassidy said, charges fees for mobile or contactless transactions — at this time.
What other features are worth considering?
Ulster Bank has a feature that allows you to block or freeze your debit card if you misplace it, then unfreeze it as soon as you find it.
Of the remaining providers, only AIB, An Post, N26, and Revolut currently offer this feature.
“If you are an Ulster Bank customer who has taken advantage of and values this feature before, this is something to consider,” Cassidy said.
It’s also important to note, he said, that N26 will give you a German IBAN when you open an account, while Revolut will give you a Lithuanian account.
« This can cause problems for people, as some employers and companies cannot recognize non-Irish account numbers, » he warned.
Meanwhile, regarding the overdraft facility, Cassidy said neither An Post, EBS MoneyManager, N26 or Revolut offer overdrafts at this time.
« If you currently have an overdraft or think you might want to have it in the near future, that’s something to consider, » he added.
What is not important when choosing a checking account?
There is a misconception among the Irish people that if you are taking out a mortgage, it will help you with your application if you have your checking account with the respective bank.
But Mr. Cassidy said nothing could be further from the truth.
“Your mortgage application will depend on your income, your ability to pay, and your current job status.
« With who you have your checking account with, it will have no bearing on whether or not your application will be approved, » he said.
Is the conversion process complicated?
While you can open an account with a new online provider, often within minutes, switching from one bank to another is a bit more complicated.
All debits and standing orders must be moved, and Cassidy cautioned that this takes time.
« You can use the central bank’s code of conduct or you can do most of it yourself, » Cassidy explained.
« If you use the Code of Conduct, your old bank should help you transfer direct debts and standing orders, » he explained.
However, he noted that many payments for things like Netflix, Amazon Prime, M50, Spotify, and GoMo are taken from your debit card as recurring payments — they’re not direct debits taken from your account.
« It’s up to you to go online and update all your payment details for these kinds of things yourself, » he said.
You will also need to tell your employer your new account details, as neither your old bank nor your new bank can do this for you.
Finally, you’ll need to sign up and set up your new baking online, download your new bank app and set up Apple or Google Pay on your phone or watch.
Will there be a rush of people looking to change?
Ulster Bank alone has around 500,000 customers in a checking account.
Cassidy noted that a bank of this size had never left Ireland.
“You don’t want to search for a new checking account provider at the same time as more than half a million other people,” he said.
KBC is set to pull out of the Irish market shortly after Ulster Bank, which means there will be a second wave of customers looking to switch.
« There is no need to rush or panic but I advise clients to make the New Year’s resolution for change in January or February perhaps, » he advised.
What is the latest advice from Ulster Bank?
Ulster Bank encourages customers to consider their options, take advantage of support, and prepare to choose a new banking provider.
« Over the coming months, we will be reaching out to customers, including those who may need further support, to help them prepare for the selection of a new provider, with a view to moving and closing their accounts, » the bank said in a statement.
While the bank was quick to point out that customers do not need to take action at the moment, it said customers can switch now if they are willing to do so.
“Ulster Bank encourages our personal ready customers now to call us at 0818210260 to arrange an appointment or call a branch where we will be able to assist customers, who are willing, on an individual and personal basis to get ready to select, transfer and close their checking and deposit accounts.”
She said mortgage clients do not need to take any action at this time.
“We are in discussions with other banking parties in the Irish market to convert these mortgages on their current terms and conditions.
« We will contact customers when there is a further update, » Ulster Bank’s statement said.
Meanwhile, commercial customers willing to transfer their accounts can now contact Ulster Bank at 0818211690 or through their Relationship Manager.
What is the latest advice from KBC?
Unlike Ulster Bank, KBC Bank Ireland does not actively encourage customers to prepare for changes in the road.
When RTÉ business contacted customers for advice, it again said that customers did not need to take any immediate action.
It said the binding agreement with the Bank of Ireland remained subject to all relevant regulatory approvals.
A spokesperson for the bank said: “KBC hubs, call center and digital channels continue to operate as usual and continue to accept new applications for checking accounts, mortgages, deposits, personal loans, life insurance, home and auto insurance and personal credit cards.” And
The spokesperson said KBC will ensure all customers, including checking account customers, receive « plenty of notice » of any changes to their accounts in line with all legal and regulatory protections.
“For example, if customers are required to switch or close their checking accounts, KBC will provide customers with at least 60 days’ notice,” the spokesperson said.
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