KBC and Ulster Bank customers must make the big change


With Ulster Bank and KBC preparing to leave the Irish market, a large number of Irish customers will be looking for options for their daily banking needs.

Changing checking accounts can seem like a daunting task, given the number of direct debits and other inbound and outbound payments most of us have put in place.

But the Central Bank has a standardized switch code, so in many cases your new provider can do a lot of the reorganization for you.

The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) recently pointed out that there is no obligation for consumers to use this switching process; “If you prefer to close your old account and open a new one at your convenience, you can do so.”

But honestly anything that cuts down on paperwork should be welcome and I would recommend going through the standard switching process where possible.

But while the central bank code helps you relocate, it won’t decide where you need to move, the choice of the new checking account is up to you.

Traditional banks accepting new customers include AIB, Bank of Ireland, EBS, and Permanent TSB, while An Post Money and credit unions also offer checking account services, as do online providers N26 and Revolut.

Customers can also currently open accounts with KBC but as already mentioned the bank is in talks on exiting the Irish market in the future which should be factored into your decision.

There are a number of factors that should be taken into consideration when choosing your new checking account. All of the providers listed above have different fee structures, so your individual banking needs and usage will determine which account is best for you.

Factors to consider include whether or not you need an overdraft, how often you use ATMs, and what your preferred payment method is when you’re on the go.

For example, the EBS MoneyManager account is a basic, very low cost checking account with no monthly maintenance fees or ongoing bank charges. EBS offers basic online banking and the account comes with an EBS debit card that can be used anywhere you see the Mastercard symbol.

But you can’t get an overdraft facility, and you won’t have access to Google Pay or Apple Pay. Therefore, if any of these features are important to you, MoneyManager is not the solution. Other banks also offer basic bank accounts with conditions.

ATM fees also vary widely, so this is definitely something to consider when selecting your new account. Digital only banks N26 and Revolut do not charge maintenance fees on their standard account, and there are also no fees for many daily transactions like contactless payments or direct debits.

However, ATM withdrawals get expensive quickly. N26 allows customers three free withdrawals per calendar month; after that there is a charge of € 2 per withdrawal.

Revolut offers € 200 free withdrawals from ATMs per month with its standard package. Beyond that, you will pay a 2% fee on all funds withdrawn, with a minimum charge of € 1 per withdrawal. In comparison, neither the Bank of Ireland nor the permanent TSB charge ATM withdrawals, but both have monthly maintenance fees.

Some additional features may also direct you to a particular bank. AIB customers who pay their AIB mortgage from an AIB checking account can avoid daily fees, while they and other providers waive fees and charges for certain customers, such as students and those over a certain age.

TSB’s permanent Explore account gives back 10c to customers every time they pay with their card in-store, online, with Apple Pay or Google Pay (up to € 5 per month) and also offers cash back when you pay Sky and SSE Airtricity by direct debit.

If you’re not sure which vendor is right for you, there are two online comparison tools that I recommend you try. At ccpce.ie/consumers/money-tools, you can select accounts to compare and see exactly where two or more accounts differ in terms of fees.

The bonkers.ie tool is also useful as it allows a lot of filters to be added when comparing different accounts.

You can specify how much you are going to deposit per month and how many different types of transactions you will have – direct debits, ATM withdrawals, and online transactions – and this information will be factored into the comparison.

Take a look at a recent statement to give you a picture of your normal usage, then use that information to guide your choice.

Choice of the week

If a prepaid smartphone is on your shopping list for someone this Christmas, you can take advantage of a Tesco Mobile offer and add a fitness watch on top of that.

Tesco offers customers who buy a Xiaomi Redmi 10 before December 28 a free Xiaomi Mi Smart 5 bracelet.

The offer costs 149.99 €, which is not bad considering that the Smart Band 5 is on sale for 40 € on www.xiaomi.ie.

Both the phone and the fitness tracker have been well regarded as solid budget devices that offer tremendous value at their price point.

The promotion is available to customers who purchase the phone from Tesco and Tesco Mobile stores in the Republic of Ireland or online at www.tescomobile.ie.

In the event that a customer returns the phone, he or she must also return the Smart band 5.

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