BANKS are taking the unprecedented step of opening their branches today in a bid to entice thousands of customers of Danske Bank who are having their accounts shut down.
Danske Bank has confirmed that it is closing about 8,000 customer accounts this weekend after the account holders missed a deadline to close them and transfer any funds to other banks.
The Danish-owned bank is closing its retail operations here in phases, with the first wave of 15,000 people with only a single current account or savings account having their accounts closed.
The bank does not operate branches and customers yesterday reported having to wait up to 30 minutes to get through to telephone helplines.
And some customers said they were unable to move money out of Danske because its online operations had been removed for personal customers. However, this was denied by the bank.
Now AIB, Bank of Ireland and KBC Bank said they would open branches and keep phone lines open in a bid to get departing Danske customers to switch their accounts to them.
AIB will open 30 branches around the country until 2pm every Saturday until March 8, when most Danske accounts will have closed.
Bank of Ireland said it would open 60 of its branches until 8pm every Thursday this month, and open eight locations on Saturdays.
KBC said hubs in Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Galway will open tomorrow from 10am to 2pm for Danske customers.
And Permanent TSB said it would open accounts for those affected from Monday and will make €500 available to those "locked-out" of their accounts.
Danske Bank yesterday defended its handling of the shutdown, but admitted that it was getting a huge volume of phone calls.
The bank said that for accounts that close this weekend, if a debit or ATM card exists on the account it will remain operational until Monday.
"Beyond this weekend, customers can withdraw their funds by contacting the bank who will issue a bank draft or facilitate the transfer of funds to another bank," it said.
Danske said that customers with multiple products have until February 21 to close or switch their accounts. Customers with credit cards have until March 21 to move to another credit card provider.
But financial adviser Michael Dowling was among those complaining that the shutdown process was poorly handled.
He is helping a 79-year-old pensioner who has been sent a 15-page letter from the bank telling her to "terminate" her credit card account.
If the woman, who is on a state contributory pension, does not pay off the balance she will have it converted into a two-year loan at an interest rate of 11.5pc, Mr Dowling of Abacus Finance in Clontarf, Dublin, said.
"The bank sends a confusing letter, gives no warning and does not offer to negotiate, that is not good enough," he said.
Danske said its phone lines will operate from 9am to 4.30pm over the weekend. Customers can contact the bank on 1890-866866.