THOUSANDS of Ulster Bank customers face having to pay a monthly fee for their banking from the start of July.
The bank is to charge customers €4 a month for using a current account, the Irish Independent has learned.
It is expected that around half of the bank's current- account customers will be hit by the new charging regime.
But the monthly fee can be avoided if at least €3,000 is lodged into the account every month. Alternatively, if a balance of at least €3,000 is kept each month no fees will be charged.
The new fee arrangement will apply from July 1. It had been planned to introduce the new system much earlier, but the collapse of the bank's IT systems last summer forced the British-owned bank to delay bringing in charges.
Students and the over-60s will not be subject to the new €4 a month charge.
The move is despite hopes that Permanent TSB's decision to scrap fees as long as €1,500 is lodged to its current account each quarter would prompt a personal-banking price war.
Permanent TSB will pay 1pc interest on credit balances of up to €1,500, according to Niall O'Grady of the bank.
And it emerged last month that Belgium-owned KBC Bank is planning to introduce a low-cost current account in a bid to tempt some of the two million customers away from Bank of Ireland and AIB.
The moves by KBC and Permanent TSB are expected to ratchet up pressure on AIB and Bank of Ireland, in particular, as the two banks have made it almost impossible for customers to avoid fees and charges.
Both AIB and Bank of Ireland have quarterly fees for those who fail to meet their conditions.
Bank of Ireland charges €11.40 every quarter on its Flat Fee current account, with no transactions charges.
Its Pay as You Go account has 28c per transaction charge.
The fees and charges on both accounts can be avoided if customers keep a minimum balance of €3,000 in the account at all times.
AIB charges between 20c and 30c for transactions like ATM withdrawals and cheque processing, along with €4.50 a quarter for those who do not keep at least €2,500 of credit in the account at all stages.
These charges typically cost a customer €30 every three months.
Danske Bank, which was formerly called National Irish Bank, also has fees on its three types of current accounts.