Blow to 30,000 over-60s as free banking is withdrawn
Ulster Bank is to withdraw free banking from thousands of customers over the age of 60.
It is set to impact on around 30,000 people and the move comes as it is set to announce the closure of up to 30 branches.
The change in the fee arrangements is set to enrage customers affected, especially those in rural areas who are already worried their post office will be among the 200 expected to be shut by loss-making An Post.
From May 20, Ulster Bank will withdraw fee-free banking from those over the age of 60, the Irish Independent has learned. Customers will have to be 66 years and older from then to avoid the bank's monthly maintenance fee of €4.
The bank said the change would bring it into line with AIB and Bank of Ireland. Ulster Bank does not charge transaction fees, but instead applies a €4 a month fee for those who do not qualify for fee-free banking.
This fee can be avoided if at least €3,000 is kept in the current account each month. Customers will automatically get maintenance fee-free banking when they reach the age of 66.
The bank claimed a third of the 30,000 people affected by the change will not end up paying fees as they already keep at least €3,000 in their current account at all times.
Ulster Bank has taken out adverts in newspapers and is writing to affected customers about the end of the waiver for those between the ages of 60 and 66.
It comes as the bank is close to announcing that up to one in four of its 112 branches is to close.
"Ulster Bank is increasing the age limit of the monthly maintenance fee waiver on current accounts from 60 to 66 years of age from May 20," an Ulster Bank spokesperson said.
"Our balance waiver of €3,000 cleared balance throughout the full charging cycle will continue to be available to all customers, in addition to no transaction charges and a range of other current account services."
Told about the change, Justin Moran of Age Action said: "I suspect a lot of older customers will be frustrated that they're being hit with maintenance fees less than a month after Ulster Bank announced an annual profit of €280m. Age Action is currently investigating older people's experiences with utility companies and banks. A recurring theme from the people we've surveyed is that there is a steady decline in the quality of service provided by Ireland's banks, so being charged more for a poorer service will be hard to take."
Bank of Ireland two years ago restricted over-the-counter cash withdrawals and lodgements in a move that predominantly hit older customers. Permanent TSB still has free banking for those over 60, as does KBC Bank.
Before the crash, all banks guaranteed fee-free banking to people over the age of 60. AIB moved in March 2015 to restrict free banking for those in their early 60s.