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Tuesday 16 September 2014

Consumers may opt for credit unions to give banks bloody nose

Published 07/11/2013 | 21:30

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WE are taking a new sucker punch from our banks.

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And we will only have ourselves to blame if we do nothing about it.

It is not enough that we rescued them, but from next year the full impact of the charges they have introduced and ramped up during the summer are about to hit households hard.

A couple, each with a current account, will find the cost of day-to-day banking comes to about €260 next year.

AIB, Bank of Ireland and Ulster Bank – responsible for about 3.3 million current accounts – have moved from fee-free banking to very expensive banking.

Only if you are a student or a pensioner is it possible to avoid charges.

The rest can avoid transaction charges – such as a 35c charge each time you withdraw money from an ATM – but only if you keep chunks of cash in some of the banks.

But since the summer separate maintenance charges, which are impossible to avoid, have been introduced by Bank of Ireland and Ulster Bank.

The extreme reluctance of consumers to switch their current accounts to better-value offerings from Permanent TSB and KBC Bank means they will have to roll with the punches.

A mere three out of 10 people have ever changed their banking provider.

In fact, most people still bank where they first opened an account with their First Holy Communion money.

All of this comes as our retail banking landscape has shrunk with the decision of ACC to hand back its banking licence and Danske Bank's move to stop offering current accounts and other products to consumers.

Ironically, Danske could emerge as part of the solution. It is set to provide the financial infrastructure for credit unions to start on the path to providing current accounts.

A total of 147 credit unions in the Republic will start rolling out electronic payment options from next February.

This will mean you will be able to have your wages put into the credit union directly from your employer.

The next step will be to have debit cards, allowing cash to be withdrawn from a credit union or bank ATM.

There are 2.8 million credit union members in Ireland. If just a fraction of these switch to their credit union for day-to-day banking, consumers will have given the main banks a bloody nose.

Irish Independent

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