independent

Saturday 19 April 2014

Four-fold difference in account charges at our banks

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Thinkstock Images

SOME bank customers are paying four times more in current account fees than they would if they had shopped around, a survey by the Irish Independent reveals.

The annual costs for a typical bank customer now range from €28 to €136 a year as free banking becomes a thing of the past.

Ulster Bank offers both the cheapest and the dearest current account deals, depending on the option you choose.

But it is soon set to hike the charges on its standard account by €48 a year with the introduction of a €4 monthly account charge from July.

And Ulster Bank's uFirst Current Account came out as the dearest in our survey, costing customers €136 a year.

Of the country's big two banks, AIB is the most expensive at €106 a year for the typical customer, but Bank of Ireland isn't far behind at between €95 and €102.

And while Permanent TSB charges add up to €93 a year, you could cut this to €45 a year if you lodge at least €1,500 per month.

Bank of Ireland offers no quarterly or transaction fees if you keep a balance of €3,000, while AIB charges no transaction fees where a balance of €2,500 is maintained.

EBS offers five free transactions if you keep a minimum balance of €500.

But while it clearly pays to shop around for a cheaper deal on your current account, the latest figures show that hardly anyone does.

While Irish consumers are keen to get the best deal on their gas and electricity bills and will hop between suppliers to do so, the number switching bank accounts remains at a negligible 2pc, the latest survey by the National Consumer Agency (NCA) shows.

New NCA chief executive Karen O'Leary said it had received over 180 complaints about bank charges in the last year, a period when most banks had reintroduced fees or put stringent qualifying criteria in place.

It also had queries from customers who have found it difficult to switch banks even though there's a statutory code, which puts the onus on the banks to manage the process smoothly within 10 days.

Overdraft

Problems included customers being hit with overdraft fees or surcharges or getting a bad credit rating because of delays in the switchover process.

The NCA also said it had found major gaps in the information provided by banks on how to switch accounts, and said Ireland should look at allowing people keep the same bank account number when they switch banks to prevent disruption to direct debits.

However, the Central Bank, which had been reviewing new ways to encourage people to switch bank accounts, said it would now await new proposals being drawn up by the European Commission on the issue.

Dail Finance Committee chairman Ciaran Lynch called for restaurant-style menus outside banks to make customers aware of the costs of using an ATM or withdrawing money in the branch.

"We are calling on banks to advertise their charge costs at the front door in much the same way that pubs and restaurants are obliged to display costs of drink and food outside their premises," he said.

Our survey is based on a Central Bank profile of a typical bank customer making a standard number of transactions, and with an authorised overdraft and a few out of order charges each year.

Irish Independent

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