Saturday 25 October 2014

One in three hit with new charges for daily banking

Published 11/02/2014 | 02:30

Customers are resorting to using ATMs less frequently to avoid bank charges
Customers are resorting to using ATMs less frequently to avoid bank charges

One in three adults has been hit with new charges for using a day-to-day bank account.

The consumers lost their 'free' banking facilities in the past year as the major banks have moved to impose charges for using current accounts.

This has prompted thousands of people to change to withdrawing large amounts of cash to avoid paying a fee each time they use an ATM.

Consumers have also reacted to the imposition of charges by using their debit/Laser cards less frequently to avoid fees.

Families where the parents each have a current account face paying €260 this year in bank charges, it has been estimated.

And the stiff new charges regime has prompted thousands to consider switching to a bank where they can get a cheaper current account, research conducted for the National Consumer Agency (NCA) shows.

The revelations came days after Danske Bank admitted that 8,000 customers had failed to close down their current and savings accounts in time for a deadline set by the bank.

The Danish-owned bank is withdrawing from retail banking here on a phased basis.

Hundreds of people called special helplines that had opened over the weekend seeking to get their money out of Danske and transfer it to another bank, a spokesman said.

Bank of Ireland said it had seen "unprecedented demand" over the weekend from departing Danske customers wanting to open new accounts.

And Permanent TSB is offering to make €500 available to those "locked out" of their Danske accounts. It said it had seen a 50pc rise in switcher inquiries in the past week.

Meanwhile, the research carried out by Behaviour & Attitudes for the NCA found that 34pc of adults had lost their free banking facilities in the last year.

This is particularly the case with those between the ages of 35 and 49, the research found.

AIB requires current account holders to keep a balance of at least €2,500 to avoid fees of up to 35c per transaction.

Bank of Ireland has a quarterly fee of €5 whether or not the account is in credit. And customers are hit by fees of up to 40c per transaction if they fail to keep at least €3,000 in the account throughout the quarter.

The NCA research found that just 6pc of adults opted to switch to a new bank. But a higher number intends to switch by summer's end.

Director of the NCA Fergal O'Leary said: "The research clearly shows that many consumers are making larger cash withdrawals and using their debit cards less, which is a concern in the context of the National Payments Plan and its objective to increase the use of electronic forms of payment such as debit cards."

The research also found that 57pc of all current account holders had never checked to see if there was a better deal or package available elsewhere.

One in seven of current account holders don't know whether they are being charged fees. Consumers should be aware of the charges they are paying for using their current account as the cost can be significant over the course of a year, said Mr O'Leary.

Charlie Weston Personal Finance Editor

Irish Independent

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