ALL bank customers are set to be hit with a raft of new bank charges in the new year, the Irish Independent has learned.
The revelation comes as bailed-out Bank of Ireland came under scathing criticism after it emerged that a controversial new charging structure will hit the low paid and the unemployed hard.
And sources last night warned AIB -- which is now almost 100pc owned by the taxpayer -- and Permanent TSB are now preparing to unleash new charges on consumers.
Consumer watchdogs described the charges as a "kick in the teeth" for customers who are also bailing out the State's main banks.
Banking analyst with Dolmen Stockbrokers Oliver Gilvarry warned that the era of free, or no-fee, banking is well and truly over.
Wherever banks can chase down fee income they will chase it down aggressively from here on in, he added.
"The free banking model is very much gone. The old-fashioned banking model is set to return with fees for every banking transaction," the analyst said.
Both AIB and Ulster Bank said yesterday they had no immediate plans to start charging consumers more for using current accounts, but the banks would not rule out changes to their fee structure.
The banks said they were keeping their charging arrangements under review.
A spokesman for National Irish Bank said it had no immediate plans to make changes to its current account fees.
And Permanent TSB said it had no plans to change the rules where its customers have to make at least six purchases with their bank card to get fee-free banking.
But it admitted it had recently made it more difficult for new current account customers of the bank to qualify for free banking.
Chief executive of the Consumers' Association, Dermott Jewell, predicted that all other banks would now follow Bank of Ireland in squeezing more income out of customers by making it difficult to qualify for free banking.
There will be new charges for withdrawing money from ATMs, lodging cheques and for making payments, Mr Jewell said.
Yesterday it was revealed that current account holders with Bank of Ireland who do not make at least nine payments every quarter online or over the phone will have fees imposed on them.
On top of this they will have to have a minimum of at least €3,000 per quarter going into their account to avoid fees.
Alternatively, customers can also avoid fees by keeping a minimum credit balance of €3,000 in their accounts during the quarter.
The bank, which has around 1.2 million personal customers, was heavily condemned yesterday.
Labour Party deputy leader Joan Burton said the new charging structure coming in on February 21 was structured to hit those on low incomes the hardest.
"What is particularly objectionable about these charges is that they are structured in such a way as to impact most severely on the poorest -- those with the lowest incomes, the lowest balances and the fewest payments," she said.
The National Consumer Agency advised people to consider switching their account to get a better deal.