50,000 Ulster Bank customers face monthly fees for first time
THOUSANDS of Ulster Bank customers are set to be forced to pay fees for the first time after the bank decided to change the rules.
The move is set to see an extra 50,000 customers hit with monthly charges, as fewer people will now qualify for fee-free banking, the Irish Independent has learned.
The bank has around 600,000 current account customers, and the change will take to around 350,000 the number of customers to be hit with fees.
At the moment, customers can avoid monthly fees of €4 if they deposit €3,000 every month, or if they keep a €3,000 balance at all times.
But from September, the monthly fee will only be waived if current account customers keep a credit balance of at least €3,000 in the account at all times.
Those unable to keep a balance of that size face paying €48 a year for the use of their current account – a day-to-day account used for having wages and pensions paid into the bank and allowing payments and cash withdrawals to be made.
A spokesman for the bank said: "Ulster Bank confirms that from September 19, one waiver will be available for customers to avoid the monthly maintenance fee by maintaining a cleared balance of €3,000 in their current account. No transaction fees apply to Ulster Bank accounts."
The change comes just a year after the bank introduced fees.
A month-long crash of the bank's IT system in the summer of 2012 had forced the bank to delay introducing charges.
Students and the over 60s, who get free banking, and those who can keep €3,000 in their accounts, will be among 250,000 of the bank's customers that are expected to continue to escape the monthly fee.
Rivals such as Bank of Ireland have made similar changes after initially introducing fees.
The move comes after Danske Bank forced 60,000 customers to find a new bank this year, after it shut its retail operations here.
Simon Moynihan, of price comparison site Bonkers.ie, said it would be difficult for most people to keep a balance of €3,000 at all times to avoid fees, as large numbers do not have any spare funds.
Mr Moynihan said that for those considering switching bank accounts, Permanent TSB had the best offer.
"Permanent TSB's current account is the most accessible where customers just need to lodge €1,500 per month to avoid fees. There is no minimum balance with Permanent TSB either, so most working people should be able to avoid fees by lodging their salary."
But he added that even with the change, Ulster Bank's current account fees would be among the lowest at €48 per year. Banking fees and charges of up to €120 a year are now common.
AIB charges €4 a quarter and up to 39c per transaction, unless €2,500 is kept in the account at all times.
Bank of Ireland charges €5 a quarter maintenance to all, except for pensioners and students. There are transaction charges of up to 40c each on top of this unless a credit balance of €3,000 is kept in the account at all times.
KBC Bank has a €6 quarterly charge, with charges on top of this of up to 30c per transaction if the balance falls below €2,000.