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Banks will make us pay and pay

The only real surprise about yesterday's announcement from AIB that it was ending "free" banking for most of its current account customers was that it took so long. Ever since the Irish banks essentially went bust in September 2008 they have been gradually withdrawing the freebies and perks which they so liberally dispensed to their customers during the good times.

AIB's decision merely follows the example of its main Irish-owned rival Bank of Ireland, which withdrew "free" current account banking for its customers a year ago.

As competition gradually disappears from the Irish banking market, most customers no longer have much choice when deciding which institution to bank with. In practice the market is gradually concentrating around an AIB/Bank of Ireland/Ulster Bank triopoly.

For as far as the eye can see the future for most bank customers is going to be one of higher banking charges and loan interest rates, assuming that they can get a loan in the first place, and lower deposit rates. This will see the banks ruthlessly squeeze their customers for every last cent as they seek to rebuild their balance sheets.

And it's going to get worse. Forget about "free" banking. From now on it's going to be about how many ways the banks can make us pay.