Have You Seen The End Of Free Banking?

Ulster Bank was one of the last remaining banks to offer no-strings free banking, but now that's about to end which means, in Ireland, it's more difficult than ever to avoid having to pay your bank to look after your money. In fact, all six major banks offering current accounts impose fees unless customers meet stringent requirements. So what are your options if you don't want to minimise how much you pay to your bank?

The Back Of Ireland In Dublin

AIB certainly won't bail you out

Bailed out bank, AIB, charges €4.50 each quarter, and makes a charge for each transaction of between 20c and 30c. That's unless you can keep a credit balance of €2,500 - in these tough economic times, not an easy feat.

Ulster Bank says no

Ulster bank is charging a €4 monthly maintenance fee. However, there are no transaction fees – yet, and you can avoid the maintenance fee by keeping your account in credit to the tune of €3000 per month, or by paying in €3000 monthly.

Permanent fees at Permanent TSB

Unless you have a legacy banking account, you're out of luck with PTSB who charge €12 per quarter, regardless of the number of transactions. However, this can be avoided by lodging €1500 in your account each month.

Don't bank on the Bank Of Ireland

Likewise, BOI's criteria for free banking means maintaining a credit balance of €3000 throughout the quarter. Unfortunately, even this looks set to change. As of August 19th 2013, all customers will pay a €5 maintenance fee. Only those that maintain the €3000 credit balance will be free from transaction charges. A bit cheeky when you consider that UK Bank of Ireland customers still benefit from free banking.

Danske for nothing

Customers of Danske Bank (formerly National Irish Bank) can only avoid fees if they have a Danske Bank credit card linked to an Easy Plus or Prestige account. However, since the cost of these packages range from €75 to €125 per year, they're hardly free. Their standard bank account charges a quarterly fee of €5 and anything between 25c and 34c for transactions.

Tips to keep fees down

So how can you keep costs down?

  • One option is to open a Credit Union account, if your local CU can offer you a debit card and an electronic payment option.
  • Avoid writing cheques as these not only incur a transaction charge, you'll also be charged 50c stamp duty.
  • Where possible, use online banking for transactions, as these are still free with some financial institutions.
  • Making fewer larger withdrawals from ATMs will reduce the amount you pay in transaction fees.
  • Make purchases with a credit card, if you pay the balance off every month to avoid paying interest.
  • A pre-paid credit or debit card could potentially reduce your fees. The Moneybookers card, for example, offers a flat subscription rate of €10 per year.

It's clear that in the future, bank fees in Ireland are only going one way – up! But, by managing how you use your account, you should still be able to keep your costs down.