In the first half of 2016, just 3,600 of us, or 0.06pc, switched our current account to another bank.
This is a far cry from the first half of 2014, when over 26,000 customers switched, although this was mainly due to the exit of Danske Bank and ACC Bank from the current account market.
“The main reason for inertia in switching current accounts is fear that something will go wrong,” said Simon Moynihan of price comparison site Bonkers.ie. “Many consumers are concerned that their direct debits will be cancelled and that they will miss important payments on their mortgage or energy bills by switching current accounts.”
The existence of the Central Bank’s Switching Code (designed to make switching current accounts easier and quicker for consumers) and the banks’ own efforts to ease these fears, such as with new types of current account, appear to have had little influence, he says.
“Until the fear of something going wrong is properly tackled, those low switching figures are likely to remain stagnant.”
A few years ago, consumers could avail of genuinely free-fee banking thanks to strong competition among a greater number of banks for new customers, but things are a little different now, especially with only six players in the market.
AIB, KBC and Ulster Bank are offering fee-free banking to customers, but only when a number of strict criteria are met. With AIB, customers must keep €2,500 on deposit at all times and with Ulster Bank, that figure stands at €3,000. With KBC, customers can avail of fee-free banking by lodging €2,500 every month.
Bank of Ireland charges a €5 quarterly maintenance fee to all customers, but will waive transaction fees for customers who keep €3,000 on deposit at all times.
Permanent TSB is a little bit different, says Moynihan. “With the bank’s Explore Account, customers are charged €4 every month, but this can be offset by the fact that the bank will pay back 10c on every debit card transaction. However, this is capped at €5 a month.
“So, it is possible to actually make €12 over the course of a year by banking with Permanent TSB, but customers will have to transact a lot.”
Contactless payments remain free of charge with KBC, Ulster Bank and Permanent TSB, while Bank of Ireland charges 2pc of the transaction value up to a maximum of 11.43 per transaction), while AIB is set to start charging 20c each from next month.
When it comes to credit cards, there are signs of increased competition among banks, with many now offering 0pc APR on transfers for a certain period of time, according to Moynihan.
The Bank of Ireland is offer 0pc interest on balance transfers for seven months on its Classic credit card, although it does have a rate of 22.1pc. KBC is offering 0pc APR on transfers for six months, with a rate of 18.25pc kicking in after that.
Permanent TSB are also offering six months of a 0pc APR on balance transfers, but with a rate of 20.7pc.
One of the best rates on the market is AIB’s CLICK Credit Card, which comes with 13.8pc APR, but this does not have any balance transfer option.
How to switch …Current account
Pick a new provider and ask for a ‘Switching Pack’. Agree a ‘Switching Date’ – when there is least activity on your account, e.g. mid-month.
Inform your employer of the new details.
If you have an existing overdraft, you’ll need to negotiate its terms with your new bank. You are not automatically entitled to move it also. The new bank may carry out a credit check.
Provide your new bank with proof of identity and confirm whether you need a cheque book, debit card, etc.
Complete an ‘Account Transfer Form’. This tells your new bank about direct debits, standing orders, etc which they will liaise with your old bank to switch across. The balance of funds in your old account will also be moved.
Potential saving: €20+ a year
Total time: 120 mins
How to switch …Credit card
The process involves completing an application form either online, or on paper – you will be asked for:
your current bank details;
existing credit cards and loans;
existing mortgage (if this is in arrears you may be refused);
existing savings accounts.
You must be over 18, in receipt of an income (which may be restricted to over a certain level, e.g. €16,000 pa) and have a current account.
Credit checks will be carried out with a credit bureau to see if you have outstanding loans or have ever missed payments on them.
Clearing €5,000 debt at 22.8pc at €300 per month takes one year, nine months.
Switching the balance to a 0pc card for six months takes one year, six months.
Potential saving: €900
Total time: 30 mins
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