Back in June, An Post quietly launched its new Smart Account; a fully fledged current account to rival those of Ireland’s major banks. Just what is An Post offering and is it good enough to be worth your while switching over?
Here at bonkers.ie, we always champion more choice for consumers so we were delighted when we heard that An Post was launching its own current account, which stands for many as a welcome alternative to those of traditional banks.
Bringing some interesting key features to the table, the Smart Account claims to put the customer in control of their spending and savings in particular, by offering the combination of an appealing MoneyBack feature, as well as its Smart Account Wallet, a household budgeting tool to help with money management. Let’s take a look at the details:
Smart Account key features
First of all, customers should know that an An Post Smart Account works in the same manner and fashion as any normal current account. It comes with a chip and pin Debit Mastercard (with contactless capability) which can be used at point of sale in retailers, online or at ATMs worldwide wherever the Mastercard symbol is displayed. Other standard current account features include:
A fully functioning online facility smartaccount.ie and mobile app, which can be used on both IOS and Android devices.
Credit Transfers and recurring payments
Joint Account facility
No credit check
Quarterly postal statements
Mini Statements at Post Offices nationwide
Of course, the Smart Account’s real selling points are the Smart MoneyBack feature and the Smart Account Wallet which are designed to enable the customer to make real tangible savings and smarter spending choices. Let’s look at these in more detail:
For the Smart MoneyBack feature An Post has created partnerships with various businesses to offer customers the chance to earn money back on goods and services where a large proportion of the household budget is spent; such as groceries, clothing, sportswear, electricity, insurance, leisure and holidays.
The two leading and most attractive discounts come with supermarket Lidl and energy provider SSE Airtricity. Lidl is offering 5% back on all Lidl transactions of €25 and above while SSE Airtricity is offering a tasty 10% back on total bill costs. Nice! For a full list of partnerships, check out the Smart Account site.
The great news is there is no limit on how much account holders can earn, as long as customers meet any minimum spend thresholds which apply. Users can check on their MoneyBack total at any time via the Smart Account App or online.
Smart Account Wallet:
The Smart Account Wallets is a money management tool which offers the user two “Wallets” akin to two mini separate accounts. Once you put money into one, it is set aside for the purpose you choose and it won’t be deducted for any payment you haven’t arranged to have paid from that Wallet.
You decide what your Wallets are for and how much money to put into them. You can use your Wallets for anything you like – holiday savings, insurance payments, emergency money, birthdays, medical expenses or anything else you need to budget or save for. The Account Wallet is designed to give the user more flexibility to customise their account to meet individual needs.
While savings and money back options are all well and good, when we get down to it, maintenance and transaction fees are always going to have the most impact when it comes to switching considerations and regrettably, the Smart Account has its fair share of them.
Unlike a few of its competitors, the Smart Account doesn’t charge for transactions, which is nice but at the same time it does have a high enough €5 monthly maintenance fee - not to mention the fact that you’ll be charged a hefty enough €0.60 fee every time you take money out of an ATM (the highest that banks charge for ATM withdrawals is €0.35 from AIB). This charge goes down to €0.50 if you make a withdrawal from an An Post branch.
These kinds of fee penalties would seem to indicate that An Post has joined in the movement towards a cashless society. They deter ATM withdrawals with the service arguing that you can offset your maintenance fees by earning money back by using your card.
Handy contactless cards that make it super easy to pay by card even for small, cheaper items without the worry of fees also encourage less use of physical cash. All of this is fine if you don’t mind your bank knowing exactly what you’re spending your money on, but it can be a deterrent for some people, so do keep this in mind if you’re considering An Post’s Smart Account.
What makes An Post’s Smart Account different from traditional banks?
As stated above, the Smart Account functions much the same as any traditional current account with the added benefits of the Smart MoneyBack and Smart Wallet features. It should be noted, however, that the Smart Account does not offer a cheque book facility, nor does it offer overdraft facilities. You will only be able to spend the money you have available in your Main Smart Account.
Is An Post’s Smart Account worthwhile?
So, the big question, is the Smart Account good enough to consider switching?
Despite the fact that the switching process is relatively straightforward in the banking sector, the percentage of customers who switch current accounts remains incredibly low at just 0.06%.
Whether or not you gauge the above offering to be of any value will be particular to your own needs, requirements, and preferences but it’s good to see that more and more options are becoming available to customers.
We’ve seen other banks recently making moves to reward customers for loyalty such as Permanent TSB’s GoRewards scheme and AIB’s Everyday Rewards scheme which is similar to An Post’s MoneyBack scheme. It will be interesting to see if these incentives will find favour with customers in the long run.
The An Post Smart account has gained momentum since its launch in June, with its availability expanding from 250 Post Office branches to 300 by the end of last month. Speaking to Gráinne McGuinness in The Irish Examiner last month, Angus Laverty, Public Affairs Manager at An Post said the rapid expansion is being driven by consumer demand:
“That’s a very good take-up rate. There are requests from post offices to be added to the network coming in all the time. Demand for accounts has been very strong, the number of post offices being added is a reflection of customer interest,” he says.
Ready to switch?
If you like the sound of An Post’s new current account and you feel ready to make the switch over and open an account, pause for a second! Before you make any decisions you should compare the whole market to make sure that they are the perfect fit for your needs.