Image KBC and Ulster Bank to start closing current accounts
Image Rob Flynn
Staff Writer

With the closure of KBC and Ulster Bank only around the corner, hundreds of thousands of customers will be looking for a new current account provider. But how long do customers have to close their accounts? We take a look.

It’s still quite surprising to read that both KBC and Ulster Bank will be leaving the Irish market soon - soon being the operative word.

While it's likely to be a major blow to competition in the banking sector in the medium to long term, a more pressing concern persists in the short term for consumers: having to close an existing current account and set up a new one.

The imminent departure of the two banks is only now beginning to draw the attention of the 500,000 or so current account customers who are impacted. And it has the potential to cause great disruption to the Irish banking system if switching isn’t conducted in an orderly manner.

So how much time do KBC and Ulster Bank customers have to close their existing accounts? We take a closer look at both banks’ timelines below.

Timeline for KBC account closures

KBC Bank Ireland has said that it will give customers six months' notice to close their accounts. Previously the notice period had only been three months but the bank extended this after coming in for criticism that it wasn't giving people enough time.

KBC will start writing out to customers on June 1st.

However the Belgian-owned bank has said that it will contact customers on a phased basis over several months as part of its exit strategy. In other words, not all customers will be contacted to close their accounts at once. This means that customers will have until around the end of the year at the very least to close their accounts.

KBC has also said that customers are not required to take any action until they have been contacted by the bank and that all services will continue as normal up until then. 

KBC has around 130,000 current account holders in Ireland.

The bank also says that once it issues you notice to close your account, it will stop charging you maintenance fees. This means you won't be double charged if you open up a new account while you try to gradually close your KBC one.

Mortgage customers don't need to do anything. Bank of Ireland is due to buy KBC's performing mortgages (in other words the ones which aren't heavily in arrears) and it will write out to customers soon explaining what, if anything, they need to do.

Timeline for Ulster Bank account closures

Meanwhile, Ulster Bank plans on giving its current account and deposit customers a notice period of six months also.

Ulster Bank has already begun sending letters to these affected customers, which will also be on a phased basis over the next few months and into 2023. This is to make sure that there isn't a flood of customers trying to switch provider at once. 

For reference, Ulster Bank has around 360,000 active current account customers, more than double the number that KBC holds. Ulster Bank also has around 300,000 active deposit accounts.

Ulster Bank mortgage customers don't need to do anything. Permanent TSB is due to buy Ulster Bank's performing mortgages and it will write out to customers shortly explaining what, if anything, they need to do. Those with a tracker mortgage will likely see their loan sold to AIB, however.

There is still uncertainty as to what Ulster Bank's plans are for credit card and personal loan customers. It's likely Ulster Bank credit card customers will be written to early next year and asked to pay off their outstanding balance and close their account. Again six months' notice will be given. Ulster Bank may sell its personal loans to another provider.

Switching concerns

The exit of KBC and Ulster Bank has raised serious concern among industry officials and consumer groups for the potential it has to disrupt the wider banking sector.

As part of the Central Bank’s Consumer Protection Code, banks here are obligated to give customers a minimum of two months’ notice before closing accounts. Although both KBC and Ulster Bank are giving more than the required notice, they have still come under fire.

Why?

The main issue concerns the mass switching of current accounts in such a short period of time, and the wider banking sector's inability to deal with this additional workload.

For context, the withdrawal of both banks represents the biggest movement of current and deposit accounts in the State’s history.

In terms of admin for banks, current account switching is not as simple as just opening a new account with supporting documentation. A lot of time goes into making sure customers' direct debits, standing orders, and regular payments are transferred in line too. This is regulated for under the consumer protection code mentioned above.

In short, mass switching has the potential to negatively impact the wider banking sector’s ability to conduct essential day-to-day operations.

KBC in particular has been called out for its tight closure timeline and has been called 'irresponsible' for serving up ‘unrealistic’ timelines.

I’m an existing KBC/Ulster Bank customer. What should I do?

Open a new current account with a new bank as soon as possible. Do not necessarily wait until you receive a letter from KBC or Ulster Bank.

This will help to avoid the (likely) rush of customers trying to open an account last minute, not to mention banks being inundated with direct debit transfer requests, and other similar switching requests.

Also, while it's easy enough to open a new account yourself online in just minutes, you can't switch online. Also, if you have a non EU passport or need to open up a joint account, this can only be done in branch with some providers by making an appointment, and some banks are now booked up for weeks.

What’s also important to point out is that even where existing direct debit payments can be handled under the switching code, many companies will still only take instructions directly from their customers.

In other words, you might be better off opening an account and manually sorting out your direct debits yourself, depending on the number and how easy this may be. For example, phone bills and streaming services all allow you to update your details online manually. 

As mentioned above, almost 500,000 customers are affected by the upcoming current account closures, so moving on this is certainly a case of the sooner, the better.

What’s more, Ireland has an incredibly low current account switching rate as it is, with many people reluctant to switch until it’s absolutely necessary.

We cannot stress how important it is to switch as soon as possible if your account is due to close. This will give yourself enough time to make sure all your regular payments are set up, such as your mortgage and insurance payments, for example.

Switch your current account

On bonkers.ie we make it very easy for you to compare current accounts across all the major financial institutions in Ireland.

Whether you’re looking for fee-free banking or the provider with the best app, you can find the best current account for you and compare all its features in minutes.

Take a look at our current accounts comparison page to compare standard, graduate, student, and senior accounts!

Our current account comparison isn’t the only service we offer here at bonkers.ie. We also have comparison tools for energy, broadband, insurance, and other banking products

Why not take a look and see what bills you could save on today?

Find out more about current accounts in Ireland

If you want to find out more about how to get the best value for your money when it comes to your banking, check out some of our latest current account content.

We recently checked out the main banks in Ireland to see which one has the best app. Take a look at who won at this link!

Here’s a flavour of some more informative and free banking content you can get right here on bonkers.ie.

Get in touch!

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