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Banking

Which bank has the best value current account?

Banking
Lower your everyday banking fees
Daragh Cassidy

Daragh Cassidy

Head Writer

Whether you're an Ulster Bank customer who's on the lookout for a new home for your wages or just in the mood to save some money, we've all the info on who's offering the best current account.

Current account switching rates in Ireland are incredibly low at less than 0.10% - and have been for quite some time. Unlike with other household services such as energy and broadband, we tend to harbour incredible inertia in Ireland when it comes to switching financial institutions and current accounts in particular.

For many of us, our parents choose a bank for us in childhood, or we sign up to whoever is offering the best freebies during Freshers week in college. Either way, once we’ve signed up, for most of us, whichever bank has us - has us for life.

But that doesn't have to be the case as there's now more choice for Irish consumers than ever before.

So how do the current account providers compare? 

We've waded through all the details and charges to see how all the main current account providers compare.  

Note that as well as the day-to-day fees outlined below, in most cases you'll also be charged for non day-to-day fees such as bounced cheques or direct debits, replacement cards, overdrafts, as well as foreign exchange fees.  

AIB

The biggest and most popular bank in Ireland, AIB has a great mobile app, a large branch network, and was one of the first banks to introduce both Google Pay and Apple Pay to the Irish market. In addition, it recently added Fitbit Pay to its portfolio of digital payments.

However AIB's current account is expensive compared to all the other providers.

It charges a €4.50 quarterly maintenance fee, a €0.35 fee for every ATM withdrawal and a €0.20 charge for chip and pin transactions, self-service lodgements, online transactions, direct debits and standing orders to all standard customers. These fees are applied regardless of how much you lodge or keep in your account each month.

Contactless transactions are free though.

There is some good news in that some AIB customers can avoid fees. Student accounts, graduate accounts, accounts for those over 66 years of age and AIB’s Basic Bank Account are free of day-to-day charges.

Also, people who pay their AIB mortgage from an AIB current account are able to avoid day-to-day fees.

AIB also now allows you to easily lock and unlock your card within its app. So if you've misplaced your debit card, or want to stop it from being used, you can temporarily lock your card to protect it from unauthorised use as opposed to having to cancel it and deal with all the hassle that then entails. You can then unlock it at any time. 

An Post

An post launched its Smart Account back in June 2017.

However it leans on the expensive side. It has a €5 monthly maintenance fee and a €0.60 ATM withdrawal fee. It also has the highest foreign exchange fees if you use your card outside the eurozone. You'll also be charged €0.50 for any cash or cheque lodgements at your Post Office. 

The cash withdrawal fee reduces to €0.50 if money is taken out at an An Post branch and you get one free post office withdrawal each week.

All other day-to-day transactions are free.

No overdraft facility is available with the account though, so if you have an overdraft with your existing provider and want to switch to An Post, you'll need to clear it first.

An Post is doing well on the mobile payments front, offering Apple, Google and Fitbit Pay. It has a decent mobile app and it lets you easily stay in control of your finances and avoid nasty surprises with helpful alerts for transactions like direct debits, credits to your account or failed payments. You just decide what alerts you want and how you’d like to receive them – by email, text or online – and you'll be kept up-to-date.

Bank of Ireland

Bank of Ireland (BOI) has been slow to innovate where technology is concerned. It has only recently launched Google Pay and Apple Pay while the quality of its mobile app and online banking services lag behind AIB's.

BOI used to charge individually for a host of current account transactions but since 23rd November 2020 it has replaced all these with a flat €6 monthly account fee, regardless of usage, which should see most customers, though not everyone, pay a bit less each month.

Credit Union

The Credit Union launched its current account in 2019 when some of the largest Credit Unions in Ireland came together under the currentaccount.ie brand to roll out a new, full-service current account for Credit Union members.

The new current account offers all the features you’d expect from a traditional bank account such as online banking, direct debits and standing orders, as well as access to an overdraft facility. 

Customers receive a Mastercard debit card, which can be used wherever you see the Mastercard logo worldwide. The debit card is also contactless enabled, meaning you can tap and pay for purchases on the fly.  

At the moment the account doesn't support Apple Pay but it recently launched Google Pay and Fitbit pay.

It costs €4 a month, after which all your day-to-day banking is free. However you only get 5 free ATM withdrawals a month. After that there's a 50 cent charge per withdrawal.

EBS

The EBS MoneyManager account has no monthly account maintenance fee and no charge for any day-to-day banking. There is also no minimum monthly lodgement requirement.    

However no overdraft facility is available with the account, there is no mobile app to help manage your banking on the go, and customers don't have access to either Google Pay or Apple Pay. There are no rewards schemes for customers to sign up to either. 

EBS operates euro accounts only. This means any payments sent to your EBS account in a non-euro currency cannot be processed and will be returned.

However, if you're happy with the most basic of services, this is an account to consider and will cost you almost nothing to run.

KBC   

KBC is holding steadfast to its commitment to provide a customer-centric, digital-first strategy with its current account offerings.

It's the only bank in Ireland to offer digital wallets from all the top technology companies: Apple, Google, Fitbit, and Garmin Pay as well as Sony's Wena Pay. And KBC was also one of the first banks to make it possible to apply for and open a current account online. The KBC app also allows you to temporarily block your card if you think you've lost it without having to go through the pain of fully cancelling it. 

With its Extra current account, all day-to-day banking is free if you just lodge €2,000 a month. There's also no overdraft set-up fee either and you'll receive preferential rates of interest on KBC savings accounts and mortgages. Not bad!  

However KBC is a cashless bank and so doesn’t offer cash facilities. It does accept cheques, bank drafts and postal orders either by post to KBC HQ or customers can drop them in to their local KBC Hub.

N26

The 'digital alternative'.

N26 has a brilliant mobile app, supports both Google and Apple Pay, and allows you to open a bank account online in just minutes through the app. There's no monthly fee and all day-to-day transactions are free. However you're only allowed three free ATM withdrawals a month; after that there's a hefty €2 charge. 

N26 now has over six million customers worldwide, almost 200,000 or whom are in Ireland.

N26 is a bank. It's licensed by the German Central Bank and operates in Ireland and other EU countries on a European Passport (a banking licence which allows a bank or financial institution which is licensed in one EU country to passport that licence to another country without having to get regulatory approval all over again).

Customers are covered by the German Deposit Guarantee Scheme up to €100,000 so your money is as safe with this bank as with any of the traditional Irish ones.

When you open an account you'll immediately be given an IBAN and BIC number, meaning you can get paid into the account by your Irish employer and set up direct debits and standing orders just like with any other Irish bank account.

N26 charges no foreign exchange fees for card payments either so if you use your card in the UK or the States you won’t be charged the 1.50 – 3.00% foreign exchange transaction fee that you’re charged with all the other traditional banks.

The downside is that, as a true digital bank, there aren't any N26 branches in Ireland so if you want to make a lodgement in person or cash in a cheque you'll find yourself stuck. 

Another popular digital-only bank is Revolut. You can find out how it compares to N26 right here.

Permanent TSB

Permanent TSB’s Explore Account is the only current account on the market that will actually pay you to use your card.

While there's a hefty €6 monthly account maintenance fee, all your day-to-day banking is free and you'll also earn 10 cent every time you use your debit card to pay for something in store or online. You can earn up to €5 per month through this feature alone, meaning you could offset most of the maintenance fee each month.

Plus, if you're a customer of SSE Airtricity or Sky you can get up to 5% cashback on your bills when you pay them by direct debit from the account, meaning you can earn even more. And if you have a mortgage with Permanent TSB and pay this from your Explore Account, you'll receive 2% cashback on your monthly mortgage repayments until 2027.

Permanent TSB also has a dedicated loyalty rewards scheme called GoRewards which presents customers with cashback deals on various goods and services every week. 

If this all sounds too good to be true then it just might be, as Permanent TSB still doesn't offer Google Pay, while its app lacks somewhat basic features such as fingerprint log-in. However it recently launched Apple Pay.   

Comparison of main current account providers in Ireland 

AIB

An Post

BOI

CU

EBS

KBC

N26/

Revolut

PTSB

Maintenance fees (per annum)

€18

€60

€72

€48

€0.00

€0.00 - if €2,000 a month lodged

€0.00

€72

ATM withdrawal fee 

€0.35

€0.60

€0.00

50 cent - first 5 free

€0.00

€0.00 - as above

€2.00 - first 3 free N26

€1 or 2% - first €200 or 5 free Revolut

€0.00

Chip & Pin fee

€0.20

€0.00

€0.00

€0.00

€0.00

€0.00 - as above

€0.00

€0.00

Online banking transactions  

€0.20

€0.00

€0.00

€0.00

€0.00

€0.00 - as above

€0.00

€0.00

DD / SO fee 

€0.20

€0.00

€0.00

€0.00

€0.00

€0.00 - as above

€0.00

€0.00

Contactless fee

€0.00

€0.00

€0.00

€0.00

€0.00

€0.00 - as above

€0.00

€0.00

Google / Apple Pay

Yes

Yes

Yes

Google Pay only

No

Yes

Yes

Apple Pay only

Overdraft available

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

No

Yes

Block / Unblock feature

Yes

No

No

No

No

Yes

Yes

No

Perks

Fitbit Pay

None

None

None

None

No overdraft set-up fee

Preferential rates on KBC savings and mortgages 

Fitbit and Garmin Pay

No foreign exchange fees on debit card purchases 

10c back as you pay

Up to 5% cashback on select bills

2% cashback on mortgage repayments

GoRewards

How to avoid fees

N/A

Withdraw cash at a post office branch

N/A

Don't make more than 5 ATM withdrawals a month

N/A

Lodge €2,000 every month

Don't make more than 3 ATM withdrawals a month or withdraw more than €200 cash

Make up to 50 card transactions a month 

Who wins?

It's a close call but Permanent TSB and N26 or Revolut seem like good options to us if you don't want to worry about having to keep a minimum balance or lodge a certain amount each month.

However if you've the money to lodge €2,000 into your account each month, KBC might be your best bet as all your day-to-day banking will be free and you'll have the choice of a host of digital payment options as well as a great mobile app.   

But if you're happy with only the most basic of banking services, then the EBS MoneyManager account can't be beaten on fees. 

The point is that there's lots of choice out there at the moment. So if you're fed up with your existing bank's pesky fees and charges, you don't have to put up with it. You can switch to a better option for you today. 

Switching is easier than you'd think 

Perceptions about switching banks are largely negative with a lot of people worried that the process will be difficult, that they’ll lose direct debits, miss mortgage payments and will have to wait a long time to get new cards.

Despite what you might think, switching banks is actually a relatively easy process thanks to The Central Bank’s Switching Code, which ensures that switches have to be completed by the bank within a 10-day time frame; and this includes the transfer of all direct debits and standing orders.

If you're ready to switch you can easily compare current accounts across all the providers in Ireland on bonkers.ie right now.

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