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Banking

Which bank has the best value current account?

Daragh Cassidy

Daragh Cassidy

Head Writer

There's been lots of news recently about banks increasing their current account fees. So who's offering the best account and is there any good value left out there?

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 to see how the main banks compare.  

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

AIB

One of the biggest and most popular banks in Ireland, AIB has a great mobile app, 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.

It also has a dedicated loyalty rewards scheme called AIB Everyday Rewards which presents debit cardholders with new deals and discounts off various goods and services every week. 

However, unless you're prepared to keep €2,500 in your account at ALL times, you'll be stung with a host of fees and charges for using the account. 

These include a €4.50 quarterly fee, a €0.35 fee for ATM withdrawals and a €0.20 charge for most other day-to-day transactions such as chip and pin, self-service lodgements, online transactions and for any direct debits or standing orders presented on the account.

Contactless transactions are free for now.  

An Post

An Post launched its Smart Account back in June 2017.

It's a welcome non-bank option for day-to-day banking, however it leans on the more expensive side, with the second most expensive maintenance fee (at €5 a month), ATM withdrawal fee (€0.60), and highest foreign exchange fees. However all other day-to-day transactions are free and customers have the chance to offset these costs by earning money back by using their An Post debit card to make purchases in a variety of partner businesses.

For instance, customers can get 5% back on any Lidl shop over €25 and SSE Airtricity customers can get 10% off their bill when they pay by direct debit from the account.  

Bank of Ireland

Though Bank of Ireland recently introduced a new cashback rewards scheme called "Live Life Rewards" which is similar to AIB's "Everyday Rewards", the bank has been slow to innovate where technology is concerned, and still has no signs of introducing Google or Apple Pay, which seems insane for a bank of its size. 

And like AIB, the account comes with some hefty day-to-day fees and charges, which you can only avoid by keeping €3,000 in your account at ALL times. But be warned; there is no way to avoid the bank's €5 quarterly maintenance fee - even if you maintain the minimum balance of €3,000.

As well as the €5.00 quarterly fee, there's a €0.20 fee for ATM withdrawals and a €0.10 charge for most other day-to-day transactions such as chip and pin, self-service lodgements, online transactions and for any direct debits or standing orders presented on the account. Contactless transactions are just €0.01 for now.  

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. You also can't write any cheques against the account.

However, if you're happy with the most basic of services, this is an account to consider.  

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

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!  

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 five free ATM withdrawals a month; after that there's a hefty €2 charge. 

N26 now has over 2.5 million customers across Europe. 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).

N26 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 IBEC 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 allows you to actually make a profit when it comes to fees.

While there's a €4 monthly account maintenance fee (increasing to €6 from 1st August 2019) all your day-to-day banking is free and you'll also earn 10 cent back 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 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.

Like AIB and BOI, the bank also has its own rewards scheme called GoREWARDS.

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

Ulster Bank

Ulster Bank charges a €2 monthly account maintenance fee.

In addition to the maintenance fee there's a €0.35 fee for ATM withdrawals and a €0.20 charge for most other day-to-day transactions such as chip and pin, self-service lodgements, online transactions and for any direct debits or standing orders presented on the account. Contactless transactions are just €0.01 for now.  

Day-to-day fees can be avoided if you keep €3,000 in your account at ALL times, but as with BOI, you cannot avoid the €2 monthly maintenance fee.  

Comparison of main current account providers in Ireland 

AIB

An Post

BOI

EBS

KBC

N26

PTSB

Ulster Bank

Maintenance fees (per annum)

€18

€60

€20

€0.00

€0.00 - if €2,000 a month lodged

€0.00

€72

€24

ATM withdrawal fee 

€0.35

€0.60

€0.25

€0.00

€0.00 - as above

€0.00

€0.00

€0.35

Chip & Pin fee

€0.20

€0.00

€0.10

€0.00

€0.00 - as above

€0.00

€0.00

€0.20

Online banking transactions  

€0.20

€0.00

€0.10

€0.00

€0.00 - as above

€0.00

€0.00

€0.20

DD / SO fee 

€0.20

€0.00

€0.10

€0.00

€0.00 - as above

€0.00

€0.00

€0.20

Contactless fee

€0.00

€0.00

€0.01

€0.00

€0.00 - as above

€0.00

€0.00

€0.01

Google / Apple Pay

Yes

No

No

No

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Perks

AIB Everyday Rewards scheme

Fitbit Pay

Earn money back on purchases with select shops

Live Life Rewards scheme

None

No overdraft set-up fee

Preferential rates on KBC savings and mortgages 

Fitbit and Garmin Pay

No foreign exchange fees

10c back as you pay

Up to 5% cashback on select bills

2% cashback on mortgage repayments

None

How to avoid fees

Maintain €2,500 balance

N/A

Maintain €3,000 balance

N/A

Lodge €2,000 every month

Don't make more than 5 ATM withdrawals a month

Make up to 50 card transactions a month 

Maintain €3,000 balance 

Who wins?

It's a close call but Permanent TSB and N26 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 ESB 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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