Moving home or abroad: Banking and utilities in Ireland
In this guide, we explore whether or not you should keep your Irish current account open if you move abroad. We also look at how to handle your energy and broadband bills when emigrating.
A current account is where most peoples’ finances go to, flow through and are spent from, and as such, is instrumental in making sure your daily life runs smoothly.
This is why when moving abroad it’s very important to get your current account priorities such as your direct debits in order before leaving the country.
So, this begs the immediate question:
Can I close my current account?
In short, yes. You will need to inform your banking provider that you intend to close your account. However, it might be worthwhile keeping it open until you have an opportunity to open a new account in the country you’re moving to. This will depend on how you intend to access your money of course.
What’s more important however is whether you should close your domestic Irish account. The main reasons to fully close your account would be if you know you’re not coming back to Ireland, or if you simply want to avoid fees for an account you know you won’t be using.
However, there is more than one reason to keep your account open.
Keep your Irish current account open
As mentioned, it’s not necessary to keep your Irish account open when moving abroad, but in most instances, it is wise, especially if you know you’ll be returning in a number of months or years.
Credit history: Keeping an Irish bank account will help you to maintain a credit history here, which is necessary if you’re looking to take out a mortgage in the future upon your return - or any line of credit. Closing your account(s) could be seen as a risk by some lenders. If you know you will be returning to Ireland, it’s also advisable to save regularly in an Irish financial institution as opposed to abroad.
Paying for bills in Ireland: Depending on how long you’re leaving for, you might still be paying domestic bills in Ireland, such as a mobile plan or car insurance, for example. In this instance, it’s easier to pay with an Irish account rather than a foreign one so it’s of benefit to keep it open. You will also save yourself from overpaying on fees should you be paying from an account abroad.
Transfers in domestic currency: Even if you don’t plan to make yearly trips back to Ireland, keeping your Irish bank account might come in handy if you want to transfer funds to your friends or relatives back home. In this way, you can save on nasty exchange fees. Revolut, if you have it, can also come in handy to keep currency transfer fees low should you want to close your Irish current account.
Fail safe: When travelling or living abroad, accidents can happen, and the last thing you’d want to happen is to have no access to funds. That’s why keeping your Irish account open with an emergency stash of money could come in handy. And as mentioned above, can come in useful as a regular savings account while you’re away.
*Remember: Before moving, change your account’s registered address to a family member’s. If that’s not possible, change your billing address to where you’re going if allowed. This way your bank can contact you should they need to. Although, try and switch to paperless communication if feasible.
Consider a digital bank for your current account
If you don’t already have a Revolut or N26 account, you might want to consider opening a current account with these online banks before you head overseas.
Unlike most traditional banks in Ireland, you do not have to pay a monthly or annual maintenance fee to keep your account with these banks open (provided it's their basic free account), nor do you have to pay for chip and pin and contactless transactions.
Both Revolut and N26 have top-of-the-range mobile phone apps which allow you to easily exchange money into another exchange rate in an instant for free.
With Revolut you can transfer money to other Revolut users or Irish bank account holders in euro free of charge.
For these reasons and more, both Revolut and N26 have become ‘go-to’ options for people moving abroad for a period of time. If you want to learn more about these online banks, read our guide on them here.
Open an account in the country you’re moving to
Once you know where you’re going, you should start the process of opening an account. Before moving abroad, and especially before closing your account in Ireland, find out more about how to open a new account, as well as the banking system in the country you’re moving to.
Many places will allow you to open an account before you arrive, be it online or over the phone, while others may require you to already have a local address or apply in person - so double check all of this beforehand.
Before you go: Sort out your direct debits
Depending on how long you’re going abroad for, you may (or may not) want to cancel your gas, electricity and/or broadband plans. For instance, if you are going away for a short period of time, let’s say three months, cancelling these plans with your provider and bank may be unnecessary as you’ll be returning to Ireland soon.
However, if you are moving abroad for a longer stretch, then terminating your plans will ensure you are not paying unnecessary bills.
Unless you have come to the end of your contracts, you will be required to pay an early exit or cancellation fee.
Cancelling your energy deal
Gas and electricity suppliers will charge you €50 per fuel for cancelling your plan. This amounts to €100 for a dual fuel deal.
Depending on your supplier, you may be able to put your energy bill under another person’s name. This option may appeal to you if you are moving out of shared accommodation, and your roommates want to continue on your shared electricity plan.
You will need to contact your supplier regarding this to discover if it is possible.
Cancelling your broadband plan
You will be subjected to either an early exit fee or you will have to pay the remaining balance left on the contract term.
When cancelling your broadband subscription you are required to give your supplier 30 days notice. You will have to contact them directly to inform them of this.
Similar to energy suppliers, your ability to transfer your broadband plan to someone else living in your home will depend on your provider.
For instance, Virgin Media will allow you to change your broadband plan’s account details to another person, while Sky will not allow it. In this situation, you will have to cancel your plan, and your housemate will have to open up a new account in order to access the internet.
Returning your broadband equipment
You will have to return certain equipment to your supplier within 30 days of your plan being cancelled. If your supplier is willing to collect the equipment from you, and you have already left the country, you may be able to leave your equipment with a family member or neighbour so the supplier can collect it.
However, this will depend on the supplier and their procedures.
Check out our other expat guides
If you found this article useful, why not take a look at the other guides in the moving abroad or returning home series.
- To get started, check out our Irish expat Quickstart Guide, which outlines what every guide in the series covers.
- Looking for information about car insurance? Take a look at our guide on what to do about motor insurance if moving abroad or returning to Ireland.
- Whether it's life, home or health insurance, this guide will answer all your insurance-related questions if you’re moving away or coming back to Ireland for good.
- Are you hoping to buy your dream home once you return to Ireland? Discover everything you need to know about applying for a mortgage once you return.