Big branch closures in small towns and the pro’s and cons of opening bank accounts in our traditional banks
I am from your typical small town in the midlands, one main street that growing up contained a few shops, numerous pubs and the three main banks of their time. Bank of Ireland, AIB and Ulster bank. I took a walk through the town last Sunday and as I did, I looked around at the sold sign above the door of Bank of Ireland and the closed doors of the Ulster bank….
I thought ‘where do people go to lodge or withdraw their money to and from these banks’? Is everything done through apps on mobile phones and tablets? Then I wondered how do people open bank accounts if your bank branch has now gone virtual?
A couple of days later while in my local Centra store, which is also home to our Post Office and an ATM machine I noticed a sign saying ‘Lodge to your AIB, ULSTERBANK and BANK OF IRELAND ACCOUNTS here’. So, if the Ulster bank and BOI branches are gone from the town I can still lodge through the post office. Is the post office the way to go?
I opened my first bank account when I started college there were stands with different staff from different banks and I simply chose the one that had a branch in our town – but what if you’re not going to college and you need a bank account to claim a payment or you have started a new job! How do you know which bank to choose and what do you need?
There is a host of different banks and online banks such as N26, KBC & EBS but I decided to have a look at the three banks that were once the back bone of my small town and the Post Office to see how easy is it to open an account and what the fees are.
You will need the following to open a Bank Account
The public service card cannot be used as a form of photographic id
E.g., Utility bills, mobile phone bill, eflow statement, bins provider statements etc.
Statements from other banks or Credit Unions
Letter from a Government body e.g. certificate of tax credits
TIP-If you are finding it hard to obtain proof of address a handy tip is to register online for myaccount with The Revenue. Myaccount is where you can manage your tax credits etc. once you register with them, they send a letter with your pin to your address, and this can be used as proof of address
on the 19/02/2021 Ulster bank announced that they are withdrawing from the Irish market so from the 29/10/2021 Ulster bank Ireland DAC will not accept any new applications.
Allied Irish Bank (AIB)
AIB charge a quarterly maintenance fee of €4.50 so €18 euro per year. 0.35c per atm withdrawal and .20c for online transactions, chip and pin transactions and automated transactions (direct debits, standing orders) as well as fees for overdrafts, replacing debit cards, missed direct debits etc.
AIB still has a large branch network a great mobile banking app and is available on Google and Apple pay. A lot of their outdoor ATM machines double up as lodgment machines also and now you can lodge through your post office too.
Is it easy to open an AIB bank account? The AIB website states that you can still call in to any branch with photographic id and valid proof of address (utility bill etc.)
There is also an option to open an account online, I watched their video to explain the process and it seems simple enough if you have a smart phone with a working camera. You simply download their app, and you will need your passport. AIB online account does not require proof of your address as they verify it by way of letter before your card is issued to you.
Bank of Ireland (BOI)
The bank of Ireland branch in my local town might be closing but they will continue to operate 169 branches across the Island of Ireland. Their online banking might not be to the quality of AIB’s however they have recently launched Google and Apple pay.
They also recently streamlined their charges replacing a lot of individual charges with a flat monthly account fee of €6 . This fee also includes the charge for unpaid direct debits, standing orders etc. This will be a welcome change for BOI customers as the previous charge was €12 and in other banks such as AIB is still as high as €10e
Is it easy to open a BOI bank account? to open an account with the Bank of Ireland, you can still call into your branch with your photo id and proof of address or like AIB there is a process to open an account online. To open an account online. You go to the Bank of Ireland website, apply online, answer a series of yes/no questions such as joint/sole account, student, over 18 etc. Unlike AIB who don’t require proof of your address, to open an account with BOI online you still require proof of address and your passport. You will need to provide a selfie as well so a smart phone or one with camera is required.
An Post (The Post Office)
The Post Office has had many facelifts over the years. In my local town it went from being a stand-alone office then it moved to inside the local Centra shop. This move might have seemed like a downgrade at the time but was this really a stroke of genius? as the major bank branches obviously don’t find it profitable to keep up with rent or rates or maintenance of their branches.
The nearest Post Office to the one in my town is 8.5km away in the nearest village, the nearest AIB is 31.6km away and as BOI will be closing their doors the nearest to the town will be 35.7km away!
What are the charges like for a Post Office current account? There is an account maintenance fee of €5 per month. There is an additional charge of €2e if you choose to access An Post money mate. This is a facility for parents to get their child (7-15 yr old) a debit card and account, where the child can make debit card and online payments, but it’s overseen by their parents. You get one free An Post withdrawal per week after which the fees are .50c if withdrawn from an post branch increasing to .60c from an ATM. All other automated transactions such as direct debits, chip, and pin, contactless payments are free though.
An Post are also on Google pay and have an app available they also offer their customers the ability to save in up to ten “jars”. You can opt to round up your visa debit transactions to the next whole number e.g. €1.90 rounded to €2, 10c is put in your jar!
Is it easy to open a Post Office account? To open an account with An Post you will need to download An Post money app on your smart phone, you will need proof of id, proof of address and will be given the option of opening a current account and money mate or just a money mate account for your child at €4 per month.
The real added benefit of the Post Office is even if you’re not an account holder once you have a debit card you can lodge to your AIB, BOI and Ulster bank accounts 6 days of the week.
For quick comparison
|Allied Irish Bank||Bank of Ireland||An Post|
|Maintenance fee (yearly)||18||72||60|
|Automated transactions (online, shop, dd/so)||0.20c||0.00||0.00|
|Atm withdrawal fee||0.35||0.00||0.60|
|Google/ apple pay||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Advantages||Open your account online without proof of address||None||Money mate
1100 An Post branches
On comparison An post has came across as expensive with the added fees for atm withdrawal, but the benefits of having numerous branches is something to think about. There is additional benefit of still being able to lodge to BOI and AIB through An post. So branch closures won’t affect our small towns as much as I had first thought – most banks have offered a solution to account opening online!