Opening and switching a bank account
There are different types of bank accounts that cater for different needs. This document tells you about the main types of accounts and things to consider when choosing an account. It also describes how to open an account and switch your account to another bank.
Types of accounts
The two main types of bank accounts are deposit and current accounts. The differences between account types include the amount of interest paid and the access you have to the account day to day.
A deposit account allows you to build up savings and you can earn interest on this money. Deposit accounts are offered by banks and credit unions. They are sometimes called savings accounts.
Before you open a deposit account you should know what rate of interest you can earn on your savings. If you earn interest on savings then you may have to pay a tax on the interest called Deposit Interest Retention Tax (DIRT).
You should also find out how you can access your money if you need it. A deposit account is not your only option – you can save money in other ways, for example, through An Post.
Current accounts are offered by banks and An Post. You can use a current account to manage your money day-to-day. A current account allows you to:
- Pay your bills by Direct Debit or standing order
- Receive automated payments such as salary, wages or benefits
- Transfer money in a branch, by telephone or through a mobile or online banking service
- Pay for things with a debit card
- Withdraw money from ATM machines
- Keep track of your spending
- Access an overdraft (short term borrowing through your current account)
Some current accounts can also earn you interest on the money you have in the account, although this is likely to be less than many savings accounts.
Student current account
Many banks offer a specific student account and some provide an interest-free overdraft up to an agreed amount.
You can use the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission's (CCPC) financial comparisons tool to compare student current accounts.
Basic bank account
If you have never opened or used a bank account you can open a basic bank account. A basic bank account is a type of current account where you don’t pay any charges for everyday banking for the first year. You can read more about basic bank accounts. The CCPC have a financial comparison tool you can use to compare basic bank accounts.
Opening an account
To open a bank account you usually have to apply. Depending on the bank, you can do this in a branch or online, or over the phone or by post.
Before you open a bank account, you have to provide proof of your identity and verify your address. If you are opening a joint account, you both need to fill in the application and show 2 sets of documents for proof of identity and proof of address.
If you apply online, you still need to provide your documents. Most banks need hard-copy forms of documentation to be submitted in-branch or by post after you have completed your online application.
The CCPC has some helpful tips on opening a bank account.
Things to consider before opening an account
Before opening a bank account you should think about how you use your account and what features you want.
- Review your banking habits: Check back over your records and count how many times you make each of the following transactions; cash withdrawals, bill payments, debit card purchases, contactless payments, money transfers, in-branch cashier transactions and non-EU transactions.
- Know how you make your transactions: Check whether you make most banking transactions using ATMS, online, telephone or in-branch.
- Decide how you want to deal with your bank: You might like dealing with a person in a branch, so choosing a bank you can easily get to will be an important factor. If you prefer the convenience of internet and mobile banking, you should make sure you are happy with the online and mobile services of your chosen bank.
Once you know how you use your account, you should compare account charges and features between banks. The CCPC has a useful financial comparison tool to compare different account types.
Make sure you understand all the terms, conditions and fees of the account before you sign up. You can check the CCPC’s jargon buster for terms that you don’t understand.
Information on fees and charges
Different accounts charge different fees and some accounts offer you free services.
With some accounts you may have to keep a certain amount of money in your account at all times to qualify for free banking.
If your bank charges quarterly fees, you should check the number and types of transactions included in the fees.
Your bank may charge the following fees and charges:
- ATM withdrawal fees
- Debit card purchase fees (charged when you use your debit card to pay for goods in a shop or get cash back)
- Credit transfers
- Direct debit set up or cancellation
- Standing order setup, amendment or cancellation
- Overdraft fees
- Non-euro transaction fees (charges for using your debit card in countries outside of the Euro-zone)
- Lost card fees
- Duplicate statement fees
- Charges for refused Direct Debits and standing orders
Before you open your account, the bank should give you a fee information document. This document shows the most important services offered on the account and any related fees that you might have to pay.
Your bank must also give you a statement of fees at least once a year. This statement explains the fees incurred on your bank account and gives information on the interest rates applied to your account.
How to switch your account to another bank
You should review your needs and preferences from time to time. You might decide to switch your account to another bank because:
- Your circumstances have changed and you have different needs from an account
- You have found an account that offers you a better deal
- You are unhappy with the level of service that your bank is providing
- You are unhappy with the fees your bank is charging
If you decide to switch your account you can get information to help you decide and there are rules about the process.
Check the CCPC's personal current account cost comparison to help you to see whether you can get a better deal from another bank.
If you decide to switch your account, the Central Bank of Ireland has issued a Code of Conduct on the Switching of Payment Accounts with Payment Service Providers (pdf). All banks, payment institutions and e-money institutions that offer payment accounts in Ireland must comply with the Code. The Switching Code is designed to make switching accounts quick and easy.
Under the Code all banks must provide a switching pack to their customers. This contains a description of all of the current accounts currently being offered to new customers, as well as a step-by-step guide to what you need to do when switching.
Your new bank must have your new account up and running within 10 working days of the switching date - this is the date agreed between you and your new bank for the process to start. You will be given the option to keep your old account, or to close it. You must let your new bank know before you switch.
If you keep your old account open you may have to pay charges on this account and stamp duty on your cards, even if you no longer use that account.