When it comes to environmental issues, from single-use plastics to water wastage, consumers are regularly told the solution is in their own hands, writes Gráinne McGuinness.
But I’m not sure the same message is getting out for other issues, including the loss of community amenities. The decline in the strength of Ireland’s local community has been cited as a factor in everything from mental health problems to the increase in homelessness.
Facilities like the local post office are the cornerstone of communities, and their loss hits hard. Rural residents can face serious hardship if their local office closes although the harm is also felt in urban communities. The closure of the Shandon Street branch in Cork city led to protests and complaints of long queues in the next available outlets.
Do you like having a local post office? Do you think your community would lose out if it closed? If so, have you looked at ways to use it more?
Hard-pressed Irish households are doing everything they can to stay afloat, and need to make the right financial decisions for their budget. But, when it comes to personal finance services, An Post’s offering has extended so it may be possible to support your community while also helping your own bottom line.
The principal financial product is the current account and An Post’s version has a number of features that make it an attractive proposition. An Post’s does charge fees on its current account so you would have to compare it to what you are currently paying. At first glance, it would appear to be good value for those who pay most of their bills through their accounts and are disciplined about how frequently they visit an ATM.
Customers pay a monthly maintenance fee of €5 for their account which covers all electronic payments in the eurozone, except for ATM withdrawals. So this includes contactless payments, direct debits, online purchases and transfers, point-of-sale transactions and statements. It also includes one cash withdrawal per week at a post office. This is not bad when compared to Irish retail banks; it adds up to €60 per year so you can easily look back at your last year’s statements and see how it compares.
My only word of warning would be for those who visit an ATM multiple times a week, it is .50c per trip with this account, which could rapidly add up. But restrict yourself at the ATM and use contactless and point-of-sale and the fees are reasonable. The current account comes with a Mastercard debit card.
I have written previously about another of their benefits, aimed at putting some money back in the pockets of loyal spenders. When you use the account to buy from their partners, you will get money back. The offer ranges from 5% back on all transactions of €25 and above with Lidl to 10% back on direct debit payments with the SSE Airtricity MoneyBack plan. You can get a full list of their partners and the benefits offered at www.anpost.com.
Another neat feature is two wallets to allow customers put money aside for big or unexpected expenses. The wallets, which work like two mini-accounts alongside your main account, can be accessed online or through their mobile app.
Most consumers will need other products in addition to a current account and An Post are offering an ever-increasing range of these. For foreign travel, the An Post Money Currency Card now has 10 currencies and customers can get sterling and US dollars in cash. Safer than cash, cheaper and a credit card, it can also be topped up easily online.
An Post also offer loans of between €5000 and €75,000 with terms available of up to seven years and offer 0% Balance transfers for 12 months with their credit card.
Some Irish retail bank customers can also support An Post. If you have an AIB account, you can lodge or withdraw money and pay your AIB credit card at the post office. If you’re an Ulster Bank customer, you can also lodge cash and pay your credit card. Some post offices also allow you to lodge cheques to AIB and Ulster Bank accounts.