Irish customers are notoriously slow to switch banks. However, with the post network now entering the market and a range of incentives being offered by banks, is it finally time to make the switch?
An Post’s version of a current account, the Smart Account, is proving popular since its launch in June. The account is available in 250 post offices but by the end of August that will have increased to more than 300. Angus Laverty, public affairs manager at An Post, says the rapid expansion is being driven by consumer demand.
“That’s a very good take-up rate. There are requests from post offices to be added to the network coming in all the time. Demand for accounts has been very strong, the number of post offices being added is a reflection of customer interest,” he says.
The An Post Smart account does not offer an overdraft but comes with a Mastercard-supported debit card, access to online payments, an app and a budgeting tool called the Smart Account Wallet. The account is not free of fees. There is a monthly maintenance charge of €5 plus charges for some transactions. So far, so normal. An Post is hoping customers will be drawn by the ability to earn money back by spending in partnership stores.
“What seems to be very attractive is being able to win money back by using your card. So going into say Lidl, doing your weekly shop and getting money back that will cover your fees and potentially earn you a few bob as well,” Mr Laverty said.
At the moment, Smart Account holders get 5% back on all Lidl transactions of €25 and above and 10% back on total bill costs with SSE Airtricity MoneyBack. There are partnerships with seven other retailers including Elverys and Sunway with more to be announced in the coming months.
An Post suggests users can earn back up to €55 a month but that is only in cases of specific spending habits. As the range of partners rises, this may become a more attractive incentive but at the moment it is most suited to those who do their main shop in Lidl every week. A €30 a week spend will cover the monthly charge.
It is not the only company to offer customers money back for shopping. AIB’s Everyday Rewards sends registered customers a list of offers. Unlike the An Post version, the rewards are not ongoing — once you have used a discount in one shop you will not necessarily get it again. The PTSB Explore account gives customers a chance to cancel out the €4 monthly account fee through a 10c reward every time you use your credit card plus cashback on direct debits to some utility providers.
Some banks also offer incentives for customers who either maintain a set balance or lodge a specified amount each month. AIB allows customers to avoid all account fees by keeping at least €2,500 in the account at all times. For Ulster Bank that rises to €3,000. Bank of Ireland charges €5 a quarter but by keeping €3,000 in the account customers can avoid extra transaction fees. KBC does not demand a minimum balance in its Extra account but does look for a lodgement of at least €2,500 a month.
If customers only require a basic account they may avoid fees entirely by using the EBS MoneyManager account. This has no day-to-day charges but, like the An Post account, has no overdraft facility and is also not suitable for anyone who wants a chequebook.
Of course, fees are not the only factor involved in people’s relationship with their bank. With automation and branch closures, many customers feel detached from their bank.
Mr Laverty believes the human touch is a factor in people’s decision to move to An Post. “The fact that you have the possibility of being able to do your business either online and/or in your local post office. There is trust and a warmth thing there as well.” Whatever your reason, if you are dissatisfied with your current bank and feel you would be happier elsewhere, there is a code in place for switching. Your former and new provider have to adhere to the Central Bank’s code of conduct and make the process as seamless as possible for the customer.
DEAL OF THE WEEK
Sky is doing its bit to counteract complaints that it is always new customers who get the rewards.
Existing customers can now avail of rewards for their loyalty to Sky simply by downloading an app. Sky VIP is a tenure-based loyalty programme accessible through the My Sky app. The longer you have been a customer, the better the rewards.
All customers who join get a gift of a Sky Store movie and find out their membership tier, based on the length of time they’ve been with Sky. The four tiers are silver (0-3 years); gold (3-8 years); platinum (8-15 years); and black (15+ years). Each tier gives more new benefits, as well as access to the rewards in the previous levels.
Rewards include free tickets to events such as the All- Ireland, the British Masters and the Premier League, exclusive preview screenings of the latest films and prize draws for the chance to visit filming locations of Game of Thrones.