BY JOHN ELLIS, FINANCIAL ADVISOR
Having recently written about the closure of Ulster Bank and KBC I think another review and reminder is in order. This is because Ulster Bank is putting back its proposed closure deadline to help those on social welfare not lose the higher payments announced in the Budget, like the double children’s allowance payment due soon. And the fact that vulnerable customers forced to move bank accounts need extra help with the complexities of the moving process.
The Ulster bank had planned to freeze the accounts of thousands of customers from this weekend who have not yet moved. Customers have had adequate time to make other arrangements as they were informed in April and May that they had six months to switch to a new provider. Yet, there are around a third who have yet to close their accounts.
Account holders will now have until Friday, November 4, to get new banking arrangements in place. This comes on foot of the intervention of advocacy services for personal customers in vulnerable situations and older customers
The bank confirms it is continuously reaching out to the remaining one third of these customers and most report that they have opened a new account and are in the process of moving their payments to their new account. The bank said 75% of Ulster Bank personal current account customers in receipt of social protection payments have already acted.
The Citizens Information website, as always, has helped with information to aid you decide how and to which provider you should move. They say before you move, think about how you use your current account and the features you use. 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, too, how you make your transactions. Check whether you make most banking transactions using ATMs, online or in-branch. Then 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 too 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.
The five retail banks have also put in place helplines for vulnerable customers forced to move bank accounts.
Head of sustainable banking at the Banking and Payments Federation Louise O’Mahony said the group’s member banks were acutely aware that moving bank can be a daunting experience, particularly for customers who may be in vulnerable circumstances.
She said: “Banks understand the importance of facilitating independent decision making for all customers, and while some cases are quite complex and may take more time, our member banks understand that each case is different and will work with you to find a solution.”
For example, there is help if you cannot attend a branch due to mobility issues, or you may have an accessibility issue due to hearing loss or you need additional support due to diminished cognitive ability.
You may be a trusted family member, a carer, or the legal representative acting on behalf of the customer who needs help during the process.
You are encouraged to contact the new provider on their dedicated phoneline to discuss your individual situation.
The dedicated vulnerable customer phonelines for those who need additional support moving accounts are: AIB at 0818 227 056, Bank of Ireland at 1800 946 146, KBC Bank at 1800 804 472, Permanent TSB at 0818 818 721, and Ulster Bank at 1800 656 001.