Choosing your current account
Current accounts are the most common accounts available and are a convenient way to manage your money. They allow you to:
- Receive payments such as your salary, social welfare or pension income
- Get cash from your bank or by using an ATM with your ATM card or debit card
- Pay for things using your debit card, writing cheques or transferring money to another account
- Pay bills in your branch or by direct debit or standing order
- Bank using the telephone or internet
- Get an overdraft (loan) facility
- Pay for things when abroad
Some accounts offer you free services, but this will depend on the account you have. For example, with some banks, you may have to keep an amount of money in your account at all times. Or, use internet or phone banking a number of times per quarter.
Choosing a current account
Compare different accounts by looking at:
- The costs involved for the services you use most
- Convenience and opening hours
- Internet and phone banking
- Cards that are provided with your account
- Interest rate on overdrafts and any related fees
- Penalty charges on unpaid direct debits and standing orders.
Use our current account cost comparison to help you find an account that suits you best.
Current account fees, charges and penalties
Before you open a current account, start with comparing the costs of accounts. There may be certain costs on your account including:
Fees and charges
Current account fees can include:
- Monthly or quarterly account maintenance charges
- Charges for each transaction such as a withdrawal, lodgement, direct debit or payment by debit card or cheque
- Service charges for carrying out instructions such as setting up standing orders, direct debits or issuing duplicate statements
- Overdraft fees, including a yearly facility fee
- Replacement of lost or stolen ATM or debit cards
- Issuing a new pin
Certain banks offer special packages for students or people over 60 years of age. Check with your bank to see if it offers services such as lower foreign exchange charges or free overdraft set-up costs if you are over 60.
Most banks will charge you penalties if you do not keep enough money in your account to meet your payments. You may have to pay for:
- Unpaid standing orders
- Unpaid direct debits
- Cheques you write if there is not enough money in your account to pay them when they are presented.
When you are shopping around, look at:
- Interest you earn on credit balances in your account (annual equivalent rate or AER)
- Interest you are charged such as overdrafts (annual percentage rate or APR)
The interest earned on current accounts can vary between different accounts. If you keep money in your current account, look at the rates available. Some accounts pay little or no interest on the money in your current account.
If you spend more than your agreed overdraft limit, you will be charged ‘surcharge interest’ or extra interest on top of the interest you are already paying. These rates can vary and tend to be high so it pays to keep it within the agreed overdraft limit.
Questions to ask when opening a current account
When opening a current account, you should always read the terms and conditions. Also, you should ask:
- What are the fees and charges? Look particularly at the cost of the services you expect to use the most.
- How can I reduce my charges? For instance by keeping a minimum balance in the account or using phone or internet banking or your debit card a number of times per quarter.
- What services can you get? You should be provided with a full list. Telephone banking, internet, branch facilities, ATM machines, frequency of statements etc.
- What cards can I get? How often will I receive a statement? Monthly, quarterly or half-yearly?
- What is the interest rate on overdrafts and what are the related fees? Again, you must be provided with a list.