All you need to know about opening a bank account

Darren looks at the pros and cons of different types of accounts

Written by Darren O Reilly


Opening a bank account can be a daunting task. Where do you go? What do you need? What other features are associated with your account type. The choices can often be wide and at times confusing. Here are some tips for you to consider when opening an account for the first time.

Choosing a provider

There are a number of providers on the market, you have Allied Irish Bank (AIB), Bank of Ireland, KBC, Ulster Bank, Permanent TSB, and EBS (Owned by AIB). Some providers offer better services than others. Things that could persuade you to go with a provider are:

  • Who has the most branches?
  • How much are the fees when you use direct debit or travel?
  • Which bank offers the best access to my money on the move?

An example of something you should consider is that Bank of Ireland have the largest branch network, so perhaps it is easier for you to get to one of their branches at home or in college when lodging or withdrawing cash. However, AIB allow their customers to lodge and withdraw from Post Offices around the country, so that might suit you better. 

Other things to consider are the methods of banking, you may need to send rent money to a landlord or flat mate regularly, so online and mobile banking are key for you to access your cash quickly. Some banks have machines to lodge money and others require teller transactions.

Choosing an account that suits you

There are two regular types of accounts, a Current Account or a Savings Account.  To see the difference between the two, read our article here.

Each bank has a different way of operating their current and saving account options. The regular type of account is a current account, which is usually used for everyday type of transactions like wages, debit cards, and direct debits if you pay rent or phone bills for instance.

A savings account is often an added option to your current account. Here you can transfer some of your money to a savings account to gain more interest and restrict access to the money you are putting away for a rainy day.

There are different stages for your age group if you open an account also, be sure to check if you are eligible for any of the following, as each have reduced fees and perks for being a student or graduate.


They provide good solutions for those on the go with handy phone and tablet apps, contactless debit cards, and a good option of travel insurance for young people too.

Student Account (2nd Level)

This current account is for students between the ages of 12 and 18 who are in part time or full time second level education in Ireland.
AIB will pay the Government Stamp Duty on AIB Debit Cards for AIB Student Accounts for second level students

Student Plus Account

  • The AIB Student Plus Account is available to any person enrolling or currently enrolled in any full time third level educational course. Courses must have a minimum duration of one academic year.
  • AIB Contactless (€40) Debit Card which can be used at home and abroad.
  • Option of AIB Student MasterCard.
  • Student Leap Card offer when you open an account with them.

Graduate Account

  • AIB Graduate Account holders are exempt from all account maintenance and transaction fees on their Graduate Account for a period of two years.
  • AIB Debit Card can be used in Ireland and Abroad.

KBC Ireland

The newest bank on the high street, KBC used to only operate online, but now you have the chance to walk in and have that face to face interaction if you need it. However, as a new operator they only have a Student Account and regular Current Account at the moment. It is available to full-time third level students aged 17 or over attending an Irish third level institution in a course for more than 21 hours each week and the duration of the course must be at least one academic year. They also tend to throw in a few €s if you lodge a certain amount per month.

Student Account

  • Free ATM & Cheque lodgement fees
  • No quarterly maintenance fees
  • Free Contactless card debit transactions
  • Free Cashback
  • Free Online and Mobile banking
  • Free Direct Debits and Standing Orders

Permanent TSB

If you’re a student over 18, Permanent TSB has the current account on offer.  There are a host of no fees on lodging, quarterly fees, direct debit fees or standing order fees.

It includes:

  • A Contactless Visa Debit Card (which you can put your own photo on)
  • A Mobile App to check your balance and pay bills on the go
  • Online and phone banking
  • Emergency Cash in case you've lost your card.

There is also a teen account for those under 18. See here.

Ulster Bank

Part of the Bank of Scotland group, Ulster Bank are likely the third biggest bank in Ireland.  Plenty of ATMs around the place and they have an envelope lodge drop facility in branches. You can also access some branches on Saturday mornings.

Adapt Account

  • For 11-18 year olds.
  • You get a Visa debit card.
  • Instantly check your balance, transfer money and set up text alerts on their app. Also an emergency cash service can be activated if required.
  • Access to Anytime Internet Banking.
  • There is no overdraft, so you can't spend more than what's in your account, so there won't be any charges for being overdrawn.

Graduate Account

  • Pick up commission-free foreign currency from your branch before you travel.
  • Interest-free arranged overdraft of up to €1500 (subject to approval) for up to one year after you graduate.
  • Depending on your circumstances, you can request a Graduate Loan of up to €6500 (subject to approval).
  • You get a Visa debit card.
  • Mobile Banking app.

Bank of Ireland

With lodging machines in branches and a handy app, Bank of Ireland offer a good option too. Their Graduate Account is open one year more than AIB if that is of priority to you also.

Third Level

  • No fees on lodgements, direct debits and standing orders. Debit/credit transactions using 365 phone and/or online, withdrawals at Bank of Ireland ATMs or in branches.
  • Contactless Visa Debit Card.
  • Mobile Banking App.


  • If you have graduated from full time third level education in the last three years, you can apply for a graduate current account.
  • Visa Debit Card
  • Special Affinity Credit Card available to graduates of Trinity College Dublin, UCD, UL, NUI Galway or NUI Maynooth who get a special contribution fee if you apply for one. But there are more fees associated with this.
  • You will not be charged for some day-to-day banking transactions for one year from the date you open your account. So no fees on lodgements, direct debits and standing orders. Debit/credit transactions using 365 phone and/or online, withdrawals at Bank of Ireland ATMs or in branches.

Hidden bank charges 

Every account is due to pay Government levy/Stamp Duty and some transaction fees for using another bank’s ATM or general transactions. So keep an eye on the changing fees every year when the bank send these out to you. Some banks offer reduced or free fees on accounts.

For example, AIB Student Plus offers no account maintenance and transaction fees. Commission-free purchase and sale of foreign currency note. While KBC and AIB offer free contactless debit card payments.

Be sure to ask about overdrafts, some accounts have one and others do not. Make sure it is not activated if you don’t want to find a minus sign next to the number in your balance.

What do I need to open a bank account?

You need to supply documents to prove your identity and address, but it is important to know that you cannot use the same document to prove both your identity and address. Most will ask you to provide your passport, a utility bill, and a document from your college if you are a student.

You can prove your identity by producing one of the following:

  • A valid passport
  • A current Irish driving licence
  • A National Age Card (issued by An Garda Siochana)
  • An identification form with a photograph signed by a member of An Garda Siochana
  • Documents issued by Government departments showing your name

*Also keep a copy of your completed form for your records.

How to complain about your bank if you have any problems

All personal customers of regulated financial institutions (banks or building societies) can make complaints to the Financial Services Ombudsman’s Bureau. People who have been offered services or have sought the provision of service from the financial institution can also make complaints to the Bureau.

A six-year limit applies to all cases so the Ombudsman will not investigate any case arising from events that happened over six years ago.

Services from the Financial Services Ombudsman Bureau are free. If you lose your case, you won't have to pay any charges to the Bureau or to the financial services provider against which you took your claim.

If you have a complaint about a financial service provider you are advised to take the following steps:

  • Make a complaint first of all to the person who you normally deal with at the bank, building society, insurance company or other financial service provider.
  • If you are not satisfied with the response from the financial service provider, you should put your complaint in writing, addressing the letter to their senior management (Contact details should be available from the bank or by looking at their website).
  • If you are still unsatisfied, you may take your complaint to the Financial Services Ombudsman’s Bureau.

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