Opening a Bank Account


In MABS, we receive a lot of great questions. Questions that we know many people want to ask, but don’t know who to ask or where to start. 

The use of cash to make purchases is decreasing. Instead, we are being asked more and more to pay by card. So, this week’s question is how you go about opening a bank account and the basic banking options. 

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, there has been a significant shift towards cashless and contactless paymentsBut what if you do not have a card. Perhaps you do not currently have a current bank account and wish to open an account now. Maybe you previously had a bank account that is closed, or you have never had an account?  

Jargon busting – let’s explain bank terms before we begin:

  • Automatic teller machine (ATM):  Commonly known as cash machines or ‘the hole in the wall’. 
  • Contactless payment:  This is when you pay for goods without using the debit card pin and by ‘tapping’ the card on the payment machine (or using your smartphones – Apple Pay, Google Pay, Fitbit and Garmin Pay). The upper limit or maximum value of a purchase using a contactless payment by card is €50. Some retailers allow more than €50 when using your smartphone payments app.  
  • Direct Debits:  This allows you to set an automatic and regular payment agreement with your creditors. A direct debit allows your bank to pay your creditor, from your account, as agreed in the contract. This function is typically used to pay bills such as utility providers, like electricity and gas. 
  • Standing orders:  This allows you to set a regular payment agreement with your creditors. However, a standing order is different to a direct debit (DD) as you set the amount and dates for payments to be made. You might use a standing order to automatically transfer a set amount of money to a saving account, if you have one. 

Opening a bank account? What do you need to do? 

Depending on the bank or provider there are several ways you can open a current account. You can open an account: 

  • In a branch (Check with the bank before as you may need to make an appointment). 
  • Online. 
  • Through a mobile app. 
  • Over the phone and by post. 

When you are opening an account, you will need to provide proof of your identity and permanent address. 

It is worth noting that if you are opening an account in a branch, you will usually need one document as proof of ID and another document as proof of address. However, if you are opening an account online or by phone, you may need to provide two documents for proof of ID and address. 

  1. Photo Identification

Acceptable forms of proof of identify are: 

  • Your current national passport or 
  • Your current valid Irish, UK or European driving license (with photo) or 
  • Your EU National Identity Card 
  • Some banks may accept your Public Service Card. However, you may also have to provide your birth certificate as proof of date of birth, as the Public Service Card does not have your date of birth displayed. 

All the above must be in your own name. 

  1. Proof of Address

Acceptable forms of proof of address may include: 

  • A utility bill (dated within the last 6 months). 
  • A bank or building society statement issued in the last 6 months. 
  • Your Determination of Tax Credits for the current year. 
  • Your original household/health or motor insurance documents (if less than 12 months old). 
  • A copy of your Tax Credit Certificate (TCC). 
  • A letter from your employer or licensed employment agency stating that you have recently arrived in Ireland and have started work but cannot yet provide evidence of your Irish address (and you will have to provide evidence of your address when available). 

Your proof of address usually cannot be more than 6 months old, but it may be 12 months for insurance documents and mortgage statements. Typically you will need 2 forms of proof of address, but this will depend on the account provider. The name and address on your proof of address must match the details of your new account. 

Your Basic Bank Account 

If currently do not have a bank account, you may qualify for a Basic Bank account with free banking. According to Citizens Information, a basic account has been made available as a result of the Government’s Strategy for Financial Inclusion and National Payments Plan. The Irish Banking Culture Board (IBCB) have a helpful guide on opening a basic account, this informs you about your rights when it comes to a basic bank account.

Eligibility Criteria for a basic payment account 

The Basic Payment Account is available to all customers over the age of 18 who are legally resident in the European Union (EU). It is available to customers who don’t already hold a payment account or current account in the Republic of Ireland. 

Only one basic payment account can be held per customer. 

What features do you get with a Basic Bank Account? 

  • Online banking, Mobile banking, and Telephone banking – bank whenever you want, wherever you want. 
  • Cash and cheque lodgment. 
  • Cash withdrawal. 
  • Visa Debit Card. 
  • Bank statements and transaction history – see your account balances, bank statements online when you want to access them. 
  • Ways to pay bills and other payments – Top up your mobile phone, pay your utility bills by direct debit, set up standing orders, Bill payments online and over the phone. 
  • Credit transfers. 

What restrictions are there for a basic payment account? 

Most providers will restrict the overall value of lodgments to the Basic Current Account over a period of 12 month. This means the total amount of money paid into your account each year can be no more than €19,240 (the national minimum wage). 

In general, with a basic bank account you will not get: 

  • A cheque book 
  • An overdraft facility 
  • Only one basic bank account per customer 

With this account, you will not have to pay any maintenance or day-to-day transactions fees for 12 months from when you open the account. Some charges may apply.  

The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) is an independent statutory body with a mandate to enforce competition and consumer protection law in Ireland. The CCPC website provides a comparison tool for all financial products including current accounts and basic bank accounts.

What if you have a problem opening an account? 

If you are having trouble opening an account, there are some steps you can take: 

  • Ask to speak to an experienced member of staff or a manager and ask why you are being refused an account. 
  • If you are not satisfied with their answer or the reason you are being refused an account, you first need to make a formal complaint to the bank or financial institution. To do this you should submit a letter to their complaints department outlining your situation. 
  • If you are still unsatisfied by their response to your formal complaint you can escalate the matter to the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman. 
  • The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission can also provide guidance and information on progressing your complaint. More information is available here. 

Remember, an adviser from MABS is on hand to chat with on the MABS WhatsApp or the National Helpline. You can call the MABS National Helpline on 0818 07 2000 Monday to Friday, from 9am to 8pm, WhatsApp 086 035 3141 or find the contact details for your local office. If you have questions or would like to share your money-saving tips, follow us on social media and get in touch. Follow @MABSinfo on Twitter and Facebook and Instagram for further updates. 

Disclaimer: While every effort is made to make sure this information is accurate and correct, we strongly recommend that you do your own research and make your own informed decision.