Personal Banking

Published Thursday, 06 June 2013
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Did you know that households in Northern Ireland are less likely to have a current account than households in the UK?

Only 87 per cent of households compared to over 90 per cent in Great Britain?

Not having a bank account was also highlighted as a key issue at a recent seminar hosted by the Consumer Council and Housing Rights Service in East Belfast.

To assist consumers, we have produced a simple step by step guide to opening and maintaining an account with a bank, building society or credit union that best suits their needs.

Access to a bank account not only ensures that you can receive wages or benefits but some accounts enable consumers to set up direct debits payments to pay household bills and avail of discounts; take out cash at a cash machine or pay by card in shops, which may offer additional protection for your money.

How to open and maintain a bank account

Step 1 - Choose a bank

Shop around and choose a bank, building society or credit union which suits your needs. Not all banks provide phone, internet, mobile banking, cheque books, postal and branch services so make sure you will be able to bank how you want to. For example, if going to a branch is important to you, find out which ones are closest or if you plan to use your account to withdraw Euros, check what fees you will be charged.

Step 2 - Select an account

Choose the type of account that suits you best. Compare accounts by looking at different price comparison websites to check fees and charges. Also check the company's own website, phone or call into the branch for further account information. A good idea is to ask different banks about the services they can offer you, especially as some may have special deals for new customers. Before you apply, remember to read the terms and conditions in case there is anything you have missed.

Step 3 - Apply

You may be able to apply online or in person at your local branch. You will be asked personal details such as date of birth, employment status and address. You will also be asked to provide two forms of identification (ID) to prove your name and address. Forms of identification can include valid passport, driving licence, national identity card, electoral ID card etc.

Step 4 - Open and maintain your account

Open the account and receive your account number and sort code. Your cash card or debit card and PIN should arrive shortly in the post. Never write your PIN down, learn it and destroy the letter. If you move house make sure that you tell the bank right away so that no-one else can receive your mail. Check your balance regularly and keep up with bills by getting a mini statement at a cash machine, online or by receiving your statement in the post. The bank will give you an annual summary each year showing how much you have earned in interest and paid in fees. They will also remind you of your right to switch your account to another bank.

© UTV News
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Consumer Council
Consumer Council

The Consumer Council is an independent consumer organisation, working to bring about change to benefit Northern Ireland's consumers.

They aim to make consumer voices heard and make them count.

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