As well reported, Ulster Bank is exiting the Republic of Ireland, but the process may take several years.

The bank has confirmed it is ‘open for business’ and will continue to provide its customers with all their banking requirements as normal in the short term.

Talks are continuing between Ulster Bank's parent NatWest and potential buyers in relation to the bank’s loan books.

The Central Bank of Ireland has confirmed it will supervise the process and it will make sure customers are treated fairly.

Despite these confirmations, it is no harm to be prepared and consider what options are available.

Savings accounts and current accounts

Under the Consumer Protection Code, Ulster Bank is obliged to give all customers two months notice to switch their current or deposit accounts.

Many financial institutions operate a cap on how much they will accept in savings from a new customer, so it is advisable to do a bit of homework to find a new home for your money.

As interest rates are at an all-time low, negative interest rates may also become a feature for consumers in the not too distant future.

Repaying short-term debt, topping up your pension or investing in other items may be options.

If you wish to keep your money in cash, the State savings offerings may be an option, for example the 10-year National Solidarity Bond pays an annual equivalent rate (AER) of 0.96%.

Credit Unions also accept savings accounts, but with restrictions on the actual levels.

With current accounts, there are alternatives.

Fees and charges

Ulster Bank charges €2 per month maintenance fee (€24 annually) on top of a range of transaction charges unless you keep a balance of €3,000 in the current account at all times.

This is cheaper than either Bank of Ireland or AIB, on condition you keep the required balance, otherwise it is the most expensive.

A KBC Bank Extra account has no maintenance fees or transactions fees if you lodge €2,000 a month and there is no requirement to maintain this balance.

Digital alternatives such as N26 and Revolut offer a digital offering and are mostly free unless you exceed certain cash withdrawal limits.

AIB charges €4.50 quarterly maintenance fee (€18 annually) and various other transactions charges, regardless of amount lodged.

Bank of Ireland charges a flat €6 monthly account fee (€72 annually), regardless of usage, but no other transactions charges.

Credit Unions also provide current account facilities with maintenance fees of €4 per month.

PTSB’s Explore current account charges a €6 monthly maintenance fee (€72 annually), with no other transactions charges. The bank also operates a payback scheme and cashback on your bills if paid by direct debit.

Farming current account with an overdraft

If you have a farm current account with an overdraft, it will be necessary to apply to your new bank for the same overdraft facility before switching from Ulster Bank.

To open an account as a new customer, you will need to provide proof of identity (such as passport or driver's licence) and proof of address (such as a recent utility bill).

It is likely you will need to provide at least six months of statements and most recent financial accounts to the new bank to help them assess your application for the overdraft.

Before moving from Ulster Bank, you will need to repay all monies owing.

You are protected under the Central Bank code of conduct for switching between financial institutions.

The Ulster Bank exit will take time, but it’s important for you to check out all your alternatives.

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