Post offices will take on the banks with the launch of a new current account early next year. The move means that more than 1,000 post offices nationwide are set to challenge the dominance of the main banks by offering better-value payment accounts. There have been calls over the last two years to An Post management on its plans to offer day-to-day transaction accounts.
However, it is understood that An Post has been trying to speed up its plans to widen its financial services offering, but has been hit by delays at government level. An Post aims to offer debit cards, full access to ATMs and point-of-sale facilities in the spring of next year. It is also planning to allow its new current account customers to set up standing orders and direct debits from the new account. Also planned are budgeting facilities as part of the account, allowing people to spread out bills over a year.
John Lowe the Money Doctor stated “An Post have already two excellent services in BillPay and mybills.ie. With the former, you can pay over 120 bills in your local post office on the drip if you prefer. Electric bills for instance are generally two monthly. BillPay allows you to pay a weekly sum over the 8 week period to meet the full payment. And it’s a free service.”
In keeping with moves to electronic banking, An Post’s payment account would be accessible over the internet, by phone and by using an app. The move comes after uproar following Bank of Ireland’s decision to limit cash withdrawals and lodgments in its 250 branches. But An Post has no plans to restrict cash lodgments and withdrawals at post office counters.
This could make the new payment account attractive to those uncomfortable with self-service banking. An Post has been trying to get back into consumer banking since Belgium bank Fortis pulled out of a joint venture with it, called Postbank, in 2010. Post offices currently offer banking services for customers of AIB and Ulster Bank. Providing banking services through post offices was recommended in a report compiled for Communications Minister Alex White in May by a committee headed by entrepreneur Bobby Kerr. A spokeswoman for An Post said: “Our plans for an afford- able and accessible payment account with banking features are well advanced and we continue to work with the Departments of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Finance and Social Protection in this regard.”