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Brianna Parkins: Tears can work wonders when you’re forced to deal with an Irish bank

It doesn’t take long for new arrivals like me to discover a charming cultural quirk of Irish banks: they act like they don’t want your money

When immigrants arrive in Ireland they spend the first little while filling in forms that enable them to participate in life. Forms that let them find a place to live, register for tax, visit a doctor and, most importantly, pay for it all via a bank account. That’s when they discover a charming cultural quirk of Irish commerce: our banks are among the few in the world that act like they do not want our money.

When I first arrived in Ireland it took me two months to set up a bank account. That meant two months without wages in one of the most expensive cities in Europe because my job at the time would not pay into my Australian account. To compound the misery, the exchange rate almost halved the value of my existing savings – and it was Christmas.

The issue was that I needed to prove my address, which is tricky if you’re renting a room or staying in an Airbnb because that’s all you can find in the housing crisis. You aren’t on the lease or the electricity bills. Foreign driving licences aren’t accepted, and having yours converted to an Irish one usually takes about three months.

So they ask for a letter, FROM A BANK. Which you can’t get, because you haven’t been able to open a bank account yet because you can’t prove where you live.


In some cases you can also provide tax correspondence from Revenue. But you know what you need to pay tax on your wages? A bank account for your wages to go into.

As a precaution, I had even set up my Irish bank account from Australia, lured by one financial institution’s soothing guarantee that I would be able to have my account up and running by the time I arrived in Ireland.

They did send me my bank card. To Australia. Where I no longer lived. And, no, I couldn’t just pick up a new card at a branch: it had to be posted to my Irish address, so could I please provide proof I was living there?

It’s a testament to Irish banks that they’re bad enough for me to notice and care enough to complain about their dismal interest rates, fees and services.

Other foreigners often ask me how I got out of the endless chicken-or-egg bank loop and secured my precious Irish Iban. My method was simple: I burst out crying in a branch one afternoon, out of desperation.

It was not exactly emotional blackmail, but I was being served by a middle-aged man, who, much like my own dad would have, reacted with a sort of tender horror when confronted with a younger woman crying. Basically, I accidentally made him so uncomfortable that he just wanted rid of me. He sorted the issue that had been plaguing me for months in 10 minutes.

There’s something to be said for encouraging excellent customer service from an institution because they’re in a hurry to see the back of you.

In Australia and other countries I didn’t need to rely on public displays of emotion to get a debit card. I just rocked up to a branch and handed over my ID. Oh, and I didn’t pay bank fees, ever, on my current account.

Do not get me started on the clunky apps that require Eircodes constantly instead of Face ID and the bank statements that make you play detective because the merchant names are unrecognisable bunches of letters and numbers.

I made the mistake of trying to switch to a different bank recently, to take advantage of a new offer. They asked me to fill out a form online to schedule a phone call for me to schedule an appointment in a bank branch to hand over the bits and bobs to open an account.

I did not, in the end, do any of that.

I am the sort of financial customer who does not pore over percentages and the fine print. In fact you could probably get me to sign up to a bank with only the lure of a free pen and a tote bag. It’s a testament to Irish banks that they’re bad enough for me to notice and care enough to complain about their dismal interest rates, fees and services.

Yesterday Revolut told me my account will have an Irish Iban. The company also now offers credit cards. I’m wondering if there’ll be a way to leave traditional banks behind for good one day.