Banks in Northern Ireland: How to open a bank account

We explore the best banking options in Northern Ireland to help you make the right choice.

Whether you’re planning to open a current account or a savings account, there’s a lot to consider when comparing banks. Factors such as customer service, branch access and the rewards on offer should all play a part in your decision. So what are the best choices if you live in Northern Ireland? Let’s take a look.

Well-known Northern Irish banks

Below we’ve outlined some of the biggest banks in Northern Ireland.

Ulster Bank

Ulster Bank is a wholly-owned subsidiary of NatWest and became part of the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) Group in 2000. RBS Group was renamed NatWest Group in 2020.

Ulster Bank aims to help personal, small business, private and commercial customers with their business needs. It has branches across Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Allied Irish Banks

Allied Irish Banks is a commercial bank in Northern Ireland and is part of Allied Irish Bank’s UK subsidiary AIB Group. It was known as First Trust Bank until c. The bank has 7 branches across Northern Ireland.

Bank of Ireland UK

Bank of Ireland UK is a subsidiary of Bank of Ireland Group, a leading retail bank in Ireland since it began in 1783. The bank has been operating in Northern Ireland for almost 200 years and has branches across the country.

Danske Bank UK

Danske Bank is the trading name of Northern Ireland Bank and has been helping businesses and consumers for more than 200 years. It is part of the Danske Bank Group which is one of the largest financial enterprises in Scandinavia.

It was the first Northern Ireland bank to launch the Paym payment system and was named the country’s most profitable company in 2015.

What type of account should you choose?

When comparing banks you’ll need to consider the type of account you’re after.

If you’re looking for somewhere to carry out everyday banking tasks, you’ll need to choose a current account. Your salary can be paid into your current account and you’ll be able to set up direct debits and pay household bills and subscriptions. You will also be able to make purchases and withdraw cash on your debit card.

As part of your current account comparison, it’s worth checking whether there are any incentives for switching as some banks will pay you cash for moving to them. Also, consider whether an overdraft is available if you think you might spend more than the amount in your account occasionally.

Alternatively, you might be looking for a savings account. These provide a safe place to keep your money while it grows in value as interest is paid on the amount you’ve saved. There are several different types of savings account to choose from so you’ll need to consider what works for you.

It’s sensible to have some savings in an account that you can access quickly in an emergency, such as if your boiler or car breaks down. But if you have a lump sum you are happy to leave untouched for a year or more, you’ll usually earn more interest if you choose a fixed rate bond.

Some savings accounts enable you to save a set amount each month over the course of a year to help you get into the savings habit.

How to choose a bank account

When choosing a bank account, you’ll need to consider the factors that are most important to you. Some of the points worth thinking about are outlined below:

  • Access. Are you happy banking online or via an app or would you prefer to have branch access? If branch access is most important, take a look at which banks have branches near you. If you’re looking for a savings account, think about whether you want easy access to your money or if you’re happy to tie it up for a while.
  • Interest rates. Savings accounts and some current accounts pay interest on your balance. Check which account pays the most, whether there’s a maximum balance interest is paid on and whether you need to meet any eligibility criteria to earn it.
  • Rewards and benefits. Some current accounts also offer other incentives such as cashback when you spend on your card or travel insurance and breakdown cover. Be aware that the most competitive accounts often have a monthly fee so consider whether you’d be happy paying it and whether the benefits are worth it.
  • Customer service. It’s worth doing some research to see which banks have the best customer reviews before you apply, particularly if customer service is important to you.
  • Overdrafts. If you need an overdraft, look for one that charges a low interest rate. If you’re a student, most student bank accounts offer an interest-free overdraft while you’re studying, but the size of the overdraft can vary depending on the bank.
  • Kids offers. Many banks also offer accounts for kids, but some will need to be linked to a parent’s account so bear this in mind when comparing options.
  • Business opportunities. If you run a small business or freelance, there are specific business bank accounts designed to keep your business and personal finances separate and make managing your money easier.

Bottom line

If you live in Northern Ireland, there are a number of different banks and bank accounts to choose from. However, the best one for you will depend on your own personal preferences and circumstances. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution so you’ll need to do your research and think about what matters most to you before making your decision.

Frequently asked questions

We show offers we can track - that's not every product on the market...yet. Unless we've said otherwise, products are in no particular order. The terms "best", "top", "cheap" (and variations of these) aren't ratings, though we always explain what's great about a product when we highlight it. This is subject to our terms of use. When you make major financial decisions, consider getting independent financial advice. Always consider your own circumstances when you compare products so you get what's right for you.

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