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What is the "maintenance fee" at an Irish bank?

The "idle tower," a vertical ghost estate funded by Irish banking and paid for by the taxpayer...

Autumn 2009 —

I'd wondered about the "maintenance fee" since I'd arrived in 2001.

I'd mentioned the question amongst acquaintances, but I'd never pressed anybody for an answer.

The maintenance fee came due every three months, and at that point €12 came out of my bank account. The interval is long enough that surely many people forget to have money in their account on the proper day — and then the bank earns again, because they charge a late-fee.

It was only after I'd left my second Irish bank, and had opened an account at one of the new local branches of a Scottish one that I began to really wonder....

I decided to ask.

Frank, at the North Main Street branch of Permanent TSB in Cork city, was entirely gracious and friendly, and he brought me into his office and spoke with me until the logical end of our conversation. Frank asked a few times for my account number, it's true — that's a matter of training, no doubt, and protocol. I finally just told him that I'd stopped using my account, and so the matter was not really germane. And then he continued to try to help me find out what I wanted to know.

But I really only had one question — one that had always made me curious.

Frank said — and I believe him — that in his 19 years on the job, I'd been the first to ask.

The maintenance fee is what a customer pays the bank to maintain an account.

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