Moving to Ireland, I needed to set up a bank account, just like I would in any other country. At the time I went with Bank of Ireland because it was the one my agent took me to. I later switched to Permanent TSB.

Irish Banking SystemIreland, especially Dublin has a problem with homeless people. Walk down the streets of the city, and you will see almost as many homeless begging for change as you see tourists on the streets. Many contributors lead to homelessness, mental illness, family issues, lack of affordable housing, jobs, etc. A 2016 article in The Journal points out that in most measures, the number of homeless is Dublin is going up year over year, and that in December 2015 there were nearly four thousand homeless people in Dublin city.

One of the things I rarely see called out as a contributor to homelessness is the banking system and government banking regulation. To demonstrate how this is a factor, let’s say you are out of work and looking for a job. You then apply to a job to find that many large employers pay by direct deposit. In order to receive payment via direct deposit, of course you need to have a bank account for this. Want to rent an apartment? A lot of landlords in Dublin prefer to get paid by bank transfer. My current landlord and my last one for example. The only one I’ve had in Dublin that didn’t was my first one who preferred cash in what I assume was a method of avoiding taxes.

In the US to get a bank account, you need an address and proof of identity, and possibly a few more things depending on the bank. I found setting up a bank account in Ireland very difficult, and that was while I was employed full time at a large corporation, and an apartment. Once a person sets up an account with an Irish bank, they have to pay maintenance fee. This is usually a monthly or quarterly fee and varies depending on the bank. One I know of, for example, doesn’t charge a fee as long as you keep a minimum balance of one-thousand euros in the account.  In the US, if you don’t want to pay maintenance fees, you can also find banks such as credit unions that don’t charge a monthly or quarterly fees or have minimum account balances. Remember being a new adult possibility living on your own or out of school? I do, and I recall not often having an extra grand in my account, preferring to eat with my money. At the time my bank just required I had a balance above zero. If you are homeless in Ireland are you really going to be able to afford that extra maintenance fee?

On top of the bank minimum account requirements, all banks in Ireland also charge an “Annual Government Stamp Duty of €2.50 per card applies for cash machine or Point of Sale transactions, and €5 per card applies where the card is used for both.”

So, you are homeless but looking for work? You need a bank account but to get that you need roughly a thousand euros a month in your bank account, you need proof of address, and you have to pay a series of fees no matter what. How likely are you to then set up a local bank account? Because when it comes down to it, giving the little money you have to banks that caused an economic crash, the government that contributed to it, or keeping that money in the hopes of getting a little food in your stomach or possibly enough for a hostel for the night, what are you going to do?

Correction: It was pointed out that my information about business paying with direct deposit is incorrect. As per someone on my facebook page.  “It’s common for employers to pay wages via direct transfer, the law states that the employee has final say on how they’re paid. Cheque cash and bank transfer are all acceptable and it is illegal for an employer impose a payment method on their employee”