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Monday 18 December 2017

WHAT GLITCH MEANS TO YOU

What's happened with Ulster Bank?

They've had an IT meltdown. Or possibly they've been hacked -- they're not saying. Either way, it's resulted in a complete systems failure meaning that up to 100,000 customers have had their accounts frozen back to three days ago, with no transactions updated since then.

Is the bank in financial trouble? Should I be worried about my money?

Your money is completely safe. Ulster Bank is owned by RBS, a British retail giant. Although they have been bailed out by the UK taxpayer, they are a good, solid bank. Nothing has happened to your money, just the computer recording of it. Interestingly, NatWest, also part of RBS, had a similar computer glitch but it was mostly resolved by Thursday afternoon.

Crikey. How long will it go on? Haven't they fixed it yet?

No. But it's clear that they're not going to be able to do it imminently. Plan for the situation to continue until early next week, although the bank said it will endeavour to process delayed Social Welfare payments today.

But I'm supposed to get paid today.

You may not, like thousands of other workers, such as many in the HSE. The organisation uses Ulster to route its weekly and fortnightly wages, as do many companies, and although the cash has been paid over, Ulster accounts aren't recording it as received, so it's not showing up in individual accounts or online banking.

My mortgage is with another bank -- will they get their money?

It's unlikely. No internal processes are occurring. The Irish Banking Federation has said it hoped other banks would "accommodate customers" in difficulty. But, if affected, you should contact your bank today. They may agree to wait. Alternatively, go to an Ulster Bank branch, withdraw the money personally and bring it in to your bank, if it has an open branch. 50 UB branches are staying open until 7pm tonight to facilitate customers.

What about my direct debits for household bills, insurance payments and the like?

Same story, I'm afraid. Debits and standing orders will not be processed until next week and the bank will have a massive backlog to get through. Contact the companies involved, let them know the situation and ask them to apply for the money again next week.

My wife, who's a nurse, is with AIB though, so she'll be okay?

No. Because Ulster is the router bank for the HSE, the money hasn't gone into anyone's accounts -- it's not just Ulster Bank customers who are affected.

But I've a heavy social weekend planned, if you know what I mean. Where will I get cash?

As long as you had sufficient funds in your account on Wednesday, your ATM card will work at machines and in stores, although there has been anecdotal evidence of some ATMs swallowing cards, but Ulster Bank say they are not aware of this. But keep all the receipt slips you get in case you need them later. You can also go into any Ulster Bank branch and get cash over the counter as normal. They may ask for photo ID though, so bring it along.

I'm not sure how much money I had, but it wasn't a lot. What if I withdraw too much?

If you go into overdraft, you will be charged hefty interest. This is 15.55pc on current accounts, and that's for an authorised overdraft. If it's unauthorised (that is, you haven't been granted overdraft facilities), there's an additional surcharge of 9pc whacked on. UB has said it will refund these charges, but don't go mad.

Do I have a choice?

Well, you could use your credit card for purchases, if you have one. The bill won't come in for a few weeks and it'll be sorted by then. Never use a credit card to withdraw cash though, as the charges are astronomical.

Why should I stay with them after this?

Good question, although all banks have had glitches.

Ulster is still the only retail bank offering free banking on current accounts. If it doesn't do a massive PR exercise here, everyone will be wondering if they should switch provider.

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