Dozens of credit unions across the country are gearing up to take on the banks by offering current accounts for the first time.

From today, a total of 30 credit unions with 115 branches nationwide will begin rolling out a full range of current account services, including a Mastercard debit card, standing orders, direct debits and overdrafts to members.

The development follows the coming together of some of the country's biggest credit unions to create a shared services company called Payac Services, which will trade under the Currentaccount.ie name.

The move, fully approved by the Central Bank, marks a significant step forward for credit unions here and is likely to put pressure on the main retail banks.

"For the first time, Credit Unions will be able to provide their members with a real choice for their day-to-day financial needs," said Seamus Newcombe, Chief Executive of currentaccount.ie. 

"And, this new service, which will be accessible globally and digitally, will enable Credit Unions to become even more relevant to their members in our ever-increasingly digital world."

It has taken three years of work by the credit unions, Central Bank, IT service providers and third-party debit card providers to get the initiative finalised.

The current accounts will have a monthly fee of €4. This will include unlimited point of sale and contactless transactions, unlimited mobile and online banking, unlimited standing orders and direct debits and up to five ATM withdrawals a month.

Other transactions will, however, attract additional fees. Lodged and returned unpaid cheques, as well as unpaid standing orders will cost €10, for example, while a quarterly postal statement will cost €2.50.

Some Credit Unions may offer concessions for students and over 65s. 

A full list of the credit unions offering the new service can be found at Currentaccount.ie. 

Accounts can be opened in person at branches or online.

The development has been welcomed by Minister for Rural and Community Development, Michael Ring, who said it comes at a time when financial services in communities are increasingly being depleted.

There are currently over 250 credit unions in the Republic of Ireland.