KBC Bank Ireland is to begin writing to customers from today to tell them that they have six months to shut their accounts ahead of its exit from the Irish market.

Letters will be issued on a rolling basis over the remainder of this year and into early 2023 in order to make the process staggered and as orderly as possible.

The Belgian bank will also provide reminders to customers during this period through a combination of letters, emails and SMS messages.

KBC Bank has about 130,000 current accounts that are either active or have a balance.

It estimates that 52,000 of these customers will need to open a new account or move to a new provider.

The remaining 78,000 current account holders already have an account with a rival bank.

97% of KBC's active current account customers mainly bank with it through its online banking or mobile app, which indicate they are digitally literate, something the bank hopes may make the process more smooth.

KBC had initially indicated it would give its customers just three months to shut their accounts, but it later revised this up to six months following pressure from the regulator.

The bank recently told an Oireachtas committee that it expects to cease all transactions by the end of August next year, although it indicated it would be flexible with the timeline.

Yesterday, KBC said that as part of its planned exit it will no longer accept new applications for all products from 15 July.

This includes current accounts, mortgages, personal deposits, personal loans, home, car and life insurance and personal credit cards.

The bank also said it will no longer accept new applications for business banking products including business current accounts, business loans and business deposits.

Up to a million customers will be moving their accounts from KBC and Ulster Bank over the coming months, as both lenders wind down operations here.

While both have struck deals with other financial services firms to sell loans and other assets, current and deposit accounts are not included.

The Central Bank has expressed concern in recent months about the state of preparedness within the banking sector for this big switch.

There are also worries that direct debit originators, such as utility companies, are not ready to handle the large number of requests to amend direct debit bank details.

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Age Action has called for banks to set realistic deadlines for the closing and opening of new accounts and for exiting and receiving banks to put sufficient staff in place to assist people.

Customers should be able to call banks and have the calls answered within a reasonable time frame, Nat O'Connor, Senior Public Affairs and Policy Specialist, Age Action said.

More than half of people over the age of 60 are not using the internet, he said, adding that digital banking poses "huge difficulties" for older people.

He said that closing and opening a new account can be quite an onerous process and often involve a physical presence in banks.

In addition, he said, many older people many not have the forms of ID required like a passport or a driving licence, while proof of address can be difficult for those in nursing homes, he added.

Mr O'Connor warned that if people do not close their accounts in time, they could run the risk of direct debits falling behind and being cut off from some utilities.

"So when you change your bank account, it's pushed back on you as the consumer to then contact your utilities and all these other companies to give them your new bank details. And that can be quite onerous, particularly given that certainly more than half of people over the age of 60 are not using the internet."