If you’re moving to the UAE to work or start a business, you need to open a bank account. You’ll find it a lot easier to manage your finances.
16. November 2020 — 8 min read
The United Arab Emirates has made luxury a fine art. And that’s not all. The country is known for its tax-free status and expats from around the world flock to it to work or to set up shop. Because it doesn’t impose income tax, people working in the country are able to save more money than they would in their home countries.
The UAE is a global center of business and banking. If you’re moving to the country to work, to make an investment, or to set up a company, a bank account will be critical to easy relocation.
Opening a bank account in the United Arab Emirates is like everything else: smooth. In this guide, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about banking services in the UAE.
Let's get started.
These are the documents required by most banks to open an account:
An original Passport
An original UAE ID car
A copy of your visa (it should be a valid residency visa
A salary certificate from your employer stating your monthly salar
To open a personal account as a non-resident, you need the following documents:
An updated CV (curriculum vitae).
A copy of your passport showing the UAE entry page.
A reference letter from a bank (or an original copy). You must have a corporate or a personal account with the bank in good standing.
A 6-month bank statement from your bank back home or another bank (it should be an original copy).
There are two important things worth mentioning about non-resident bank accounts. First, most UAE banks require non-residents to have a monthly average balance of $100,000 USD or its equivalent. Yes, the figure is very high. This is because the Federal Government instituted tight regulations around its financial system a few years ago. Secondly, you must be physically present to open the account if you're a non-resident
If you want to open a corporate bank account, call the bank to find out the requirements. These differ from bank to bank and you have to certify some of your documents as is required by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The documents you will have to provide include:
Proof of address
An overview of your corporate structure
A company license or a certificate of incorporation
Projections of your business transactions and future profits (optional in some banks)
If the official language in your country of origin is not English, get all of your documents translated. Bank tellers or other bank representatives may ask you questions related to transactions when you’re opening the account or afterwards. This is because the Central Bank of the UAE implemented a policy known as Know Your Customer (KYC) to ensure that all banks comply with international standards
Opening a bank account takes approximately 30 minutes. However, the bank may process the account opening within a few hours or in 2 working days
If you’re a non-resident, there’ll be a set minimum or maximum balance. It’s very important to be aware of the figure as the minimum amount is usually high and if you don’t maintain it, the penalties are stiff
If you’re opening a savings account, the process will take longer if you don’t have a residency visa. Also, you may not be able to access your account right away
It’s also worth mentioning that you can’t open a bank account online. The law dictates that all account holders must present themselves at the bank to verify their identity and sign documents
The only way you can open a bank account without being physically present is if you bank with a multinational bank that operates in the UAE, like Citibank and HSBC. However, you may have to visit your local branch. You can also hire a financial officer to represent you as Dubai permits this. However, this is not something that every bank allows
This account can be used for everyday financial transactions or money transfers. When you open a current account, you’ll be given a debit card, a checkbook, and maybe a credit card--as long as you’re a UAE resident. A current account can hold several currencies, such as GBP, USD, Euro, and AED
There are 2 types of current accounts in the UAE: a standard account and a current account with additional benefits.
A standard current account is for day-to-day banking and typically has a low rate of interest.
A current account with additional benefits has all the features of a standard account and some extras, like travel insurance. The additional benefits of current accounts vary from bank to bank
If the account you’re opening is for your personal needs, you can choose between a salary current account and a personal current account. Your employer will be depositing your salary in the salary account every month. If you’re a businessperson who receives and sends money frequently, open a special current personal account. You’ll have to maintain a specific balance, but you’ll also have the freedom to transfer money to the account whenever you want.
For salary accounts, the bank usually determines what the minimum salary of the applicants
will be. It can be AED 3,000 or AED 5,000. If your salary is below the set minimum, you may have to open a savings account. Some companies have relationships with specific banks which make it easy for their employees to open salary accounts.
A savings account usually earns higher interest than a current account. You can use it to save
extra money that you don't need at the moment. You can open the account in a foreign currency like the US dollar, the GB pound, or the AED. You may be given a checkbook, a passbook, or a credit card. You can use the passbook to keep track of your transactions
However, with a savings account, you have limited access to your funds and you incur penalties for withdrawals. Savings accounts in the UAE offer a fixed or variable interest rate. They can also be used as salary accounts
If you’re a UAE resident, it’s easy to open a savings account. But it should be noted that every bank has its own eligibility criteria. Be sure to check the requirements of the bank you want to open an account with.
Unlike current accounts, savings accounts have no minimum age requirements and can be opened for minors. However, a guardian must be present during all banking transactions if you are a minor
According to our research, these are the top 9 banks in the United Arab Emirates.
First Abu Dhabi Bank
Union National Bank
Dubai Islamic Bank
Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank
Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank
Commercial Bank of Dubai
Here’s a breakdown of the best banks in the UAE for different scenarios.
Best banks for salary accounts: Emirates NBD and Noor Bank.
Best banks for savings accounts: Emirates NBD (Standard Savings Account) and ADCB (Active Saver Account).
Best banks for expats: First Abu Dhabi Bank and Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank.
Best banks for online banking: Emirates NBD and Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank.
Best banks for business accounts: Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank and RAKBANK.
Best banks for personal loans: RAKBANK and Dubai Islamic Bank.
Best banks for home loans: Emirates Islamic Bank and Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank
The UAE banking system is strong because of the banks’ liquidity buffers and resilient capital levels. The Central Bank of the UAE is the primary financial regulatory authority. The country has 26 foreign banks and 23 local banks. The banking industry is dominated by the larger banks, 5 of the country’s biggest banks hold approximately 60% of the sector’s assets.
Islamic banks in the UAE control 19% of the banking sector’s assets. There are 8 Islamic banks and 23 Islamic banking sections created by conventional banks.
Money transfers from the UAE have far-reaching effects, thanks to the country’s high mix of expat residents. They benefit families based as far as the US, the UK, India, and the Philippines. The market for international money transfers is very well developed and banks, digital transfer services, and exchange houses all operate within the sector
But here’s the thing.
Banks have high exchange rates and hidden transaction fees. The disclosed exchange rate will not be the mid-market rate, but one that includes a hidden fee--which may be as high as 13% of the total amount. Banks also typically send money transfers through the SWIFT system and intermediary institutions, which means you’ll be charged SWIFT fees and third-party fees in addition to the upfront transfer fees.
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