If you’re going to be in Dubai for any length of time, you’re going to need a bank account. Don’t be daunted, it’s not impossible – in fact, it’s actually quite easy to get a basic account. You just need to respect the local laws, have your documentation ready, and – of course – shop around for the best deal.
Here’s our guide to opening a bank account in Dubai.
Choosing a Bank
It goes without saying that the world’s biggest banks are in Dubai. You’ll see their logos when you enter the airport terminal – Barclays, HSBC, Citibank – they’re all here and they’ve all got very clear instructions on how to open an account with them in Dubai. And you could do that, and they’ll make it nice and easy for you.
However, the local banks have a good reputation for customer service, and are extremely well-regulated. The UAE’s central bank is in control of all local financial regulation and has very strict codes of compliance that all banks have to adhere to, which puts into play the likes of the Dubai Islamic Bank, Mashreqbank and the Commercial Bank of Dubai.
You will have your own considerations for choosing a bank – it may be that the HQ is right next to your home or your office, in which case it’s a no-brainer. But you might want the best deal, and again those local banks might be providing the best deal, for instance, for international transfers or lowest minimum balance requirement.
When considering your bank – ask about how you can use your account to do things like topping up your salik (road tax) and banking online – there are a number of aspects of Dubai life that can be completed easily through your bank account without you needing to have to visit the local branch. Again, when it’s 45 degrees outside and you have to visit the local branch, you would benefit from not having to go outside.
Also think about the minimum balance requirement. They vary a lot between the different Dubai banks. Current accounts might require AED5,000 in your account but they might offer a better rate of interest, while savings accounts tend to have a much lower balance, but then again, a lower rate of interest. Remember, if you fall short of that minimum balance requirement, you might end up with a fine. It may not be a huge fine, but they add up.
Also think about whether you can use your card in the UK or any other country – or indeed, any other Emirate. If you’re travelling around, you will need that flexibility.
Also, women might prefer banks that have a Ladies’ section within the bank!
What you need
Don’t think that each bank is going to ask for the same list of documents, but as a rule of thumb, you will need:
- Your original passport, with copies
- Your residency visa
- Proof of employment, e.g. salary slips
- Proof of address
- UAE Identification, e.g. driving licence
- A letter from your employee, with title and salary – called a “No Objection Certificate” (NOC)
The last document is quite important. You will need someone from your employer, probably HR, to produce – and stamp – the NOC. It should state your employer’s name, address and monthly salary.
If you’re opening a current account with your bank, then you’ll more than likely be given a debit card and a chequebook.
If you’re thinking “wow is this the 80s”, chequebooks are commonly used for rent. If you're renting in Dubai
, rent is often paid annually with four post-dated cheques representing 25% of the annual cost. And just like anywhere else, bounced cheques are A. Bad. Thing. In fact, it’s fraud, so make sure you have the funds in place for each cheque.
Savings & Deposit Accounts
Opening a savings account in Dubai is probably not much different from anywhere else in the world. Interest rates remain comparable, if a little low, but you do need to maintain a minimum balance, although some opening offers state that you don’t need one for the first three months.
That means you have to remember when it’s going to kick in!
Overall, it’s easy to bank in Dubai – you just have to make sure that you find the bank account that has the facilities you need, and it doesn’t have to be one of the major international banks, it could be a local bank.
Just remember to keep enough money in the account for post-dated cheques and minimum balance requirements, and shop around!