Navigating through the world of banking in a foreign country can be quite challenging, especially if you are an English speaker in the UAE.

But don’t worry! We’ve got you covered.

Our guide meticulously examines and breaks down the leading UAE banks that provide comprehensive English support, as well as everything you need to know in order to choose the right bank and open an account.

Choosing The Right Bank Account

Account Type

Choose an account according to your needs. Different bank accounts have different benefits. So, before choosing a bank account, one needs to decide on the type of account they are looking for and decide which service will benefit them the most.

Initial Deposit

When opening a personal or business bank account in the UAE, most banks will ask you to make an initial deposit.

Some banks charge a higher initial deposit, and other banks are flexible. You can even choose a bank that offers a basic checking account that requires no initial deposit. However, if you want premium banking services and a better account, you’ll usually need to make an initial deposit.

When considering which bank account to choose, it is essential to consider how much money you are willing to put aside to open the account. This will help you get a better idea of ​​what features to expect.

Minimum Balance

Another essential feature to consider when choosing a bank to open an account with is the minimum acceptable balance.

It is more common for banks to require clients to maintain a minimum balance when opening a savings account. Generally, the minimum balance is between AED 100 – AED 25,000.

Banks with higher minimum balances will naturally offer better rates and more premium services. So once again, if you want to get a premium bank account, make sure you can maintain a minimum balance regularly.

Several banks in the UAE offer zero minimum balance savings accounts, but the services and rates the account holder will receive will also reflect the minimum balance!

Transaction And Withdrawal Limit

You don’t want to find yourself in a situation where you need to make a large withdrawal or transaction and find that the amount exceeds your total limit.

This can cause unnecessary trouble and may even lead to an awkward exchange or two!

This is why it is essential to pay attention to the transaction and withdrawal limit when considering which UAE bank to choose.

Fees

Few banks charge a fee for keeping your bank account. There are many charges, such as low balance charges, overdraft charges, ATM withdrawal charges etc., that the bank imposes on its customers, and it varies from one bank to another.

So when choosing a bank account, understand the fees charged and choose the one that is reasonable for you.

Interest Rate

Check if the selected account is paying you any interest. Especially if you are going to get a savings account, it is necessary to compare the interest rates of different bank products.

ATM Services

Most banks provide debit cards or ATM cards for withdrawing cash from accounts. Check the domestic and international cash withdrawal fees that will apply.

Banks usually offer free cash withdrawals at their ATMs. Review ATM fees and locations.

Internet Banking

Online banking is convenient at any time. You don’t have to visit banks to transfer funds or check your account balance, or pay bills, and you can also get free e-statements.

Some banks also offer free internal transfers for online transfers. So check out which banks offer the best internet baking facilities.

Also, check if a mobile app is available for the selected bank. To make it also look easy for you to access your bank account information via mobile.

Other Fees

You might be heavily charged a fee if you make regular withdrawals from your bank account. Check if there are any additional fees for Internet Banking.

Most banks issue a chequebook for free for the first time, but you will have to pay for the next one.

Few banks charge you fees if your debit card is stolen or lost. So check what fees you will be charged.

A good bank will have progressive management, uniform policies, a coordinated system, mobilization of savings, etc., in addition to the above-mentioned features.

You must not overlook the importance of cash. A bank account is really necessary to secure cash.

It will help you to get money in any unpredictable situation. Therefore, compare all the available options and choose the one that suits you best.

Additional Benefits

Apart from these basic features, banks try to provide their customers with many other benefits to stay competitive.

These can include a special allowance for transfers, rewards programs, online banking and much more!

If you are new to the UAE, you will probably be interested in going with a bank that allows you to have a multi-currency account. It’s a major benefit that many banks are starting to provide.

How To Choose The Best Bank In UAE

All major international banks, including HSBC, Standard Chartered Bank and Citibank, are well represented in Dubai. These banks have comprehensive and well-organized websites that provide all the necessary information, including account types and services offered.

However, there are also a number of smaller local banks, such as 

  • Emirates NBD
  • Mashreq Bank
  • RAK Bank 
  • Commercial Bank of Duba 

These banks are also a great choice for ex-pats, who often overlook them in favour of better-known and better-known banking institutions.

Given the competitive nature of private banking in Dubai, many local banks offer excellent service. They can sometimes offer great deals that may not be available with the bigger banking names.

For some ex-pats, the choice of who to bank with is already set by their employers, who recommend the banks they do business with regularly.

Some employers offer special incentives if employees choose the same bank for their own private banking requirements; these may include preferential money transfer rates, lower minimum balance requirements and faster receipt of wages.

For those who are used to doing most of their banking online, many banks offer secure online banking services that can be very convenient for time-strapped employees.

These banks offer the ability to transfer money, both internally and to other accounts, top-up Salik (Dubai’s version of road tax payable via an electronic card), pay utility bills and top-up mobile phone bills, saving customers time and difficulty visiting a branch to conduct their daily financial transactions.

These services are often provided at no additional cost, but some banks charge fees for electronic transfers.

In such a case, it might be wise to choose a bank that has many branches or at least one that is close to where you work or live so that you can conduct your business through a branch.

For some, choosing a bank is as simple as one that has a large number of conveniently accessible ATMs and branches across the emirate.

Many local banks win here because they tend to have more machines and branches conveniently located in shopping malls and other commonly visited public places.

With nearly 70 ATMs and branches in Dubai alone, Emirates NBD is one of the most popular local banks in the country.

International banks tend to offer better rates for overseas transfers to and from bank accounts, as well as lower bank transfer fees.

If you are likely to do this often, you may want to choose an international bank for your banking needs. Some foreign banks allow their customers to make one overseas transfer for free, which many ex-pats find very convenient.

Minimum balance requirements vary widely from bank to bank. Most banks require a minimum balance ranging from AED 1,000 to AED 5,000 for a current account, while a savings account generally has no minimum balance requirement but will earn you a lower interest rate.

Failure to meet the minimum balance even once a month is likely to incur a fine of AED 50 or more. This can be an important criterion for choosing a bank for your daily needs.

If you are looking for a loan from your bank, inquire about loan services at different banks.

Generally, most banks will approve a loan of 10 to 20 times your monthly salary with adequate proof of employment and employment history.

Many local banks often offer more competitive loan rates as well as larger loans than overseas banks, so compare several banks before choosing.

Four Main Types Of Banks In The UAE

  • Commercial: Local banks and branches of different foreign banks that are primarily involved in providing commercial banking services; provides money for commercial activity, distribution of loans and account management of individuals and businesses
  • Industrial: Provide loans to not just businesses but also to individuals specifically for development purposes; may include a loan needed to start a business
  • Trader/Investment: Engaged in buying and selling stocks
  • Islamic: Banks that operate in accordance with Sharia laws and practices

How To Know If You’re Eligible To Open A Bank Account In The UAE?

Once you are settled in the UAE, opening a bank account, even as a non-resident, is simple. Few documents are needed, and the process is then quite straightforward. The most crucial document is your resident visa, which can take up to several weeks to obtain. However, until you get a residence visa, you can open a savings account.

Pre-Requisites Needed For Opening A Bank Account As A Non-Resident

The UAE only allows ex-pats without a residency visa to open a savings account. It is unusual to receive a chequebook with this account. Instead, most commercial and non-commercial banks will issue an ATM card to allow users to withdraw money while waiting for a residence visa.

The requirements for opening up a bank account as a non-resident tend to vary from bank to bank, but generally, the following are the documents you will need to provide:

  • passport with UAE entry stamp (original and copy);
  • passport photo;
  • completed application form;
  • proof that your residence visa or Emirates ID is being processed;
  • a document showing your employer’s name and salary details;
  • a letter of recommendation from a previous bank;
  • a no-objection letter from your sponsor or job employer.

As a non-resident, you may be subjected to a minimum or maximum balance. Be aware of this as the amount for this is often high, and the penalties for falling below the balance are severe.

The process of opening up a savings account will take much longer than opening a bank account with a residence visa. Don’t expect to be able to access your savings account right away.

Requirements For Opening A Bank Account With A Residence Visa

Once you have your residence visa, you can open a personal or business bank account. Having a personal bank account is also called a checking account. As with a savings account, the requirements needed vary from bank to bank, but the standard documents required to open a bank account are:

  • Your passport with a visa to stay in the United Arab Emirates (original and copy);
  • Your Emirates ID (original and copy);
  • Proof of residence in the UAE (it can be a rental agreement, utility bill or employment contract);

And either a pay slip from your employer, an original trade certificate if you are self-employed, or your spouse’s work card/work card (original and copy) if you are their sponsor.

Apart from these documents, banks also require you to have a deposit that is a certain amount to open an account. On average, UAE banks will require AED 3,000-5,000 ($820-1,360).

Opening a bank account in the UAE is quick and easy. You should be able to access your account within a few hours. 

Requirements For Opening A Business Bank Account

You can also open a commercial or business bank account in the UAE. This is necessary if you plan on opening an onshore or offshore company.

Be aware that some banks tend to require a high minimum balance, and the bank account will be considered “non-resident” and therefore have certain restrictions.

A bank account opened for a local or free zone company gives you all the subsequent benefits and can be opened at any bank in the UAE.

A complete set of certified documents on the establishment of the company:

  • Memorandum and Articles
  • Certificate of Incorporation
  • Register of Shareholders
  • Company Statement (from the official company register)
  • Certificate of Good Standing

When opening a business bank account, the company director or major shareholder must be physically present. It is possible to get a lawyer to do this on behalf of their client, but not always.

The Best Local Banks in the UAE for Ex-pats

Emirates NBD

Emirates NBD is considered one of the leading banks in the United Arab Emirates and the Middle East. It is a bank in Dubai that is owned by a bank headquartered in Deira, Dubai. It was initially formed on 6 March 2007 by the merger of Emirates Bank International (EBI) and the National Bank of Dubai (NBD).

Emirates NBD has a stellar history. Euromoney named it “Best Bank in the Middle East” and “Best Bank in the UAE” for the 7th consecutive year in 2021.

Banker also awarded it “Bank of the Year – UAE 2020” for the 6th year and “Bank of the Year – Middle East 2020” for the 3rd time.

Asian Banker rated Emirates NBAD as one of the Best Retail Bank in the Middle East for the 4th time in recent years in 2020 and its exclusive subsidiary Liv as “The Best Digital Bank in the Middle East for the 3rd year in a row.

Some of the Emirates NBD offers for ex-pats.

  • Salary transfer loan for ex-pats
  • Personal loan purchase for ex-pats
  • Personal loan for ex-pats

Liv Bank

If you want a digital-only banking experience, check out Liv by EmiratesNBD. It’s important to note that Liv has a free account and a subscription-based account. It has some decent benefits on the free account and loads on the subscription. Obviously, the best benefits are on a subscription account. These include:

  • Deals on Deezer, Starbucks, Prime, and many more
  • Zero maintenance fees
  • Two free international transfers per month on a free account. Unlimited per free account
  • AED 400 Cash back on credit cards
  • Free movie tickets at VOX cinemas
  • Three free car cleanings per year

First Abu Dhabi Bank (FAB)

First, Abu Dhabi Bank (FAB) is one of the largest banks in the United Arab Emirates. It was formed after the merger of the National Bank of Abu Dhabi and First Gulf Bank back in April 2017. FAB offers a full suite of financial services through its Personal, Corporate, and Investment Banking divisions.

Rated the safest bank in the UAE by Global Finance and the number 1 bank in the UAE by The Banker, your money will be safe with First Abu Dhabi Bank.

Here are some of the FAB offers for ex-pats:

  • Personal loan without salary for expatriates
  • Personal loan exclusively for ex-pats

Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank (ADCB)

Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, also known as ADCB, is the 3rd largest bank in the UAE in terms of overall net assets.

The majority owner is the Government of Abu Dhabi. It was consolidated into a public limited company in 1985 after the merger of Federal Commercial Bank, Khaleej Commercial Bank, and Emirates Commercial Bank. ADCB provides retail, commercial, trading, brokerage, investment, and fund services.

ADCB is a particularly strong bank in terms of trade and commodity finance.

In 2020, Asian Banking & Finance gave it the title of the “Best Domestic Trade Finance Bank in the UAE”. Global Finance rated ADCB as the “World’s Best Bank for Commodity Financing” in 2020.

If your business needs this whole type of financing (commodity or trade financing), you should strongly consider Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank.

Some products specific to ex-pats include:

  • Personal loan for ex-pats
  • Personal finance for ex-pats
  • Mashreq Bank

Mashreq Bank

Mashreq Logo

Mashreq Bank is the oldest private bank in the United Arab Emirates. It was established as the Bank of Oman in 1967.

Today, Mashreq Bank offers a plethora of both conventional and Islamic banking services, and its international reach spans four continents America, Europe, Africa, and Asia.

Mashreq Bank is deemed one of the most innovative banks in the UAE, with the highest award as a digital bank. In 2021, Euromoney named Mashreq “Best Digital Bank in the Middle East”, and MEA Finance rated it “Digital Banking Innovation of the Year – 2021.”

Mashreq Bank expatriate offers:

  • Personal loans for expatriates
  • Expat Protect insurance
  • Fast shipping
  • Housing loan

Dubai Islamic Bank (DIB)

Dubai Islamic Bank (DIB) is one of the largest Islamic banks in the United Arab Emirates and the first Islamic bank to incorporate the principles of Islam and Sharia into all its business practices.

Founded in 1975, DIB is the world’s first full-service Islamic bank and the second-largest Islamic bank in the world, right after Al Rajhi Bank (Saudi Arabia). It provides Shariah-compliant products and services in personal, corporate, SME, and priority banking.

If you would like Shariah-compliant banking, you should choose Dubai Islamic Bank. Heck, even if you’re not Muslim, you should consider it. Interest-free banking sounds nice, right?

International Banks In Dubai

The presence of international banks in Dubai shows the attractiveness of the city as a global financial center. With a deep and comprehensive understanding of local markets along with strong relationships with the key stakeholders, international banks are well-positioned to help everyone achieve their visions.

For example, HSBC has been known to operate finance in Dubai for over 50 years. These international hinders a wide range of services to businesses and individuals in Dubai. Along with that, they corporate banking and investment services to personal banking and loans, can meet the needs of almost every customer. They play a vital role in supporting businesses and helping investors grow and prosper. They also provide basic financial services to individuals, enabling them to live and work in Dubai.

Check out the list of the top 10 international banks in Dubai:

  • HSBC in the Middle East
  • BNB Paribas Middle East
  • Standard Chartered Bank
  • Citibank UAE
  • Royal Bank of Canada
  • Credit Suisse AG
  • Arab African International Bank
  • Habib Bank A.G. Zurich
  • BanqueLibanaise Pour Le Commerce

For more detail on our favourites, read our next section below!

Best International Banks in UAE for Ex-pats

Since you have just moved to the UAE or are considering moving, you may feel more comfortable parking your money in an international bank.

If you have an already existing relationship with any international bank, opening a new bank account in the UAE should be easier.

Anyhoo, we found these three best international banks (for personal banking) in the UAE for ex-pats:

Standard Chartered UAE

Standard Chartered Bank is currently one of the leading banks in the world. It has more than 150 years of history of providing financial services.

Standard Chartered UAE was established in 1958, with the first branch in Sharjah. Standard Chartered UAE provides a wide range of conventional and Islamic banking services to retail, private, commercial, and corporate customers.

In 2020, Standard Chartered UAE was awarded “Best Private Bank in the Middle East” at the Global Retail Banking Innovation Awards organized by Digital Banker.

Some of Standard Chartered UAE’s expat-specific services include:

  • UAE International Mortgage | Expat mortgages
  • Banking for ex-pats | Global bank account

HSBC Middle East (HBME)

HSBC is one of the world’s largest organizations providing banking and financial services.

In case you were not aware, HSBC is an acronym for “Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited”.

In the 1950s, HSBC acquired the British Bank of the Middle East (BME), previously known as the Imperial Bank of Iran.

This bank has undergone many elaborate expansions, but its modern structure was established in 1999 when it was renamed HSBC Middle East (HBME). HBME provides a wide range of personal and business financial services, from accounts, credit cards, mortgages, investments, and insurance.

Some expat-friendly HSBC Middle East services are:

  • Global money account
  • Egyptian ex-pat services
  • Non-Resident Indian Services
  • Money transfers
  • E-brokerage: Securities trading in more than 30 countries
  • Citibank UAE

Citibank-UAE

Citibank opened its first branch in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, in 1964. Citibank UAE is a majorly critical provider of consumer credit services and personal loans. Citibank UAE also operates international e-brokerage, Forex, merchant, and investment banking in the UAE.

Some of Citibank UAE’s expat-friendly services include:

  • Citi Global Wallet
  • E-brokerage: Securities trading in more than 30 countries

Things You Should Know Before Opening A Bank Account In UAE

Some banks require both a bank fee and a minimum deposit. While the minimum deposit is usually high, the monthly maintenance fees are not.

You can expect to pay around AED 25 ($7) per month if you have to choose to go ahead with a bank with a company that charges fees.

Some fee-free bank accounts in the UAE are only an option for ex-pats with a certain salary.

Expats earning more than AED 5,000 ($1,361) per month can sometimes expect little to no fees with their bank accounts, while ex-pats earning less than this amount may have a monthly fee. Please contact your specific bank for further details.

You may have been charged a fee for using an ATM that is not necessarily affiliated with your bank. Contact your bank for more details.

All banks in the UAE offer Sharia-based accounts that follow Islamic law and banking principles. These accounts do not bear interest and have complex provisions for mortgages and loans.

Bear in mind that many transactions can only be done in person at the bank. An ex-pat may want to choose a bank that is close to their residential area or workplace. Some banks tend to charge high fees for electronic transfers.

Conclusion

Doing anything in a new country can be scary, and choosing which bank to go to is no different. However, looking at these features will help you choose the best bank for your specific needs!

As an ex-pat working in Dubai, you need a bank account to receive your salary. To do this, you must have proper documents and meet certain conditions.

There are many financial institutions in Dubai where you can open your bank account.

However, remember that if you work in Dubai, it is better to open an account with the same bank as your employer. This way, your salary transfer will be more affordable, and you will get paid faster.

Most banks, local and international, offer several account opening services, including chequebook options, debit and credit cards, car loans, and checking or savings accounts.

However, the fees for the services offered vary considerably from one bank to another, so be sure to check them before choosing a bank.

In the UAE, cheque devices widely used for most transactions, including buying a car and paying rent; it is common to use post-dated cheque for such payments.

However, be aware that bouncing a cheque is a criminal offence in Dubai, and the culprit may spend some time in jail until the debt is repaid.