In true Dubai fashion, you don't have to go anywhere to open a bank account. Ask for an agent to come to you. Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

If you’ve just moved to the UAE then you’ve probably already hit the beach, walked a few malls and sampled the souqs. But soon, reality will undoubtedly bite and you will need to open a bank account.

So pick a bank and get your documents ready. Call up your chosen bank and ask them to send over an agent (home or office) to set up your bank account and collect your documents. These days you don’t even have to go to the bank to open an account. Your agent will be able to do everything for you, however always read everything carefully before signing any documents that you might be asked to do.

Top Tip: Make sure the bank has an ATM machine next to your home or office, so you don’t have to go too far just to withdraw Dh100.

But before you jump right in and make that call, you first need to consider a few things.

  1. Are you a resident and do you work for a company as an employee?
  2. Are you a resident and do you have your own business?
  3. Are you not a resident?

Once you have identified which of these three categories you fall into, proceed to the relevant section below.

 

Resident working for a company as an employee – Salary Transfer

Ask your company which bank they work with. It’s often better to bank with your company bank so that your salary will hit your bank the same day as it is credited. Other banks will take at least two working days for your salary to reflect in your account.

As with any vaguely bureaucratic procedure in the UAE, our advice is to have every document you possess with copies in a file to have with you (including multiple passport pictures) when the agent visits you. This way if there are any surprises, you have all the required documents with you.

The basic requirements for opening a Savings or Current account are:

  • Your original passport plus a copy
  • A copy of your visa page proving you are a resident of the UAE
  • A salary certificate (you need to ask your office HR department for this)
  • Certain banks may ask for your Emirates ID card, but since getting an Emirates ID takes time, many don’t insist on this. They will just ask you for a copy of your Emirates ID registration form that you filled in when applying for it.

 

Resident working for a company as an employee – No Salary Transfer

Certain banks require that you have an opening balance and keep a minimum amount in your account. Shop around, because not all banks do this. Unless there is a reason you desperately want to use a particular bank, minimum balances can be avoided. 

Some banks will require you to maintain a minimum balance of up to Dh3000. If they try to set this amount higher, you should refer them to UAE Central Bank rules. Banks used to have their own charges for falling below this minimum amount, but the UAE Central Bank has since set an across-the-board charge of Dh25.

The basic requirements for opening a Savings or Current account are:

  • Your original passport plus a copy
  • A copy of your visa page proving you are a resident of the UAE
  • A salary certificate (you need to ask your company HR department for this
  • Certain banks may ask for your Emirates ID card, but since getting an Emirates ID takes time, many don’t insist on this. They will just ask you for a copy of your Emirates ID registration form that you filled in when applying for it.

 

Non-Resident account

Most banks in the UAE allow non-residents to open only a Savings Account and not a Current Account. So you won’t be able to ask for a cheque book however, you will be given a debit card to withdraw money. As a non-resident, you will be subject to a minimum and/or maximum balance. It is possible that a bank will decide to run background checks before allowing you to open a bank account.

The basic requirement for opening a Savings account is:

  • Your original passport plus a copy

 

Services you can expect when you open an account

Upon opening a bank account this is what you will get:

  • A savings or current account in UAE dirhams
  • Interest rate (some offer an interest rate from 0.25% pa on balances)
  • Free international ATM/debit card
  • 24-hour ATM access to your account, over the phone (landline or mobile) and online
  • Access to branch and ATM network and bill payment facilities - phone, Dewa, Salik, traffic fines and other bills

Bank account charges

In February 2011, the UAE Central Bank issued certain restrictions and standardised fees that banks across the country can charge customers.

Account opening fees None
Minimum balance Maximum of Dh3000
Monthly minimum balance penalty Dh25
New cheque book Dh25 (first one is free)
Standing order setup Maximum of Dh50
Standing order payment dishonored Dh25
Manager's cheque issue fee Dh30
Account balance letter Dh50
No liability certificate Dh100
Release letter Dh50
Bounced cheque fee Dh100 (no charge if written to yourself)



Credit cards

To get a credit card, you must have a monthly salary of at least Dh5000 (annual salary of Dh60,000). If you don’t meet this requirement then you can put down a Dh60,000 deposit.

Car loans

You can only apply for a car loan to cover 80 per cent of the cost of your car. The final 20 per cent has to be covered by your deposit. So if you want that Ferrari, you’ll still have to fork out a decent amount of cash. The maximum repayment period is 60 months, or five years. Don’t expect this for a second-hand car. Three years is the maximum you’ll get for this.

Monthly repayment limit

The UAE Central Bank requires a bank to set a total monthly repayment limit of 50 per cent of your net income, including salary and any other revenue. This repayment limit includes personal loans, credit cards, mortgages, car loans and any other financing.

Personal loans

If you want to apply for a personal loan from a bank, the maximum amount you are allowed is 20 times your monthly salary. The maximum repayment period is 48 months, or four years.

Top Tip: It is illegal for banks to ask you for a blank cheque for security against non-payment. Read what the UAE Central Bank had to say about this