Do you have questions about how bank accounts work in the UAE? Have a read below to get answers on frequently asked questions:

How to open a bank account in the UAE?

In the UAE, you can open a current account, savings account or a deposit account. Current accounts usually offer zero interest, unlike savings and deposit accounts, where you can earn some interest or profit.

You can visit a branch with basic documents such as your passport (original and copies) with residency visa stamp, an NOC from your sponsor and salary transfer certificate (optional).

If you transfer your salary to the bank, you aren’t required to maintain a minimum balance. Otherwise, the minimum balance requirement usually ranges from AED 3,000 to AED 5,000.

[Related: New to the UAE bank account: How to get set upGuide to bank accounts in the UAE]

[Compare bank accounts in the UAE]

What bank account can I open online?

Most banks in the UAE allow you to apply for an account online. You fill out your basic details such as name, email id, address, passport number, Emirates ID number, employer name online. You can then visit the branch and submit a copy of your original documents.

What bank account details to give to employers?

For salary transfers, your employer will require your bank account number, bank name and branch details and IBAN number.

[Related: IBAN: What is it and how do I generate it in the UAE?]

What happens to my bank account when I die?

In case of a death of an expat, all individual and joint bank accounts related to them are frozen. This can happen within one hour of the fatality and applies to accounts and deposits in local as well international banks.

These steps are taken to ensure that all liabilities of the deceased – such as loan repayments, credit card bills, parking fines or business debts – are cleared off first. Refer to our section below to know how accounts are unfrozen.

What happens to joint bank account on death?

As mentioned above, a joint bank account will be frozen for clearance of all debts. It’s important to know that a freeze can be placed on the joint account even before other holders are notified.

Usually, the freeze applies only to share of the deceased joint account holder. Any withdrawals from the frozen share of the joint account will be suspended by the bank.

However if the deceased is a married man, the joint account is likely to be frozen wholly, until released by a court order. This is because if there is no will left behind by the husband expressly stating that he wishes his wife to inherit his wealth, sharia law will be applied, which means most of the funds could be awarded to a male relative.

[Related : Should you have a joint account in the UAE? | Why you need a will | Sharia law and your money]

What happens when your bank account is frozen?

When a bank account in the UAE is frozen, all withdrawals from it are suspended. Accounts are frozen in certain cases:

  • In case of the death of an account holder, it will only be reactivated through an order from the UAE courts. Once the debts of the deceased are cleared off and the surviving family is able to provide a valid will, the process of unfreezing the account can take up to a week. In the absence of a will, the process can be very cumbersome and can take months.
  • If you’re involved in a car accident, arrested for causing injuries or charged with financial damages towards your employer – your bank account may be frozen until such time as the charges are dropped or resolved.
  • When you’re changing jobs or leaving the UAE, your bank will mark the last salary payment from your sponsor as the ‘final payment’. If you have any outstanding loans, the bank will freeze the account till it’s confident that you can pay off your debt. Once you provide the bank with evidence of your new job the account can be released immediately.

[Related: The benefits of offshore banking for expats]

What happens when your bank account is overdrawn?

Your account would be considered overdrawn when you have insufficient money to fund banking charges, monthly loan repayments, standing orders, direct debits or a checks already issued.

If you have an overdraft facility set up with your bank, your account can be overdrawn up to the pre-approved overdraft limit, and then repaid when you are able to create sufficient funds once again. Be sure to check with your bank what interest or profit rate will be charged on the overdrawn amount using the overdraft facility. Some banks may require you to transfer your salary to avail of the overdraft facility.

If you don’t  have an overdraft facility, make sure you keep your account funded since bouncing a check is a serious offence in the UAE (with possible jail time). Missing out on loan payments or denied direct debits can incur you penalty fees and lower your credit rating.

[Related: Bouncing checks: Still a crime in the UAE? | Direct debits and standing orders: What’s the differenceThe cost of knowing what UAE banks say about you]

What happens if your bank account is negative?

In a non-salary transfer account in the UAE, you’re generally required to maintain a minimum balance in the account. Otherwise you’re charged with a ‘fall-below’ fee.

If your account has no funds in it, this fee will be applied the minute you deposit any money into the account. Any debit card transaction you make will be declined. For checks, direct debits and standing orders on your account refer to the section above on overdrawn accounts.

What happens to a bank account with no activity?

When there is no activity in your account for a very long time, the bank deems the account a dormant one. The timeline for such inactivity to be deemed dormant varies from bank to bank, but is usually one year. Typically you will get a notice from the bank to perform some transaction. In the event that there is none, the bank account could be suspended. Refer to the section below to find out how a suspended account may be reactivated.

What happens if your bank account is suspended?

Your account may be suspended by the bank if it has been inactive for too long, or if there are any suspicious activities (example: transactions with countries other than those that are internationally sanctioned, too many cash deposits and withdrawals, check bounces, dubious documentation suggesting fraudulent identity).

In case your account is suspended due to inactivity, you can visit the branch and refurnish the bank with your documents. If all is in order the account is usually reactivated.

As per the Central bank of UAE, banks here have the authority to close down accounts of any customer who bounces four checks within one year. Furthermore, the bank is obligated to update the Central bank with the names of such customers to be added into a blacklist. These customers will then be banned from having any new accounts for a whole year.

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