If you are new to the Emirates, you can open a new bank account in UAE with various local and international banks which offer a wide range of conventional and Islamic products, such as current account, deposits, credit cards, mortgages, etc.

Customers can easily transfer money, bank in different currencies, and take advantage of internet, mobile and phone banking services. They also have easy access to branches and ATMs located at numerous malls, petrol stations, and stores.

[Related: Financial issues to address before moving overseas | Five things you must know about banking in the UAE]

Opening a new bank account in UAE

One of the first things to do when moving to a new country is to open a bank account. In the UAE, you can choose to 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, depending on whether you are banking with a conventional or Islamic product. [Related: How do Islamic bank accounts work?]

Most banks have a minimum balance requirement, an amount which should be maintained in your account during the month. This amount can vary depending on the service provider and the type of bank account you choose to open. The average, minimum balance requirement usually ranges from AED 3,000 to AED 5,000.

[Compare all bank accounts in the UAE]

Required documents

The documents you need to open an account:

  • Original passport
  • Passport copies
  • A No Objection Certificate (NOC) from your sponsor
  • A salary transfer certificate if your employer is transferring your salary directly into your account.

Note – Some banks will not let you open a bank account or have other features or products with that account unless your salary is transferred into the account.

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Not a UAE resident yet?

To open a bank account in the UAE, you need to have a residency visa. However, there are a few instances where banks can make an exception, such as when your visa is underway, if your company is listed with the the bank, or if you are an employee of the bank.

Remember, in a country where there is not yet a central credit bureau, your company’s reputation counts towards your personal creditworthiness.

Another option is to bank with an international bank such as HSBC, which will let you open an international/ offshore account before moving. Keep in mind, you probably won’t get a checkbook issued until you have your residency. It is worth checking with your bank how long this will take as you may need to plan ahead for needing checks, for instance to pay your landlord several checks in advance if you are going to rent or paying school fees. [Related: The real cost of sending your child to school | Know your rental rights]

It is also worth remembering that local banks have more branches than international ones, which tend to have only a couple and then service centers where you can do administrative paperwork but not anything to do with cash, such as paying large lump sums in or out.

What about getting a credit card?

In the UAE, you have to choice of selecting from over 200 plus credit cards. Customers can get a variety of benefits, such as cashback, air miles, balance transfer, and valet services with their credit card. Therefore, pick one which best suits your lifestyle needs, for instance, if you are frequent traveler, invest in a credit card with a miles program. Also, keep an eye out for profit and interest rates, and other fees such balance transfer fee or foreign currency rates, before making the final decision.

[Compare all credit cards in the UAE]

Selecting the right bank for you

A few factors to keep in mind before deciding on a bank:

  • The range of products the bank offers
  • Accessibility of branches and ATMS near to work or home, and branch timings
  • The requirements, such a minimum balance, minimum salary or companies listed for opening an account or taking out a loan
  • The quality and response time of the customer service and hours of customer service, both in-branch and over the phone (which may be manned overseas at certain times)
  • Rewards and benefits which come with products
  • Affiliation of your employer to the bank
  • Interest rates, profit rates, processing fees and other hidden charges.