To open a bank account in Dubai, you usually need a residency visa first; some banks may accept a letter from your employer saying that your residency visa has been applied for or even a letter of introduction from a bank in your home country. HSBC is one bank apparently that does not require a residency visa to open an account (but you have to pay a fee of several hundred dhs). The NBAD (National Bank of Abu Dhabi) UAE says on their FAQs page that non-residents can open an account as long as they appear in person with their passport “at any of our branches“. But normally, you’d go to the bank of your choice with
- Passport and copy.
- Another form of identification eg Driving License (and copy).
- Salary letter or certificate (especially if you want a credit card). You might not need this if you just want a savings account.
- Current accounts come with an ATM card and chequebook (checkbook) as standard.
Bank Loans in Dubai
It’s relatively easy to borrow money as a personal loan – and a lot cheaper than using a credit card. You will need a job with a regular salary or several months, at least, of company accounts and bank statements if self employed. Maximum loan amount will be up to 10-24 times your monthly salary.
- Different banks have different lists of approved companies. If you work for one of these, it may be easier or quicker to obtain a loan. Alternatively, not being in the list might mean no loan at all. Just try a different bank.
- You’ll need at least passport & copies, salary certificate or letter (original – ask your company for one), possibly your employment contract. The bank will tell you exactly what you need.
- Auto loans are easier to arrange because the bank has ownership of the vehicle – you may not even need to have an account at the bank where you get the car loan. Interest rates are cheaper than for a personal loan. See the buying and selling cars in Dubai page for more information.
- See also information about home mortgages if you want to finance a property purchase.
How many banks and branches in Dubai and UAE?
- Number of banks in UAE is 52 at end of 2009, unchanged from 2008 (24 UAE banks, and 28 foreign banks).
- Number of bank branches in the UAE increased by 10% in 2009 from 860 to 948 (includes head offices, banking service units, branches, etc) – from UAE Central Bank data report.
- Number of ATMs in the UAE increased 48% from 2,420 at end of 2008 to 3,599 by the end of 2009.
- Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank (ADIB) branches up from 44 to 52, and ATMs from 116 to 204 in 2009. Target for 2010 is 70 branches (comments by ADIB CEO, Tirad Mahmoud, reported on 25 February 2010 in Emirates Business 24-7).
- RAK Bank opened 2 new branches and 12 ATMs in 2009 (comments by Graham Honeybill, General Manager of RAKBank in same report).
Other boring banking statistics for the UAE and the Financial Access 2010 report
- Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP) and the World Bank started producing in 2009 an annual report about financial services worldwide – Financial Access 2009, and Financial Access 2010 (publication date 14 September 2010?).
- Accounts per 1,000 adults in UAE – 1,751 (average deposit and loan value per account not available)
- Branches per 100,000 adults in UAE – 21
- ATMs per 100,000 adults in UAE – 99, ATMs per 1,000 sq km – 43, Point-of-Sale (POS) machine figures not available.
- For headings of table information in the report appendices listed below, the UAE had few or no entries which could be taken as an indication that the financial industry is poorly regulated, or perhaps that the UAE doesn’t think much of the CGAP and World Bank surveying and didn’t give them any data.
- Aspects Under the Purview of the Financial Regulator
- Financial Inclusion: Areas of Reform in 2009
- Consumer Protection: Disclosure Requirements at Account Opening – No requirement for banks or financial institutions to provide standardised calculation of Annual Percentage Rate (APR), minimum balance requirement, information about fees or penalties, plain language explanation of terms and conditions, etc
- Consumer Protection: Compliance Monitoring and Enforcement by Supervisory Agency
- Consumer Protection: Requirements for Periodic Disclosure – No requirements reported for banks or financial institutions to provide periodic statements, fees and charges for deposit or credit products, except for a periodic reporting requirement for unregulated financial institutions.
- Consumer Protection: Fair Treatment, Dispute Resolution, and Recourse – No fair treatment provisions reported
- Small and Medium Enterprise Finance – no agency monitors SME lending, no definition of SME reported, no SME lending information reported
- Consumer Protection Legislation (Law) – none out of the 4 headings (General, Explicit, Financial Sector, Other) checked, and no comments (same as Bangladesh, Belarus, China, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Grenada, Papua New Guinea, Romania, Rwanda, Sudan, Yemen, and several Caribbean islands)
- Countries such as Botswana, Moldova, Mongolia had similar low levels of regulation as the UAE. It was difficult to find a country with any less regulation.
- Then again, maybe the report should be taken with a pinch of salt. Zimbabwe scored consistently higher than the UAE with respect to consumer protection and other regulation, but would you rather keep your money in a bank in Zimbabwe or the UAE?
Best banks in Dubai and UAE 2009
Ethos Consultancy released their 5th annual UAE banking survey results on 14 November 2009, covering 27 retail banks in the UAE. Ethos researchers visited bank branches 675 times, made 405 calls to call centers, and made 270 online enquires through bank websites. Best overall bank was RAK Bank (for the 4th year in a row), ahead of Dubai Bank in second place, and First Gulf Bank in third place.
|Category||First place winner 2009||First place 2008|
|Best Overall Bank||National Bank of Ras Al Khaimah (RAK Bank)||RAK Bank|
|Best International Bank||Lloyds TSB Dubai (also in 2006-2008)||Lloyds TSB Dubai|
|Best Sharia Compliant (Islamic) Bank||Dubai Bank||Emirates Islamic Bank|
|Best Branch Visit Performance||RAK Bank|
|Best Call Center Performance||First Gulf Bank||Dubai Islamic Bank|
|Best Website Performance||First Gulf Bank (also in 2008)||First Gulf Bank|
|Most Improved Bank||Dubai Bank (was in 21st place in 2008)|
|Best New Bank||Al Hilal Islamic Bank|
Best banks in Dubai and the UAE 2008
Everyone has different opinions about whether a bank is any good or not, and any comments here should be regarded as subjective opinions only, but there is an organisation called Ethos Consultancy that surveys UAE banks. Results for their 4th annual survey were released in November 2008 (based on 1500 visits to 29 banks by Ethos researchers) and RAK Bank took the award as the best overall bank (for the 3rd year in a row). Both RAK Bank and First Gulf Bank scored highly on many of the individual survey criteria used by Ethos. But who surveys the consultants? Best and worst banks in some categories according to Ethos were:
- Best Bank Overall: RAK Bank (or National Bank of Ras Al Khaimah), followed by First Gulf Bank. Worst bank overall was United Bank Limited.
- Best Islamic Bank: Emirates Islamic Bank
- Best International Bank: Lloyds TSB Bank
- Best Call Centre Performance: Dubai Islamic Bank followed by First Gulf Bank and RAK Bank. Worst were Al Masraf Bank, Bank of Sharjah and Doha Bank
- Best websites and online services: First Gulf Bank and RAK Bank, followed Noor Islamic Bank. Worst were Al Masraf Bank, Emirates Islamic Bank and Commercial Bank International.
- Best New Bank: Al Hilal Bank
- Best for face-to-face customer interaction: RAKBank, National Bank of Dubai (NBD) and Commercial Bank. Worst were Bank of Sharjah and National Bank of Umm Al Quwain.
- Customer service improved noticeably at RAKbank, First Gulf Bank, Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, Emirates Islamic Bank, Mashreq Bank, Commercial Bank of Dubai and Barclays Bank.
- Worst for customer service were HSBC, Standard Chartered Bank and Citibank. Notably declining levels of customer service at National Bank of Abu Dhabi (NBAD), Union National Bank (UNB) and Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) (previously ABN Amro).
Overall UAE bank rankings (out of 29 banks surveyed by Ethos Consultancy):
Online Banking in Dubai and online banking security
Most, if not all, banks by now offer online banking. The usual security risks apply and you should probably be a little more wary in Dubai than in other countries where the online banking industry is more established.
- Obtain the URL to the online site from an official bank source and type it in carefully. Remember that some scam sites register common typos and misspellings as domain names and put up a site that looks similar to a bank site to fool people into entering personal information.
- Don’t EVER click on a link in an email to access your online account, and be very wary of clicking a link from search engine results to login to your account.
- Banks should NEVER ask you for account details and/or passwords in an email.
- Check the beginning of the URL says https:// (not http:// without the ‘s’).
- Check there is a padlock icon somewhere near the lower right corner of your browser/screen/window.
- If you receive a phone call from someone claiming to be from your bank, they should not ask you for online account login details. If they do, don’t give them. Banks do occasionally phone customers but it’s only a matter of time before scammers start to do this to try and con people out of their personal information.
Bank Charges in the UAE (typical or average figures)
- Setting up an account: usually nothing
- Minimum balance in savings account: usually nil
- Minimum balance in current account: 1000-5000 dhs (one or two require 10,000 dhs)
- Fee for going below minimum: 50-100 dhs in any month
- Loan processing fee: 1-1.5% of loan amount, minimum 250-500 dhs
- Early loan settlement fee: 1-5% of remaining balance (most are 5% – watch out)
- Loan clearance letter: 0-150 dhs
- No liability letter (needed for loan applications with other banks): 250-500 dhs
- Telegraphic transfer: AED 20-100 (overseas is usually AED 50-100)
- Bank cheque or Manager’s cheque: AED 10-20
- Duplicate bank statement: AED 10-100
Sometimes fees are reduced if you have a higher minimum balance in your account, or have salary transferred to your account, or pay a set fee per month to become a VIP / Privilege / Status customer (about 100 dhs for economy level VIP status).
Foreign Banks list with ‘branches’ in Dubai and the UAE
Branches of foreign banks are not actually branches or subsidiaries – they’re set up as separate entities from the mother bank and are run independently, with a license from the UAE Central Bank (there was apparently a UAE law imposed in 1982 banning the setting up of subsidiaries of foreign banks – it may be revoked one day). Foreign banks are subject to 20% corporation tax on their profits in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Sharjah, local banks have no tax liability in the UAE.
There may be some benefits if you go to the same bank in Dubai as you use in your home country – transfers may be easier, cheaper and quicker for example. Just check there is a branch in a convenient location since many in this list only have one or two branches in the UAE. One advantage in dealing with a local bank is the greater number of branches in Dubai and the UAE.
See below the local bank section for representative offices of foreign banks (not the same as a bank).
- ABN-Amro Bank – branches in Bur Dubai, Sharjah (Al Durrah Tower, Buhaira Corniche – moved from King Faisal St, as of 12 May 2007), tel +971-4-3080000
- Al Ahli Bank of Kuwait Abu Dhabi (ABK-AUH), first AUH branch opened 25 January 2009.
- Al Ahli Bank of Kuwait Dubai (ABK-DXB), branch established 1986. ABK established in Kuwait 1967.
- ANZ Grindlays Bank (joined with StanChart Bank?)
- Arab African International Bank (Egypt), branches in Abu Dhabi (tel +971-2- 6323400) and Dubai (tel +971-4-3937773), www.aaibank.com.
- Arab Bank
- Axis Bank (India) – branch moved to DIFC. Location is Unit 701, 7th Floor, Al Fattan Currency House Office Building, DIFC. Official opening announced in press release 02 May 2010.
- Bank Melli Iran
- Bank of Baroda BoB (India), branches in Abu Dhabi, Deira, Sharjah. BoB electronic banking unit opened in Mussaffa in 2008. Opening hours 8am to 1pm and 4pm to 8pm (extended Nov 2007). The only Indian bank operating in the UAE?
- Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ (wholesale bank license issued 15 December 2008), not a retail bank, plans to open a branch in Abu Dhabi.
- Bank Saderat Iran
- Banque du Caire
- Banque Libanaise pour le Commerce (pour Commerce?)
- Barclays Bank – www.barclays.ae, tel 800-22725297, branches in Dubai, Abu Dhabi (18 June 2008 open)
- BNP Paribas
- Citi Bank / CitiBank – www.citibank.com. UAE network has 50 ATMs, 5 branches including Bur Dubai opposite Al Khaleej Center and Jebel Ali, 4 customer service centers or Electronic Banking Units (EBUs) – Al Heel Tower Abu Dhabi, Al Rigga Palace Dubai, Marina Heights Towers next to Marina Walk in Dubai, and Crystal Plaza in King Faisal Street Sharjah. UAE CEO and Middle East Managing Director is Mohammad Al Shroogi (information from 22 June 2007). Update (24 February 2010 press release): Citibank Jebel Ali Financial Center opened, near Dubai Metro at The Galleries, the 6th Citibank Financial Center in the UAE.
- Commerzbank AG, Dubai International Financial Center (DIFC), investment bank for corporate and institutional clients.
- Credit Agricole Indosuez
- Deutsche Bank (wholesale bank license issued 15 December 2008), not a retail bank, plans to open a branch in Abu Dhabi.
- Doha Bank – first UAE branch opened in Dubai July 2007
- El Nilein Bank (Sudan bank, branch in Abu Dhabi only?).
- Habib Bank AG Zurich – www.habibbank.com
- Habib Bank Limited
- HSBC Middle East – www.hsbc.ae – mixed reports. Some customers are happy, some unhappy. Don’t get caught by the office on Jumeirah Beach Road – it’s a representative office of their offshore bank (Guernsey?), not a branch of HSBC UAE. That means they can’t do your UAE HSBC transactions. HSBC on Jumeirah Beach Rd closed in 2010? HSBC is well established in the Middle East but Dubai branches are only in Bur Dubai (parking is difficult), or Jebel Ali, and there’s a customer service centre in Mercato Mall on Jumeirah Beach Rd (which means they’ll smile, offer to help you, and then tell you to go to one of the other branches to do whatever it is you need to do).
- IndusInd Bank (India) representative office in Dubai, and has an alliance with Union National Bank in the UAE.
- Industrial & Commercial Bank of China Ltd (ICBC) – applied to open branch in Dubai (Oct 2007 news). ICBC Middle East branch open in Dubai International Financial Center (DIFC) October 2008. Wholesale bank license issued 15 December 2008
- Industrial Development Bank of India (IDBI Bank Ltd) – received a licence from the DFSA to operate in DIFC, announced in 03 June 2010 press release.
- Intesa Sanpaolo (Dubai branch)
- Janata Bank (Bangladesh) – 4 branches in the UAE?
- Lloyds TSB Middle East (Lloyds Bank PLC) – useful as it’s open all day, six days a week at main branch in Jumeirah. Customer service centers locations in Arabian Ranches, DHCC (Dubai Healthcare City), Green Community, Jebel Ali, Mirdiff.
- National Bank of Bahrain
- National Bank of Oman
- Rafidain Bank (Iraq) – www.rafidain-bank.org (Arabic, UAE branch not listed – Dec 2006).
- Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) – open 10 September 2008 on Bank Street, Bur Dubai.
- Standard Chartered Bank – www.standardchartered.ae – mixed comments. New branch open in The Dubai Mall announced 16 March 2010, opening hours 1000-2000 Sat-Thu and 1400-2000 on Fri. Online account opening facility announced 08 January 2012. Has 11 branches in the UAE as of January 2012.
- Standard Chartered Grindlays Bank – same as ANZ Grindlays (Australia New Zealand)?
- United Bank Limited
- YES Bank (India)- has a partnership with MashreqBank to offer Global Indian Banking Services to Mashreq Gold customers.