Most major international banks are represented in Dubai, and so you’ll see loads of names you recognise, as well as having local banks, such as Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank and Emirates NBD, to choose from. Setting up an account is relatively easy, but you must hold a resident’s visa. Be patient, though, because customer service can be lacking and the system is pretty antiquated, with services such as direct debits and standing orders still not available or chargeable in the city.
Here is a step-by-step guide on how to set up a bank account, what you will need, and what kind of services you can expect:
1 Phone around to get an idea of what each bank offers and compare their rates.
2 It’s also worth asking your employer for a list of recommended banks. Your salary transfer will take less time to clear, and some banks may offer you additional benefits as an employee of one of its clients.
3 Once you have chosen your bank, either pop into a branch (a lot of these are located on Khalid Bin Al Waleed Street, known as Bank Street in Bur Dubai), or call to arrange for a representative to visit you at work.
4 You will need to have your original passport, plus copies, including your residency visa, as well as a letter from your employer confirming you have a job, and a salary certificate. You also will need to sign a blank cheque to the bank as a form of security.
5 Most banks will arrange for your ATM card and cheque book to be couriered to you at work, or you can arrange to collect it from the branch another day.
6 Most standard current accounts offer an ATM and cheque book and require a minimum monthly salary, which varies from bank to bank. Some accounts also require a minimum balance ranging from Dhs1,000 to Dhs10,000, which if you fall below will have to pay a charge of Dhs25 to Dhs100.
7 Savings accounts are available at most banks with varying rates of interest depending on the amount deposited. For tax-free savings consider opening an offshore account. This is good if you are from the UK, because they are part of the British bank clearing system.
8 Most Dubai banks offer free internet banking, so make sure you sign up when you apply. Online transactions are not instant, but they are reliable and secure, and it stops you having to stand in line at the branch.
9 Most banks charge a standard rate of Dhs2 for using a competitor’s ATM or Dhs1 if you're just using it for a balance enquiry.
Time Out tip: If you’re going to a bank branch, plan to visit in the mornings because most banks are shut in the afternoon. Opening hours are generally 8am to 1pm from Saturday-Thursday.