To start, you’ll need a few documents (and a few extra copies of each) on hand. When you go to meet with your banker to open your account, you should have:
Depending on which bank you choose, you may also need:
Whether you’ll need some or all of the above depends on what type of account you’re opening, whether you’re a resident or non-resident, and what bank you’re opening an account with. If you have access to all of the listed documents, bring them. If you’re still not sure what you need or whether you’re qualified to open an account, keep reading.
To open a bank account anywhere in the UAE, you’ll be required to sign your application and other documents in front of a bank officer. Typically, this means you’ll need to be physically present when you open your account. That being said, if you decide to bank with a larger international financial institution that operates in Dubai like HSBC or Citibank, you should be able to open an account from your local branch.
Another option is that, in some cases, you can also employ a financial advisor who will act as your representative in Dubai, which may allow you to open an account remotely.
With local banks based in the UAE, your presence will be required at the time of opening your account. This is also true for most UAE-based accounts, even if you choose an international bank.
However, if you’re planning to remain a citizen of your home country and wish to apply for an account with a major online bank like Charles Schwab or Bank of Internet USA, you’ll still be eligible to open an account online. If you do choose to use a web-based bank, it’s important to be aware that you won’t have access to bank tellers or on-site customer service, and ordering things like checks can take longer than usual. With both companies, your account will still be based in the U.S., however, with waived ATM fees and flat currency conversion rates, this won’t be much of a problem.
Most major international financial institutions like Citibank will allow you to open an account online even from the UAE, provided you still have an address and residency in the United States. Your account will still be U.S. based, but you’ll have access to branches, fee-less ATMs, and bank tellers in Dubai. The same can be said for HSBC, provided you are a U.S. or UK resident.
A lot of the time, expats feel that it’s safer and easier to open an account with a larger bank that they’re already familiar with. Standard Chartered, Royal Bank of Canada, Habib Bank, HSBC and Citibank are all major international banks that operate in the UAE, any of which could be a good choice if you’re moving to Dubai.
However, the rise of these larger international institutions has caused many local banks to offer great services at competitive rates. Emirates NBD, for example, has been well reviewed by expats and locals alike, and may be better equipped to deal with the tightly regulated UAE Central Bank than some of their foreign competitors.
Here’s a list some of the popular banks in Dubai, along with the standard features of a basic current account to help you choose where to open yours.
Emirates NBD has more than 250 ATMs and bank branches in Dubai. Their standard current account includes:
They have 50 ATM and branch locations in Dubai. NBAD not only offers extensive credit card options, but their personal current account includes:
ADCB offers 11 ATMs and branch locations in Dubai. Their current account includes:
They have 14 ATMs and 8 branch locations in Dubai. FGB’s current account includes:
Dubai Islamic Bank is known for their highly personalized service and offers 10 ATMs and branch locations in Dubai. Their Al Islami current account includes:
ADIB offered hundreds of ATMs in Dubai alone, along with 24/7 banking services. Their current account offers:
HSBC includes 67 ATMs and 10 branch locations in Dubai. Their Current Account includes:
They have 14 ATMs and 5 branch locations in Dubai alone. Standard Chartered’s Current Account includes:
Citibank has 48 ATMs and 2 branch locations in Dubai. Their Current Account includes:
All of the above banks offer online banking, a free cheque book, and many other types of current, savings and deposit accounts for you to choose from – often with premium features. Before you make your decision, though, double check the full spectrum of fees the bank will charge. Many have monthly fees, minimum balance requirements, charges for sending/receiving bank transfers as well as for withdrawals from tellers or ATMs.
All in all, the process for opening a bank account in Dubai isn’t much different from the process of opening one in your home country.
You’ll need to gather as many of the documents listed as you have access to and head into your local branch. Alternatively, it’s fairly common for banks to send agents to make house calls in the UAE. If you want to save yourself the trouble of putting on shoes, give your local bank a call and make an appointment for a representative to meet you at your home or office.
Typically you can have your bank account up and running in a few hours if you’re a resident in Dubai. Non-residents applying for savings accounts may take a bit longer to have their applications processed and, as a result, may not gain access to their bank account right away.
As you would making any major financial decision, make sure to thoroughly read all of the documents your agent presents to you before signing.
There are many types of fees that are common to banks internationally. Banks all over the world are known to charge account servicing fees, overdraft fees, statement fees, foreign transaction charges and inactivity fees among others. Banks in the UAE are no exception.
In Dubai, many expats have noted the importance of thoroughly understanding your bank’s minimum balance policy. Not only do the minimums in Dubai tend to be quite high, but the fees that are incurred when you dip under it can be quite large.
It’s also a good idea to check whether setting up routine transfers, like your Internet bill or rent, incurs a fee. Most banks in Dubai charge around 50 AED to initiate them. Emirates NBD, for example, charges 35 AED for each new standing instruction. If you’re setting up automatic payments, it’s even more important to keep an eye on your minimum balance as insufficient funds fees can be exorbitant. The payments themselves are typically free, however some banks will charge you a fee every time you perform an electronic transfer. If you’re planning to set up a lot of bills on auto-payment, it’s worth making sure your bank is not going to charge you.
In order to avoid bank fees at ATMs, it’s important to visit your chosen bank’s ATM or an ATM group that your bank is affiliated with. If you happen to be dealing with a bank account full of foreign currency, the exchange rates offered by ATMs in Dubai are usually better than the ones you’ll find at actual currency exchange offices.
That being said, foreign exchange fees are rampant if you’re making purchases overseas or in a different currency, and can range between 1-3%. If you’re a frequent traveler, you may want to consider setting up your account with a larger international bank instead of a local Dubai institution.
Another advantage to choosing an international bank is that they’re usually able to provide you with better rates for international transfers between bank accounts, and somewhat lower fees on wire transfers. Emirates NBD, for instance, lists their cross-currency transfer fee somewhere between 60-90 AED, whereas HSBC’s worldpay offers international transfers at a lower standard fee of around 42 AED. That being said, regardless of which bank you choose foreign transaction, wire transfer, and currency conversion fees are likely to exist.
However, if you’re transferring money overseas or receiving it from a foreign bank account, there are almost always additional fees charged by your sending bank and several intermediary banks, as well. Though many of those fees are fixed, sending a single transfer, especially if it’s a smaller amount, can get quite costly.
A cheaper option is to use Wise which offers the real, mid-market exchange rate.
To easily and reliably check on the mid-market exchange rate between your home currency and UAE Dirhams, use an online currency converter. You’ll also be able to see how the market’s been trending over the last 30 days and see what your money is actually worth.
Good luck opening your new bank account in Dubai!
We need to verify your identity before you make a transfer from Emirati Dirhams (AED). It’s how we keep your money safe and comply with regulations.
We’ll always ask for 2 types of documents when you set up and fund your first transfer from AED:
Your ID document
A selfie with ID
We might also ask for a proof of address from you too.
We can only accept these documents to verify your identity:
Passport (photo page only)
We can’t make any exceptions, and in some cases, we’ll need both — so be sure to have both documents ready.
For transfers from AED, we require a selfie with ID. This means uploading a picture of yourself (a selfie) while holding your ID.
Your address must always be a residential address, but you don’t need to live in the UAE to pay for a transfer from AED. If you live in the UAE, we can’t accept some documents you’d typically use.
We can accept these documents to verify your address:
Tenancy contract or agreement; we need to see the full copy, including signatures of both parties
Local authority tax bill
Driving license with address on it
Utility bill (e.g. electricity, water, telecommunications)
Letter by employer or employment contract (should not be more than one month old)
We can’t accept these documents to verify your address:
UAE driving licenses; these licenses don’t show addresses
Documents in non-Latin text
Your proof of address should show:
Your name and address: matching the information your Wise account
Date of issue
A logo, or clear name of the sender: like your bank, your local authority, your utilities provider, etc
The nature of the document: like the type of bill, subject of the letter, etc