With over 30 options, choosing a bank in the UAE can be confusing. Many residents will pick a bank recommended by their employer or friends. While this may be the fastest way to make a choice, it does not necessarily mean you will have the best experience.
Where do you bank?
If you are an expat, you more than likely also have a bank account in your home country. Whether it is Citibank, HSBC or Standard Chartered, you need to research the advantages of banking with them in the UAE. International remittances will not necessarily be cheaper, as many banks now offer free or discounted international transfers to countries such as India. Moreover, you should check what interest rates and other financial services are offered, as their financial products are unique to each country. For the most part, international banks tend to have less branches than their local counterparts; so if this is an important consideration for you, check their bank branch & ATM network in the UAE.
Locations and timings
Choose a bank that works with your schedule. If you are too busy with your job during the weekdays, finding a bank with a branch location close to home will probably be more convenient. Most bank branches close quite early, so if you find yourself having to visit the bank late relatively frequently, then make sure the bank you choose has locations at a mall, as these tend to be open until the evening. While you can withdraw money from the ATM of any bank, if you are averse to paying a fee for each withdrawal, then make sure there is a convenient ATM location close to your office or home.
Most banks in the UAE charge fees for many services and transactions that you may not be used to paying for back home. The Central Bank has set limits on the maximum fees banks can charge their customers, these include:
|Account opening fees:||None|
|Using another bank’s ATM in the UAE:||AED 2 per transaction|
|Minimum balance required:||Maximum of AED 3,000|
|Monthly minimum balance penalty:||AED 25|
|First cheque book:||None|
|New cheque book:||Maximum AED 25|
|Account balance letter:||AED 50|
|No liability certificate:||AED 100|
|Bounced cheque fee:||AED 100 (unless written to yourself)|
However, these are only the maximum bank fees permissible, some banks might be charging less.
If you are looking for a credit card, personal loan, auto loan or mortgage, then you should compare the offerings in the UAE. To get the lowest interest rate possible for a loan, transfer your salary to the bank you are borrowing from. This means choosing where you want to open a bank account based on the lending facilities it offers. It is a good idea to compare credit cards and loans in the UAE, so you can select a bank based on the best interest rates or benefits for your needs.
Nowadays, you almost never have to visit a physical branch to pay bills or use banking facilities. So before choosing a UAE bank, ask any colleagues or friends how happy they are with their current online banking platform. Choosing the right one will make your life much easier as you can usually pay all your recurring bills online, in addition to things such as airline tickets and traffic fines. If you remit money to your family back home often, then some banks even allow you to transfer money via Western Union online. Internet banking has become one of the most important items to consider when choosing where to bank.