Both resident and non-resident individuals and companies can bank in the United Arab Emirates. Holders of Emirates IDs will have access to a wider range of banking services but you can open a bank account in the UAE even if you don’t have the document. Even though you can find divisions of many foreign banks in the country, local banks are more efficient. A bank account can be opened remotely within 1 to 2 weeks.
There is no religious discrimination in the UAE: people of all religions are eligible to apply for banking services. Iranians cannot open bank accounts in the UAE (and money cannot go from the UAE to Iran and it cannot come to the UAE from Iran either) but there are political reasons for that, not religious ones. If you have heard the phrase ‘Islamic banking’ and you are concerned about it, you should not be. Islamic banking is not only for Islam followers. In fact, the phrase describes banking practices that are preferential in certain respects to European or American banking. Below we recommend some of the most popular UAE banks.
Leading banks in the UAE
Local banks offer more attractive service conditions in comparison to foreign banks that have offices in the UAE. For this reason, we mention only local banks below.
Mashreq is the oldest bank in the UAE. Currently, almost half of the entire population of the country banks there. Mashreq has the widest network of branch offices and ATMs in the UAE. It also provides banking services in 12 foreign countries.
It used to be called Bank of Oman before. Even though the name was changed a long time ago, some locals keep referring to the bank by the old name.
Emirates National Bank of Dubai
The ENBD is one of the largest banks in the United Arab Emirates. You should know that Emirates National Bank of Dubai owns several other banks in the country. As the institution is the national bank of Dubai, it is extremely reliable.
Both private individuals and corporate entities can acquire banking services there. The bank has more than 100 branch offices and more than 1,000 ATMs in different regions of the country, which makes cash easily accessible if you have an account with ENBD. Some tariffs allow withdrawing cash free of charge. Moreover, this opportunity is available not only in the UAE but in foreign countries too. Besides, you can.
Emirates Islamic Bank
This is a large bank that specializes in ‘Islamic banking’. It provides services both to individual and corporate clients. It will be interesting to note that the EIB is a forward-looking bank indeed. It often employs the latest banking technologies before its competitors do.
If Islamic banking is associated with outdated banking methods for you, you should change your mind. Many Islamic banks are highly progressive.
Abu-Dhabi Commercial Bank
The financial institution owns several airlines including Etihad Air. The bank specializes in servicing corporate clients and it offers attractive loan conditions even to startups.
The bank closely cooperates with foreign businesses but you have to bear in mind that its requirements are tough for clients. You should be mentally prepared for service denial if you apply for banking services there.
Noor is one of the most progressive banks in the UAE. The reigning dynasty takes part in bank management, which is a guarantee of its credibility. Until recently, the name of the bank contained the word ‘Islamic’ but it is gone now.
The Noor Bank offers outstanding instruments for remote account management outperforming many of its competitors in this area. This is one of the reasons why it is so popular with foreign account holders who use Internet banking applications often.
National Bank of Fujairah
This is a small banking institution that provides services to corporate clients exclusively. Because the bank specializes in a narrow banking area, it can offer some services that its competitors cannot.
NFB is actually the smallest bank on our list but it is growing dynamically. The bank offers highly attractive loan conditions in an attempt to enlarge its customer base and grow in popularity.
Similarly to the National Bank of Fujairah, RakBank is a small banking institution. As of today, it has only around 30 branch offices but a rich history as well. The company has been in operation since 1976 and it has earned itself a reputation of a highly reliable business partner.
Business clients are prioritized at the RakBank. If your corporate entity has been in existence for more than 1 year, you can find some very attractive credit conditions there.
As you can see, you have a wide choice of banks in the UAE but you certainly have to bear in mind certain specifics of the local banking sector.
What restrictions are applied to non-resident bank clients in the UAE?
Every bank will put forward its own requirements but many banks will want you to have an Emirates ID if you want to set up accounts with them. You have to be a tax resident of the UAE if you are to be eligible for the document. If you don’t have an Emirates ID, you can often open only a savings account.
The same requirements are applied to legal entities too. If you want to set up a company bank account in the UAE, you have to have a company registered in the country (in a Free Zone or on the mainland). We highly recommend that you seek professional assistance in setting up bank accounts in the UAE because banking service denial is not a rarity in the country.
What is Islamic banking and does it affect banking services?
In practical terms, Islamic banking means that banking activities are carried out in accordance with Shariah law. The law does not put any limitation on foreign bank clients or on followers of other religions. You can believe in any god and make use of top-quality banking services in the UAE. As we have noted above, Islamic banking practices are sometimes more advanced than banking practices in other parts of the world.
Bank account maintenance costs in the UAE
You can find both paid and free banking products in the UAE. In most banks of the country, current account maintenance is free but some banks may charge 10 to 20 dollars per month.
A security deposit requirement, however, is applied much more often than an account maintenance fee is charged. Corporate clients normally have to leave a 2 to 3 thousand US dollars but the deposit is redeemable. Sometimes you will be offered a choice: you can make a security deposit or pay an account maintenance fee.
You have to realize, however, that additional services come at a price in the UAE even though no account maintenance fee is charged. If you want to use an Internet banking application, you have to pay a fee. If you want to open an account in another currency, you have to pay a fee, and so on. On average, bank account maintenance costs 200 dollars per year in the UAE.
It is true that there are restrictions for non-resident banking clients in the UAE. It is also true that banking services can be denied in the country. At the same time, setting up a bank account in the UAE is not a difficult task even if you are a foreigner. Open an account in Dubai or another Emirate and you will gain access to a stable banking system. This will allow you to perform all sorts of financial operations in the Middle East and Asia as a whole.
To avoid service denial, you should seek professional support when opening a bank account in the UAE. The opportunity is too lucrative to be missed.