Banking in the UAE is quite different from banking in western countries. An expat can find themselves in a confusing situation when trying to open an account in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah or any of the country’s cities.
If you’re an expat and interested in diving into banking in the UAE, here’s a breakdown of what you need to know.
Types of Banks in the UAE
The UAE is home to four types of banks; commercial, industrial, merchant and Islamic. Depending on your industry and personal needs, you’ll need to know what each of these banks offers and do not offer to begin your banking journey in the UAE.
Commercial banks are general banks most individuals are used to. These banks offer a variety of services to the general public that includes wealth management, savings and checking accounts, personal loans, and more.
When banking in Abu Dhabi, an expat can open an account with a commercial bank and receive the same services they would in a bank anywhere in the world.
Industrial banks offer a limited scope of services. These banks accept deposits from consumers and sell investment shares. Industrial banks do not offer to check accounts and are also known as industrial loan companies. Generally, industrial-type banks offer loans to individuals, small businesses and large corporations for the purpose of industrial development.
This bank would be an option for industrial developers.
A merchant bank is one that focuses its business model on international finance. They also offer business loans for companies, mostly for large-scale companies. Merchant banks excel in international trade and multinational corporations. Consumers from the general public cannot bank in a merchant bank.
Islamic banks are banks that focus their principles on Islamic traditions and Shari’ah law. These banks function based on Islamic economics, and they are generally non-interest enforcing banks. Islamic banks are known for prohibiting riba or “the collection and payment of interest.” They are also known for sharing profit and loss.
Islamic banks are open to everyone, including those who are not Muslim, and these types of banks do not lend for the development of businesses they view as vices, for example, liquor, casinos, tobacco, etc.
Islamic banks are good choices for nationals and expats that have an interest in moral-based banking and adherence to traditional values.
What Your Bank Should Offer You
If you’re a member of the general public, you’ll be interested in either a commercial or Islamic bank. Your bank should offer you a variety of services and should have an aim for the development of smart banking, or a mobile-focused business model.
Online and mobile banking should include services like balance transfers, balance details, activation of new banking cards and the registration of new accounts.
If your bank offers a mobile app, it should be one that you can use even if you switch phones. So, opt for one with iOS and Android support. Review the capabilities of mobile apps before opening an account, some apps are quite limited. Generally, through a mobile app you should be able to:
- Have access to checking, savings, and credit card balances
- Conduct transfers between accounts
- Activate or block a lost or stolen card, or order replacement cards
- Make utility payments
- Send cash via SMS
- Locate nearby ATMs
- Register for new accounts
- Mobile deposit of checks
- Access to investment portfolios
- Contact the bank with the tap of your finger
Banks like FAB Bank offer an increasingly convenient digital banking atmosphere that includes online banking, a responsive website, mobile apps and hundreds of branches and ATMs across the emirates.
Look for a bank that also offers you wealth management services, like one that can assist you with savings accounts and spending plans. As technology advances, it will be imperative that your bank considers smart banking a priority.