Did you know that over 90% of Dubai residents are expats? With this in mind, it’s no surprise that Dubai has become a popular hub for expat banking. So, whether you are moving to Dubai or another country, you might be looking for the best bank in Dubai for expats.
The best bank in Dubai for expats will depend on each client’s individual profile and requirements. Some of the key criteria include accepting foreigners and non-residents, offering reasonable fees, decent online banking, and good customer service. But, more than anything, it must be familiar with the needs of expat clients.
Naturally, most expats want to choose the bank with the lowest fees, best service, fewest headaches, and most attractive offerings. So, what is the best bank in Dubai for expats? In this article, we’re going to help you navigate your options to identify the bank that is best for you.
But, before diving in, if this is your first time visiting GlobalBanks, don’t forget to download your free non-resident banking starter guide. It helps non-residents open accounts in top banking hubs around the world.
Housekeeping: Expat Banks in Dubai
This article will take a look at two groups of expats. First, we’re going to discuss those expats residing in Dubai with a valid residence visa. Second, we’re going to discuss those expats living outside of dubai looking for non-resident banking options. We’ve covered this second group in past articles as well. So, be sure to check out our past articles for more detailed insights.
To put things into perspective, the UAE has a total of 49 different banks. Interestingly this makes the bank-to-population density similar to the UK.
Many major international banks have a significant presence in Dubai. However, it’s worth mentioning that clients who have a relationship with these international banks in their home country will likely be disappointed in the level of service they get in Dubai.
Additionally, some of the best financial products will be impossible for expats to access. Indeed, these products are only available to Emirati citizens.
Furthermore, some banks have Sharia-law compliant accounts. This means that the use of more advanced financial instruments and interest-bearing products are not permitted. Of course, most of these products fall under the umbrella of “Islamic Banking” – which isn’t usually available to expats.
Benefits of Finding the Best Bank in Dubai for Expats
Now that the housekeeping is out of the way, let’s take a look at why you might want to find the best bank in Dubai for expats. We’ll do this by sharing some of the ways that expats find Dubai banks attractive and useful. Of course, in the following section, we’ll also be taking a look at the challenges and drawbacks of Dubai banks. But first, the pros.
Local Bank Account with an IBAN
Some expats living, working, or simply spending a lot of time in Dubai will find that having a bank in Dubai is essential for day-to-day living. For example, many UAE employers often require their employees to receive their salaries in a local UAE account. Plus, having a local bank account is useful for renting an apartment and accessing other government services.
Credit Cards From Expat Banks
Dubai banks regularly offer loans and credit cards to the expat community. And, expats who come from countries with under-developed credit systems and weak credit card offerings, may find some UAE credit card offerings attractive.
Common Expat Credit Card “Benefits” In Dubai
- Complimentary airport lounge access
- Valet parking (at select establishments in the UAE)
- Complimentary golf on championship courses in the UAE
- Complimentary town car airport transfers in the UAE
- And more…
Many UAE credit cards offer local benefits, which means benefits are only accessible in the UAE. Obviously, this isn’t very useful for expats who travel internationally and want more robust rewards.
With this in mind, if credit card benefits are a priority for you, you may want to obtain US credit cards instead. Fortunately, pretty much anyone can tap into the US credit card system as long as they have the right information and strategies to open accounts. If you want to learn how to access US credit cards as a non-resident or foreigner, we can help you with GlobalBanks USA and GlobalBanks Insider.
Loans From Expat Banks in Dubai
Dubai banks are extremely keen to lend money. However, this is only available to bonafide residents of Dubai. In other words, if you are a non-resident expat, loans will not be available to you.
Interestingly, credit ratings do not exist within the UAE. So, UAE banks look at monthly income to assess eligibility for financial products like loans and credit cards. This has the added benefit of allowing resident expats to access loans and credit products without any local credit history.
As a rule of thumb, those earning US $10,000 per month (roughly 36,700 AED), can apply for a mortgage of around 70 times their monthly income or US $700,000 (roughly 2,569,000 AED).
Offshore Banking Options
When trying to choose the best bank in Dubai for expats, some prospective clients want to have their money deposited offshore. In other words, they want an account that will be domiciled outside of the UAE. This allows the client to deal with a local banker while offsetting some of the risks associated with banking in Dubai.
For example, several banks in Dubai offer offshore accounts to expats through their international branches in the following jurisdictions:
Accounts in these jurisdictions, of course, come with different fee structures. Likewise, they have their own pros and cons that need to be considered. However, when paired with a local expat account, they can offer additional security, a wider range of services, and even more currencies than many of the local banks can provide.
Challenges When Banking in Dubai as an Expat
Yes, there are challenges that you need to be aware of when opening a bank account in Dubai as an expat. In fact, as you’ll see below, some of these challenges are outright concerns that could even land you in jail.
Not surprisingly, many people find that the best bank in Dubai for expats is a bank outside of Dubai. If that’s what you decide, you can view our archive of other account opening articles to find more suitable options or contact us to discuss the options that might be better suited for you.
Many (Surprising) Reasons for Freezing Accounts
Like many places, banks in Dubai freeze accounts anytime their systems identify suspicious activity. But, unlike in other countries, banks in Dubai also freeze accounts for more obscure reasons. These can include switching jobs, changing visa status, or even getting in trouble with the law.
In fact, if you are a resident of Dubai and you decide to change jobs, your company will send a “final statement” to the bank. This statement includes a note confirming that this would be the final payment to the bank. And, while that might not sound like a big deal, it can have very serious implications. For instance, if you have credit cards, car payments, or mortgages tied to your accounts, this can cause late payments. As we’ll show below, this can be very detrimental.
Credit Card & Loan Payment Issues
Even if you open an account with the best bank in Dubai for expats, you still need to be very careful not to default on credit cards and loans. Penalties for missing a payment in Dubai (and the rest of the UAE) are severe. You can literally go to jail for missing credit card or loan payments. Of course, this is an extreme case. In most cases, banks will discuss a repayment plan with you before taking legal action. But, unlike other places, the options that banks can pursue are extreme.
In fact, you may have to stay in Dubai until the debt is repaid, especially if significant payments are missed. If you leave the UAE with outstanding payments, then you may be detained when you re-enter the UAE in the future.
High Minimum Deposit Requirements
Like most countries, the deposit required to open an account with the best bank in Dubai for expats can be quite high. However, this will depend on your residency status and the types of services you want to access.
For instance, while expat residents of Dubai will be able to open accounts with reasonable amounts, non-resident expats will need to deposit significantly more. Additionally, premium and private banking are often inaccessible to expats earning modest salaries. Such accounts usually require a deposit of US $100,000 to $200,000 or the equivalent in AED. Meanwhile, private banks often require significantly more.
Banks in Dubai love offering expats wealth management solutions. In many cases, bankers receive hefty commissions for new clients. In fact, the commission structures used by Dubai wealth management providers have led to a toxic relationship with Dubai expats.
For example, many expats new to Dubai, who are unfamiliar with the low-grade expat investment product scene and high-pressure tactics, get duped and find themselves committed to decades-long retirement or life insurance products that are pricey and difficult to get out of.
Quality, Service, & Fees
As mentioned above, many large international banks have a presence in the UAE. However, the quality of services, services offered, and indeed the fees charged can differ greatly from other markets. And unfortunately, in many cases, these banks are unwilling to negotiate any of the terms and conditions.
In some instances, international banks will ask clients to transfer investment portfolios to the UAE. This then exposes them to thousands of dollars in fees. With this in mind, it can make sense for some expats to separate their banking relationships across multiple banks. In addition to avoiding many of the cons, it can also help you avoid high fees and unnecessary transfers.
It’s also worth noting that banks in the UAE charge fees for incoming and outgoing foreign currency transfers. Expats looking to receive or send bank transfers from Dubai banks should consider this when they open a bank account. Fees are higher, forced currency conversions from AED add to the costs, and popular money transfer services used in other countries don’t always work here (or have limitations and restrictions).
How Should Expats Bank in Dubai?
Understandably, after reading such a long list of cons, many expats may be put off by banking in Dubai. If you’re a non-resident expat, you can obviously choose from a wide range of other top banking jurisdictions instead. But, if you’re a resident, you still need to know what is the best bank in Dubai for Expats.
Well, in most cases, a basic bank account in Dubai will be sufficient for expats employed by local companies. Interestingly, compared to such accounts in other parts of the world, they still offer decent perks. For instance, basic accounts come with an AED and foreign currency account, a debit card that earns loyalty points to be redeemed on bill payments, and much more.
If, however, you’re looking for more than a basic account, make sure to fully understand the fees and the terms and conditions before opening an account. Alternatively, you may want to consider opening an account in another country instead. That way you can tap into a wider range of services and benefits while avoiding the many cons outlined above.
What is the Best Bank for Expats in Dubai?
You can use the information in this article to guide your search for the best bank in Dubai for expats. Or, you can access one of our membership services instead.
Each of our premium services are designed to help non-resident individuals, foreigners, and their businesses open international bank accounts around the world.
So, whether you need personal, private, or offshore Dubai banking — we have an account opening solution that will work for you.
And, of course, this will include helping you identify what you need to open a bank account in the UK without overpaying or wasting time.
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