Best UAE Banks for Expats [Expat Banking in the UAE]

UAE banks for expats are an essential part of relocating to any of the Emirates. However, not all banks in the UAE cater to expats and some are better off avoiding.

In this article, we’re going to help you navigate your options by sharing a few important considerations and challenges to prepare for when embarking on your UAE banking hunt.

Of course, we’ll also highlight a few alternative expat banking options in popular destinations like the US, Singapore, and the Isle of Man as well as more exotic options like how to open a bank account in Mexico.

Feel free to use the table of contents to jump ahead to the topics most relevant to you.

Table of Contents

  1. UAE Banking 101
  2. Where to Open a Bank Account in the UAE for Expats?
  3. Alternatives to Expat Banking in the UAE
  4. Ready to Open Accounts With the Best UAE Banks for Expats?

UAE Banking 101

Now, expat banking in the UAE can actually mean one of two things…

First, it can refer to banking in the UAE for an individual who lives and works in the UAE but is from another country. In other words, an expat working in the UAE who needs a local bank account.

Second, it can also refer to banking in the UAE for an individual who lives and works outside of the UAE and outside of their home country. In other words, an expat is looking for banking in a third country to support their expat lifestyle.

In general, UAE banks are best suited to the needs of expats that actually live in the UAE.

While there are international banks that operate here, the UAE has a number of restrictions on non-resident accounts and limitations on banking services in general that make it less attractive. Additionally, it’s difficult open accounts remotely, especially at the retail level and if you are an expat with no ties to the UAE.

With this in mind, if you are an expat that lives outside of the UAE, we generally suggest opening accounts in one of the alternative expat banking hubs. We’ve mentioned a few of them below.

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Where to Open a Bank Account in the UAE for Expats?

If you are relocating to the UAE, you will likely want to bank in the specific emirate that you’re moving to.

However, if you have some flexibility and you’re willing to bank anywhere in the UAE, you may want to consider one of the more established banking hubs, which include the emirates of Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

Dubai Expat Banking

Dubai is easily the most popular emirate when it comes to international banking options in the UAE. In fact, it’s a popular option for people seeking international banking options globally.

In short, Dubai’s standing as an international financial center is the result of loose banking regulations, the prevalence of free trade zones, availability of tax-efficient corporate structures, favorable tax legislation, influx of foreigners and expats, and the perceived stability of the UAE generally.

So, it makes sense to consider banking in Dubai if you are relocating here or have direct ties to the country.

Abu Dhabi Expat Banking

While Dubai is usually the first thing that most people think of when banking in the UAE, it may not be the best option depending on your goals and preferences.

In fact, if you’re looking for a more fiscally conservative jurisdiction, you might be interested in banking in Abu Dhabi instead.

Like Dubai, Abu Dhabi is home to a range of international banks that can support the banking needs of expats, ranging from retail to private banking.

However, if you’re looking to open accounts remotely, you may find more flexibility (at least at the private banking level) in Dubai.

Alternatives to Expat Banking in the UAE

Whether you plan to move to the UAE or you’re looking for a third-country banking solution, you could also consider banking elsewhere. Below are a few examples of alternative jurisdictions that expats might consider:

Isle of Man

Out of all the available expat banking options, the Isle of Man is one the most accessible. That’s because remote opening is common option, deposits are relatively low, and bankers are familiar with international clients from around the world. In fact, while expats can open premier and private bank accounts in the Isle of Man, they can also get started by opening an account by depositing just a few thousand dollars.


Jersey is similar to the Isle of Man, in that it’s an offshore financial center that caters to foreigners, non-residents, and their related entities. Like the Isle of Man, bankers in Jersey are very familiar with international clients and comfortable with onboarding them. That said, deposit requirements are typically higher in Jersey, starting at GBP 75,000.


Singapore is generally seen as one of the best international banking destinations available. And, unlike many countries right now, it’s also possible to open accounts here as a non-resident 100% remotely. That said, the deposit required to open in Singapore is higher than elsewhere, usually requiring at least SGD 200,000.

United States

The United States has a number of compelling account opening options and benefits, including the opportunity to open accounts 100% remotely with just a few thousand dollars. Additionally, US banking can provide access to US credit cards, investment options, and even financing for non-resident expats.

Ready to Open Accounts With the Best UAE Banks for Expats?

If you would like assistance navigating your banking options in the UAE or abroad, we can help.

You can access GlobalBanks IQ, our international banking intelligence platform, in just a few clicks. Unlock our bank database, individual bank profiles, account opening strategies and reports, banker scripts, and more.

But, if you want a 100% personalized account opening service that taps into our team’s expertise and provides direct banker introductions, you can get started with GlobalBanks Insider.

Of course, if you have any questions before deciding whether you would like to move forward, don’t hesitate to contact us directly.

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