Overview of Banking in the UAE

What are the criteria you should be looking for when finding the right bank for you? It all depends on what fits your unique needs and your willingness to pay the appropriate fees for the services and benefits you require.

Last Updated on April 9, 2013 by Brian Habibi

Find a bank that fit your need

Choosing the right bank can save you from unnecessary fees, mismatched services as well as other financial headaches.  With over 45 banks in the UAE alone, both local and major international banks are competing for your business (read wallet) – here are simple criteria to consider when choosing where to open an account.


Sticking with a large, widely known bank should be a safe bet, although banking with a smaller firm has its advantages as well. Smaller banks might not have their branches in case you decide to move to a different city but due to small customer base they offer personalized services and offers. For expatriates, it is safe to open an account with your company bank that provides a salary transfer account.


Most people want to use a bank that has a branch and ATMs with Cash Deposit Machines (CDMs) close to where they live or work so that making deposits and withdrawals will be convenient and inexpensive.  For example, using the ATM of another bank for withdrawals incurs service charges.


If you never leave town and most of your business is within the country, then a local or neighborhood bank such has Al Hilal Bank, RAKBANK or Sharjah Islamic Bank should do just fine.  However, if you travel, you should choose an international bank such has Barclays, Citibank or HSBC so you’ll have easy access to your money when you are out of country and won’t have to pay services charges to use another bank’s ATM to withdraw cash.


Some banks don’t charge you for their services as long as you maintain your account balance. Even small fees can add up over time and eat into your account balance, so look at a bank’s fee schedule very carefully before you sign up and make sure you understand what you need to do to avoid fees – even if you sign up with a bank that advertises free checking.

Wealth and Worth

Some bank accounts are designed for customers with large amounts of cash, also referred to as high net worth individuals (HNWIs).  Bank services for HNWIs are typically referred to as priority banking or private banking.  If you’re not eligible for these products, there are also plenty of options for people with smaller balances.


Some bank accounts are designed for people who can have their regular paycheck directly deposited by their employer, also known as salary transfer accounts. If you won’t be making deposits this way, you’ll need a more traditional account.

Related articles:

Find Out What Fees are Set by the UAE Central Bank

How to Reduce Your Bank Fees

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