Thursday 22 February 2024 (UAE)

List of Banks in Dubai and UAE

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Banks in Dubai and the UAE

There are both foreign and local banks in Dubai and the UAE ready to look after your money, or lend you someone else's money. All dirhams lead back to the UAE Central Bank which governs and licences financial institutions in the UAE. Their website has a reasonably up to date list of banks operating in the UAE (updated annually or every 6 months?). Retail customers will usually head to one of the commercial banks or Islamic banks. There are two other types of bank categories - merchant or investment banks, and industrial banks.

Check with your company if they have any special arrangements with a particular bank in Dubai. Sometimes you may get preferential rates on money transfers, or lower minimum balance requirements. You may also see your salary a day or two earlier if you're at the same bank as the one your company uses.

All (or nearly all) banks in Dubai and the UAE will have a minimum balance requirement for a current account ranging from 1000 to 10,000 dhs. Update 28 Feb 2011: Central Bank rules changed and banks were limited to AED 3,000 minimum balance requirement, effective from March or April 2011? There's a monthly fee of 50-100 dhs if you go below that limit during the month - for most banks you only have to do that once to get hit with the fee. A savings account with a Dubai bank usually has a much lower, or no minimum balance requirement. Some banks also have a minimum salary requirement to operate a current account, of AED 10,000 or 20,000 per month.

Most people will eventually collect a story or two about poor customer service. What seems to happen is that you open an account at a bank (based on where your company banks, location, or what someone else suggests). Eventually you'll get annoyed with something they've done, close your account and repeat the process at another bank. Usually this only happens once every couple of years or so, so it's unlikely you'll run out of banks for this procedure.

New UAE Central Bank maximum limits on fees and loans - update 28 February 2011

Regulations Regarding Bank Loans & Other Services Offered to Individual Customers - published by the UAE Central Bank (dated 23 February 2011 but not released until 28 February 2011?).

The UAE Central Bank issued a statement detailing new borrowing limits and caps on fees charged by banks in the UAE. According to the document, "These regulations shall be published in the Official Gazette in both Arabic and English, and shall come into effect one month after date of its publication," but publication date was not supplied. The new rules replace Circular No 12/93 dated 23/2/1993, Central Bank clarifications ref. DMM/1263/93 dated 6/7/1993, and any other related notices except for Notice No 1850/2004 dated 14/6/2004 regarding Armed Forces Personnel. Some details of the new fee limits are:

As of end February 2011, the UAE has 23 local and 28 foreign banks (total 51 banks). Total value of outstanding personal loans rose 3.9% in 2010 to AED 247 billion dirhams ($67 billion). Personal loans made up 24% overall loan amount (which implies a figure of AED 1,030 billion (AED 1.03 trillion) (Bloomberg 28 February 2011).

PDF download of new Central Bank rules and fees at

How many banks and branches in Dubai and UAE?
Other boring banking statistics for the UAE and the Financial Access 2010 report
Best banks in Dubai and UAE 2009

Ethos Consultancy released their 5th annual UAE banking survey results on 14 November 2009, covering 27 retail banks in the UAE. Ethos researchers visited bank branches 675 times, made 405 calls to call centers, and made 270 online enquires through bank websites. Best overall bank was RAK Bank (for the 4th year in a row), ahead of Dubai Bank in second place, and First Gulf Bank in third place.

Category First place winner 2009 First place 2008
Best Overall Bank National Bank of Ras Al Khaimah (RAK Bank) RAK Bank
Best International Bank Lloyds TSB Dubai (also in 2006-2008) Lloyds TSB Dubai
Best Sharia Compliant (Islamic) Bank Dubai Bank Emirates Islamic Bank
Best Branch Visit Performance RAK Bank  
Best Call Center Performance First Gulf Bank Dubai Islamic Bank
Best Website Performance First Gulf Bank (also in 2008) First Gulf Bank
Most Improved Bank Dubai Bank (was in 21st place in 2008)  
Best New Bank   Al Hilal Islamic Bank
Best banks in Dubai and the UAE 2008

Everyone has different opinions about whether a bank is any good or not, and any comments here should be regarded as subjective opinions only, but there is an organisation called Ethos Consultancy that surveys UAE banks. Results for their 4th annual survey were released in November 2008 (based on 1500 visits to 29 banks by Ethos researchers) and RAK Bank took the award as the best overall bank (for the 3rd year in a row). Both RAK Bank and First Gulf Bank scored highly on many of the individual survey criteria used by Ethos. But who surveys the consultants? Best and worst banks in some categories according to Ethos were:

Overall UAE bank rankings (out of 29 banks surveyed by Ethos Consultancy):

  1. National Bank of Ras Al Khaimah (RAKBank)
  2. First Gulf Bank
  3. Emirates Islamic Bank
  4. Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank
  5. Dubai Islamic Bank
  6. National Bank of Dubai
  7. Mashreq Bank
  8. Lloyds TSB Bank
  9. Commercial Bank of Dubai
  10. Al Hilal Bank
  11. Noor Islamic Bank
  12. Barclays
  13. Commercial Bank International
  14. Citibank
  15. Emirates Bank International (meBank)
  1. National Bank of Abu Dhabi
  2. Standard Chartered Bank
  3. HSBC Bank Middle East
  4. National Bank of Sharjah
  5. Union National Bank
  6. Dubai Bank
  7. Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) (formerly ABN Amro)
  8. Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank
  9. Al Masraf
  10. Doha Bank
  11. National Bank of Umm Al Quwain
  12. SAMBA
  13. Bank of Sharjah
  14. United Bank Limited
Checks (Cheques) in Dubai

Cash or credit cards are usually used for day to day transactions such as buying a few shawarmas, filling up the car (note that as of mid-2007, EPPCO, ENOC, and EMARAT service stations do not accept credit cards), or going to the furniture shop for a new sofa. Cheques are more likely to be used for bill payments and annoyingly, to secure credit cards and loans. A couple of important points to note about using checks in the UAE.

Opening a bank account in Dubai

You'll usually need a residency visa first before you can do this although some banks will accept a letter from your employer saying that your residency visa has been applied for (your employer should be able to tell you which banks) or even a letter of introduction from a bank in your home country. HSBC is one bank apparently that does not require a residency visa to open an account (but you have to pay a fee of several hundred dhs). And NBAD UAE says on their FAQs page that non-residents can open an account as long as they appear in person with their passport "at any of our branches". But normally, you'd go to the bank of your choice with:

Bank Loans in Dubai
Online Banking in Dubai and online banking security

Most, if not all, banks by now offer online banking. The usual security risks apply and you should probably be a little more wary in Dubai than in other countries where the online banking industry is more established.

Bank Charges in the UAE (typical or average figures)

Sometimes fees are reduced if you have a higher minimum balance in your account, or have salary transferred to your account, or pay a set fee per month to become a VIP / Privilege / Status customer (about 100 dhs for economy level VIP status).

List of Foreign Banks with 'branches' in Dubai and the UAE

Branches of foreign banks are not actually branches or subsidiaries - they're set up as separate entities from the mother bank and are run independently, with a license from the UAE Central Bank (there was apparently a UAE law imposed in 1982 banning the setting up of subsidiaries of foreign banks - it may be revoked one day). Foreign banks are subject to 20% corporation tax on their profits in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Sharjah, local banks have no tax liability in the UAE.

There might be some benefits if you go to the same bank in Dubai as you use in your home country - transfers might be easier, cheaper and quicker for example. Just check if there is a branch in a convenient location for you since many in this list only have one or two branches in the UAE. One advantage in dealing with a local bank is the greater number of branches in Dubai and the UAE.

See below the local bank section for representative offices of foreign banks (not the same as a bank).

Local and Foreign Banks planning to open in Dubai and UAE

GCC banks and Arab Banks - possibly with branches in the UAE

Other banks with connections to the UAE

List of UAE based banks - local, not overseas

Branches usually in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah. Possibly also in Ajman, Al Ain, Fujairah, Ras Al Khaimah, Dibba, Kalba, Khorfakkan, Ruwais. Websites given for information only. You should not use these for online banking login. Usually a domain ending in .ae is a little less risky than .com since it is more difficult to register a .ae domain name. Many banks have registered both the .ae and .com version of their names, but not all. Emirate of head office in brackets.

List of representative offices of overseas and foreign banks in the UAE

This list may overlap with the list of foreign banks in the UAE eg HSBC has a bank presence with branches in most emirates, and also has a representative office on Jumeirah Beach Road in Dubai not connected with the UAE branches. You cannot do your normal UAE based banking activities at a representative office (representative offices cannot handle cash and teller transactions) but they might have an ATM.

Credit Cards in the UAE

Banks will fall over themselves to try and give you a Visa or Mastercard credit card and they're relatively easy to obtain but you do need:

Most standard cards will be free or cost 100 dhs per year. Gold cards are free to 400 dhs per year and Platimum cards 500-1000 dhs per year. Some banks offer "free-for-life" cards of all types, other banks will give you home theatre systems, toasters, or other useful home appliances, car beakdown service memberships, discounts on meals and hotel rooms, travel services including insurance, transport to airport, airport lounge access, airmiles. To become a victim ... er recipient of these wonderful promotions, just write down your mobile number anywhere it's asked for, throw a few business cards into those goldfish bowls at restaurant reception areas and you should be in a telephone promoter's database in no time.

Be careful of hidden or obscure fees and charges, and opt-in services where you are opted in by default. For example things like personal accident insurance, credit card repayment insurance. The UAE credit card market is not regulated in the same way as in the US or Europe so banks can get away with less consumer-friendly and more profitable-for-shareholders activities. Credit card limits will usually be 1-3 times your monthly salary. Late payment fees will usually be 50-100 dhs for each month payment is late.

Outdated information, needs update

Some bank credit card deals and charges are (quoting APR - Annual Percentage Rate - calculated as the monthly rate applied repeatedly without paying off any principal but ignoring late or non-payment charges). Information valid December 2006 unless otherwise stated.

Last update Tuesday 15-Jul-2014
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Abu Dhabi AUH ABD ADB, Ajman AJM, Al Ain AAN, Dubai DXB, Fujairah FUJ, Ras Al Khaimah RAK, Sharjah SHJ, Umm Al Quwain UAQ

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