Expats will find banking in the UAE to be simple, sophisticated and reasonably familiar. That said, as is the case with any foreign destination, there are a few quirks to take into account and practices to avoid debt and maximise the tax-free liberties that come with living in the country.
Money in the UAE
The dirham is the local currency in the United Arab Emirates and is abbreviated as AED. It is sometimes also written as DH or Dhs. One dirham is divided into 100 fils.
The dirham is available in the following denominations:
Notes: 5 AED, 10 AED, 20 AED, 50 AED, 100 AED, 200 AED, 500 AED and 1,000 AED.
Coins: 1 AED and 5 fils, 10 fils, 25 fils and 50 fils
Banking in the UAE
The UAE’s banking system is sophisticated, with plenty of local and international options.
Many foreigners choose a brand that they recognise from their home country, especially if they already have an account opened with that particular institution. Expats shouldn’t immediately discount local options as most banks are accustomed to catering to the large foreign community and there is usually no language barrier to speak of.
Banks generally keep hours from 8am to 2pm, and are closed on Fridays. Branches in large malls may stay open later. Internet banking facilities, some better than others, are commonplace.
Opening a bank account
Opening a bank account in the UAE is a fairly painless process once expats have their residence visa. Expats will need to show proof of their visa, as well as provide their passport, proof of address and a no-objection letter from their employer in order to open a bank account in the UAE.
Fees and service offerings differ between the various banks. Current accounts, debit and credit cards, savings accounts and car loans are standard fare, with some banks also offering preferential banking, depending on a person’s salary level.
Cheques are still widely accepted in the UAE. Post-dated cheques are popular and are the primary method used for buying a car and paying annual rent, as debit orders are not common in the UAE.
ATMs are widely available in the UAE. There may be charges for drawing cash from a different bank’s machine.
Most banks also have cheque and cash deposit machines available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Internet banking facilities are also available.
Taxes in the UAE
As most expats know, a huge advantage of working in the UAE is that there is no taxation on expat income, nor is there GST. That said, as of 2018, there is a five percent VAT.
There is tax attached to drinks and meals in restaurants that serve alcohol, but these additions are minimal.
Some expats may be liable for tax in their home country, although the amount varies and relates to how long one spends outside of the country, and whether they qualify for non-resident tax status.
Expats should consult a tax advisor to help with the process of filing in their home country, if necessary.