2011-11-01 11:28:50

A guide to opening a bank account in Morocco, reasons for keeping a bank account open in your home country and how to send, and receive money transfers while in Morocco. The article also includes several banks for opening accounts, information about using ATM's in Morocco, and bringing foreign cur

Opening a bank account in Morocco is not a difficult task, and often the only hurdle is a language barrier if you don’t speak French, Arabic or Darija fluently. A translator can, of course, easily resolve that matter.

First, bringing any sum of foreign currency should be in cash rather than Traveller’s Checks. Most banks and other establishments do not accept them in Morocco. When entering the country, you can bring up to $10,000 USD per person entering the country. You may not be asked or checked for this upon entering, but it’s good to know the limitations in case authorities do check. 

You can watch the current exchange rate to find a good time to open a bank account, but they are can go up and down quickly so don’t wait too long. Electronic boards are posted in banks and money exchange bureaus. The dollar fluctuates by a few cents each day, so I say just bite the bullet and open the account. It’s much better than trying to convert it in small amounts all the time. You probably won’t make a huge difference anyway.

When choosing a bank, make sure you pick a branch that is the most convenient to your daily life. Will you spend most of your time at work across town from where you live, and need to do your banking during your lunch break? Open the account at a branch closer to work. If not, open one in your neighborhood. There is a reason for selecting a bank location; you can only bank at the branch office you open your account at. You can’t make deposits, withdrawals, get account documents or make changes unless it’s at that specific branch. You can get an ATM Visa Debit Card, so you’ll be able to use it all over Morocco and at other bank ATM’s for fee, usually 6 DH. BMCE has many bank branches, especially in the larger cities so it’s also beneficial for avoiding ATM fees. Other national banks with a lot of branches are Attijariwafa, BMCI, Groupe Banque Populaire, and Wafa Bank. The best thing to do is visit a couple of banks that have convenient locations and check their account fees to make a decision that’s best for you. 

When you arrive at the bank, tell them you want to open a convertible account. This will allow you to open an account in whatever currency you have. It will be translated to dirhams on the day you open the account. You can open a joint account with a Moroccan spouse provided they have their Moroccan national identity card. You can also add a spouse at anytime after the account is open. You’ll get a letter in the mail with your pin number and notice to pick up your ATM card at the bank branch. It takes about two weeks longer than they say it will, so don’t panic if you don’t get it right away. Until then, you can withdraw money from the bank as needed during business hours. You’ll also get monthly account statements to keep track of spending and balance your account. Morocco is a cash driven society, but banks do offer checks with accounts if you want them. They are necessary for renting a car. 

The only problem with the convertible account is that you can only deposit the currency you opened it with. So, if you are going to work and your employer wants to direct deposit your salary (which is a common practice), you’ll have to open another bank account. 

During Ramadan, banking hours change and are posted on the outside of the bank. It’s a good idea to take note of these hours, especially if you don’t yet have an ATM card and need to withdraw money. Additionally, you do have to plan ahead on the weekends, because ATM’s aren’t stocked very often and most run out of money.

Keep Your Home Country Bank Account Open
It’s a smart idea to leave a bank account open in your home country with a set amount of money for emergencies and paying any bills on open accounts in your home country. Put the name of someone you trust on the account that is still residing in the home country such as a parent or spouse. Change the account address to that same person’s address.  That way, if you need anyone to handle any banking issues for you while you are gone, that person is authorized to make decisions, deposits and withdrawals from your account as needed.  It’s helpful for paying any credit card or other revloving account bills, making online purchases (flights, hotels, online stores) and direct deposit of your tax refund or any other deposits you may receive.

You can also withdraw money from ATM’s in Morocco using your ATM card from your United States bank account as long as the banking networks on the back of your card match the ATM. For example, look for the Cirrus logo on the ATM machine. Most of the banks are linked to the networks so they are easy to find. Check with your bank about any additional fees for oversees withdrawals first. You will have to pay whatever the bank fee of the Moroccan bank you are using, but it’s probably a normal traveler’s rate.

While you’re at it, check your creditor’s for online bill paying options. Go directly to the account website and look for online bill pay options. You can often set it up one time to either have the money automatically withdrawn from your account or get a monthly reminder to make a payment. Your information may be stored so it’s as simple as logging in to the account and clicking a few buttons. You can check with them to see if they offer electronic billing so that your bill will be emailed to you monthly. Most companies are trying to cut back on paper bills and are encouraging sign up for this type of billing anyway. You can also use automatic bill pay programs with your bank, or third party bill pay programs through the internet if they creditor’s doesn’t have an option of its own.

Money Transfers
There are plenty of Western Union locations across Morocco, and some of them operate out of local bank branches and others are dedicated Western Union locations. If you need someone to send you cash from the United States, Western Union is the best option.  Bank locations are adamant about national identification cards and carte du sejours for receiving money and won’t accept a passport whereas the store locations will. The money will be given to you in dirhams given the daily exchange rate and Western Union exchange fee (a few cents per dollar). You can see the day’s current exchange rate on their website.

There are a few other money transfer companies operating in Morocco, but Western Union has the most locations and a trusted name for sending and receiving money abroad. Senders may also be able to send the money to you using an online transfer system from their bank account eliminating the inconvenience of finding and going to a nearby location.

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