The banking system in Bahrain

Banking and Finance in Bahrain
Shutterstock.com
Updated 2021-07-20 15:15

Opening a local bank account is essential for receiving your salary. The Wage Protection System (WPS) is designed to protect employees by making employers pay salaries into a bank account. Starting from September 2019, the system was rolled out across all employers in Bahrain. Full implementation is expected to be completed within 12 months.

The banks in Bahrain are modern, reliable, and offer professional and trustworthy services. Bahrain is considered one of the most important places in the world for Islamic banking.

Choosing a bank in Bahrain

There is a wide range of banks available in Bahrain, both international and local. Popular banks with expats include Arab Bank, HSBC Bahrain, Ahli United Bank, Citibank, and Bank of Bahrain & Kuwait (BBK), amongst others.

After researching the banks on offer and selecting one which will best meet your needs, it is necessary to visit your local branch to open an account. For the sake of convenience, many expats find it easier to open an account with the same bank as used by their employer.

Procedures for opening a bank account

You will need to provide the following documentation;

  • A 'no objection letter or certificate' (NOL or NOC - This is a term you will become familiar with for many procedures in Bahrain. They do not necessarily refer to salary, and if you are the male half of a couple, you may even have to issue a NOL or NOC for your wife to take up employment.) In this case, this is a letter from your employer stating they will deposit your salary into the account each month. It should also indicate the salary amount. 
  • Your passport (photocopies are not acceptable).
  • Proof of residency (residence permit in your passport) and CPR (residency card)
  • Proof of address such as tenancy lease agreement, or recent utility bill.

Consult your chosen bank in advance to find out their exact requirements, so that you are prepared for your appointment to open your account.

Banking services in Bahrain

Banks in Bahrain are likely to offer very similar services to your home country, including debit and credit cards, direct deposits for bills and regular payments, international money transfers and personal or car loans. As at home, additional fees may apply for some services, particularly for premium accounts.

When your new account is approved and opened, you will receive a debit card, for withdrawing cash and making local purchases. You may also be eligible to apply for a credit card.

As elsewhere in the world, premium accounts come with a range of benefits which may include, reduced interest rates on loans, free travel insurance, reduced fees for international money transfers, and airport lounge access in the Middle East.

Opening hours will vary by bank, but generally, banks in Bahrain are open from 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday to Thursday.

 Good to know:

The unit of currency in Bahrain is the Bahraini dinar (BD or BHD) and is effectively tied to the dollar at the rate BHD1 = $2.65957. The dinar is subdivided into 1,000 fils.

ATMs and bank cards in Bahrain

In Bahrain, as in much of the Middle East, cash is the preferred method of payment, followed by debit or credit cards. Some establishments will insist on a minimum spend before accepting debit card payments, although using a card for even a couple of dinars is often acceptable. 

ATM machines are widely available, and currently, there are no charges for withdrawals at any ATM, whether at your own bank or elsewhere. 

 Important:

It is useful to get into the habit of carrying cash for everyday purchases and keep plenty of change for tips as many low-paid workers rely on these.

Cheques in Bahrain

Personal cheques are generally refused by many businesses as a form of payment, although they are often accepted by landlords for payment of rent. Issuing a cheque with insufficient funds is a criminal offence in Bahrain, punishable by fines and/or imprisonment.

 Useful links:

HSBC Bahrain
Arab Bank
Ahli United Bank
Bank of Bahrain & Kuwait (BBK)
Exchange rate calculator

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.