The banking system in Saudi Arabia

saudi riyals
Updated 2022-02-23 08:55

One of the first and most important tasks for expats in Saudi Arabia is to get their bank accounts open and understand banking procedures. For starters, in order to receive your salary deposit, you must have a local bank account. Once you open your account, you will be able to settle your monthly utility bills and money transfers. You can actually open and operate your account online, via the governmental portal, Absher app and the bank's applications themselves.

Opening a bank account in Saudi Arabia

Banking in Saudi Arabia is very similar to what you would expect in most other countries. With many well-established banks, there are many options to choose from. It is very easy to open a bank account in Saudi Arabia, as long as you have all the needed documents.

In general, you have to produce the following:

  • A letter from your employer stating your name, iqama (residence permit) and your salary. Your salary needs to be clearly stated.
  • Iqama (residence permit)
  • Passport (original)
  • Valid mobile number

Expats can generally open a bank account in any of the retail banks in the country. You can make an appointment in advance or simply walk in to open an account or perform any other transaction.

Banks in Saudi Arabia are modern institutions offering lots of different services, including internet and phone banking.

Banks are generally open from 9.30 am to 4.30 pm from Sunday to Thursday. Some bank branches may also be open on Saturdays, but it's better to check their respective websites in advance. Bank offices located at airports are open 24/7.

Saudi Arabia's top banks include Saudi National Bank, Al Rajhi Bank, Samba Bank, Riyad Bank and others.

There are also several international banks in the country like Deutsche Bank, BNP Paribas, Standard Chartered Bank, HSBC and others.

To open an online bank account in Saudi Arabia, the applicant must have either Absher registration (to use the website from abroad, you might need to use a VPN) or registration via the chosen bank's web page or application. Some banks still require your presence to verify the data and signatures, while others could provide you with a debit card whenever you order it.

Good to know:

Your banking app is directly linked to your mobile number. Your security codes and banking activity is sent via SMS to your mobile phone.

Types of accounts in Saudi Arabia

It is standard practice that you will be given a basic, current account (equivalent to a checking account) when you first open an account. This will be the account attached to your ATM card.

Savings accounts

If you are looking to keep money stashed away in a savings account or deposits — you can ask for one to be opened at the same time as your first account. It's important to note that savings accounts and/or multiple accounts can only be accessed via Internet Banking. You can't actually access your savings account from an ATM; there isn't an option for that.

International currency account

Depending on the bank you choose, some banks offer accounts in different currencies (US, EURO, GBP). It is not common but is available, and with a little research, you're sure to find certain banks offering them.

Joint accounts

Unfortunately, joint accounts don't exist in Saudi Arabia. However, expats who would like to have more than one user for an account can simply ask for additional ATM cards for family members. This is common practice among married couples in Saudi Arabia.

Ladies and children accounts

Most of the banks in Saudi Arabia have special offers and services for women and children.

Methods of banking in Saudi Arabia

Both Internet and Telephone Banking are readily available in Saudi Arabia. These services are available in Arabic and English and are very easy to use.

ATM/money transfers

ATMs are very easy to find and located citywide. Many banks offer free-of-charge use, so there are no additional charges to using an ATM.

Money transfers done through your bank to local accounts are done instantly through Internet Banking at a minimal fee.

International money transfers to banks outside the country can be done in-branch for initial setup and, thereafter, through Internet banking. This does come at a charge but is roughly average to transfers worldwide.

Bill payments

All bills can be settled through banking either on Internet or Telephone Banking. Automatic payments can be scheduled via internet banking.

Digital wallets

There are several digital wallets available in Saudi Arabia as well, including Apple Pay, Google Pay, STC Pay and others.

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.