Banking system in the United Arab Emirates

Banking system in the United Arab EmiratesThe UAE banking system is a system of financial institutions in the State of the United Arab Emirates, consisting of the UAE Central Bank, local commercial banks (with full and limited license), branches of foreign banks (including Islamic) and investment banks.

Banks in the UAE are divided into two main categories: local registered banks and joint stock companies licensed in accordance with the provisions of the Law number 10 of the UAE in 1980, and branches of foreign banks licensed by the Central Bank to conduct banking activities in the country under the provisions of the Act.

Historically, national banks (with a share capital owned by domestic business) and foreign banks existed before the creation of the former Monetary Board, i.e. before creating the Central Bank. Given these historical circumstances, the number of banks and their branches in the country and abroad has grown very quickly, creating a certain disproportion between the number of banks and the capacity of the local market. As a result, the controlling authority has stopped issuing licenses to new banks and reduced the number of branches of foreign banks, limiting their maximum of 8. The UAE Central Bank has issued five new licenses to foreign banks and financial institutions in 2003, bringing the total number of foreign banks in the UAE to 48. The number of branches of the National Bank increased by the end of 2003 to 330 compared to 310 at the end of 2002.

In 2003, to the market entered the financial, monetary and credit brokers, bringing the total number of licensed brokers to 32. The number of financial companies remained unchanged (6 companies) at the end of 2003.

State banks in the UAE:

Central Bank of the United Arab Emirates.

Local (domestic) banks in the UAE

Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank;
Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank;
Ajman Bank (National Bank of the emirate of Ajman);
Arab Bank for Investment & Foreign Trade – UAE (Division of Pan Arab Bank, offering a wide range of banking and financial services throughout the UAE);
Bank of Sharjah (Founded in 1973, offers corporate banking, banking for individuals, investment banking services and other related services);
Commercial Bank International – UAE (Financial institution in the United Arab Emirates, providing various banking products and services);
Commercial Bank of Dubai (One of the leading banks in the UAE);
Dubai Bank (or Bank of Dubai) (A major bank in Dubai);
Dubai Islamic Bank (Operates based on the principles of Islamic finance);
Emirates NBD (Formed by the merger of two other large financial groups – National Bank of Dubai (National Bank of Dubai, NBD) and Emirates Financial Group);
First Gulf Bank (FGB) – UAE (Offers financial services in various fields);
InvestBank Sharjah (Financial company incorporated in the Emirate of Sharjah, providing banking and financial services);
Mashreq Bank (A large bank with many branches, one of the few companies providing e-commerce services);
National Bank of Abu Dhabi (NBAD);
National Bank of Fujairah;
National Bank of Ras Al-Khaimah (Rakbank);
National Bank of Sharjah (NBS);
National Bank of Umm Al Qaiwain (NBQ);
Noor Islamic Bank (Relatively young bank offering a wide range of services to both individuals and legal entities);
Union National Bank (UNB) – The Bank is headquartered in Abu Dhabi, with numerous branches throughout the UAE;
United Arab Bank (UAB).

Foreign Banks in the UAE

ABN Amro Bank UAE (One of the leaders on the market of the UAE banking services);
Bank of Baroda;
Bank Melli Iran;
Bank Saderat Iran;
CitiBank UAE (Provides a full range of services both in the corporate and private banking sector);
HSBC UAE (International Bank, which operates in the United Arab Emirates, offering personal and corporate services);
Habib Bank AG Zurich UAE (Dubai branch of the Swiss bank, providing electronic banking (e-banking) and currency exchange services);
Standard Chartered UAE (International Bank, operating in the United Arab Emirates and offering personal and corporate services).

Commercial banks with a limited license

These banks have no right to accept deposits from residents in dirham, but only in foreign currency. They may also issue loans to any interested persons, both residents and nonresidents.

Investment banks

Investment banks operating in the UAE are not classic banks, because basically they do not carry out banking and investment operations. The UAE law number 10 of 1980 defined the investment bank as the bank is not entitled to accept deposits with maturity of less than two years, but has the right to attract investment from local and foreign banks, as well as in the financial markets.

Payments in the UAE


Checks are a common means of payment in the UAE. Especially popular when paying rent, tuition and in another installment payments for goods and services. Checkbooks issued to customers after review and approval by the bank client request.

Internet Banking / Mobile Banking

Most banks offer their customers the possibility to make many banking transactions via phone or internet.

Foreign currency

Banks provide their customers with the ability to open accounts with several major foreign currencies: U.S. dollars, British pounds, euros and some are in Japanese yen and Chinese yuan. Most banks also take to cashing checks drawn in major foreign currencies. Banking commission and time cashing checks in foreign currency may vary in different banks.