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An Expat’s Guide to Banking in Saudi Arabia this 2022

An Expat’s Guide to Banking in Saudi Arabia this 2022 – that will be the topic of today’s article.

If you want to invest as an expat or high-net-worth individual, which is what i specialize in, you can email me (advice@adamfayed.com) or use WhatsApp (+44-7393-450-837).


Banking in Saudi Arabia —In most circumstances, banking in Saudi Arabia is simple and painless, with local and foreign banks providing efficient, up-to-date services. As an expat, here’s all you need to know about banking in the country.

According to KPMG, the Kingdom’s banks hold assets totaling US$604.9 billion. Strong fundamentals, high liquidity, and rising earnings characterise the industry. It is generally thought to be stable. Despite being one of the GCC’s largest asset sectors, Saudi Arabia’s banking sector has witnessed minimal structural change in the decades since its founding. New market entrants and digital fintech start-ups, on the other hand, are expected to shake things up.

This comprehensive book provides an introduction of the banking industry, as well as information on how expats can open bank accounts. The following sections are included:

Banking in Saudi Arabia and It’s System

Saudi Arabia has a total of 30 banks. Thirteen are local and seventeen are international. The Saudi Arabia Monetary Authority is in charge of all of them (SAMA). SAMA was established in 1952 as the Kingdom’s central bank with the mission of supervising banks and financial institutions, managing monetary policy, overseeing the financial and insurance systems, and ensuring banking system soundness.

Banking in Saudi Arabia is classified as part of the services sector, which accounts for 53.2 percent of the economy.

According to investment firm AlJazira Capital, four local banks in the Kingdom accounted for roughly 57 percent of overall sector assets in 2019. The National Commercial Bank (NCB) was the Kingdom’s largest bank by assets, with 20.5 percent of the market share, followed by Al Rajhi Bank (16.1%), Samba Bank (10.1%), and Riyad Bank (0.9%). (10.1 percent ).

Overall, banking in Saudi Arabia is convenient across the country; the kingdom has 2,062 bank branches as of the first half of 2019.

The capital, Riyadh, has the most bank branches (627), followed by the Mecca (Makkah) region (436), and the Eastern Province (435). (403 branches).

Saudi Arabia’s Saudi Riyal

The Saudi riyal, abbreviated as SAR, is the official currency of Saudi Arabia. A riyal is made up of 100 halalas. When the country’s provinces were unified at the turn of the twentieth century, several different currencies were in use. The Indian rupee, the French riyal, and a variety of Ottoman-era currency were among them. The first coins in the name of Saudi Arabia were minted in 1935. The original notes were designed for Hajj travellers, and they were first produced in 1953 before being replaced by official banknotes in 1961.

The riyal has been legally tied to the IMF’s special drawing rights (SDRs) since 1986, although it is pegged to the US dollar in practise. Officially, US$1 equals SAR 3.75, or SAR 1 equals US$0.266667.

SAR 1, 5, 10, 50, and 100 banknotes are available, although the SAR 1 note is gradually being phased out. Saudi Arabia issues bimetallic coins in denominations of 1 and 2 riyals, as well as 1, 5, 10, 25, and 50 halalas.

Saudi Arabia’s Cash Machines And ATMs

In Saudi Arabia, banking is as simple as going to an ATM. Over 18,000 machines can be located in locations ranging from bank branches to shopping malls and high-street businesses across the country. The majority of them have English and Arabic interfaces.

Saudis apparently enjoy carrying cash; in 2017, the country’s 32 million people withdrew a total of SAR 728.5 million.

ATM cash restrictions vary per bank in the Kingdom, but withdrawing SAR 2,000 is usually not an issue. You may check your bank balance and usually request a mini-statement from an ATM in addition to withdrawing cash. Within Saudi Arabia, you can use any locally issued debit or credit card at an ATM; however, using other banks’ ATMs will usually entail a fee ranging from SAR 2 to SAR 30.

Some Saudi Arabian ATMs require you to pick up your cash within a few seconds or watch it slip back into the machine; retrieving such cash is a time-consuming process.

Your local bank’s website will include a list of ATM locations. Alternatively, you can use global search sites to find what you’re looking for.

Saudi Arabian Banking

Expats are free to open accounts at any of Saudi Arabia’s 30 retail banks. While arranging an appointment is available, it is not required, and clients are welcome to stroll in and complete any transaction.

Banks are contemporary and up to date, with locations in every town throughout the country. Almost every bank provides both internet and phone banking services. As a result, when banking in Saudi Arabia, clients have the option of managing their funds over the counter at a branch or remotely over the internet. Customers may be requested to enter their Saudi mobile phone number when making an appointment; they will then get an appointment code through text message.

From Sunday through Thursday, banking hours are 9:30 a.m. to 16:30 p.m. It’s worth checking your provider’s website to see if they provide services on Saturdays. On Fridays, Saudi Arabia’s weekly holiday, banks are closed. Branches in the country’s airports are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Women might expect special treatment when banking in the Kingdom because it is a conservative Islamic country. Many banks have specific areas for women clientele, while others have ladies-only branches.

There are no specific savings banks in the United States, such as thrifts or Savings and Loans, or building societies or mutual corporations, as there are in the United Kingdom.

Saudi Arabia’s Islamic Banking

Two of Islam’s holiest shrines are located in Saudi Arabia. As a result, economic and social values are closely aligned with Islamic principles. Through Saudi Arabia’s banking sector, this conservatism is reflected in Sharia-compliant or Islamic banking organisations.

Saudi Arabia has the largest Islamic banking sector in the world, accounting for 78 percent of the total. In the GCC, the Kingdom accounts for over 30% of total Islamic banking activities. Conventional banks are required by law to follow Islamic values. Because of the regulations that regulate Islam, account holders get a ‘profit rate’ instead of interest. While all banks in Saudi Arabia have Islamic windows, there are some dedicated Islamic banks.

Saudi Arabia’s Digital Banking

Saudi Arabia has lately surpassed Egypt as the largest digital banking market in the Middle East and North Africa. More than three-quarters of banking consumers utilise internet or mobile apps, according to ArabNet study. Saudi banking consumers use digital platforms in 76 percent of cases, with 60 percent using web and mobile apps.

Expats who bank in the Kingdom will be able to manage their accounts easily online or using smartphone apps. SAMA’s internet push has resulted in nearly every major bank having an online presence. Saudi Arabian residents can also use the Mada electronic payment system.

Saudi Arabian Banking Services

Expats banking in Saudi Arabia can anticipate a wide choice of services from their financial institutions. These are some of them:

Accounts Current

In Saudi Arabia, most retail banks offer a variety of accounts for everyday use. Standard accounts and goods for students and young people, as well as joint accounts for families, are among these options. Checking accounts, like current accounts, come with chequebooks and may have minimum balance requirements.

Accounts Of Savings

Savings accounts are available at several Saudi banks and can be accessed through internet banking. While they don’t usually offer checks, they do allow account users to keep their balances near to zero. In Saudi Arabia, savings accounts have a greater profit rate than checking accounts.

Overdrafts And Loans

Personal loans are easy to obtain in Saudi Arabia, whether for the purchase of a car or a property, or to consolidate debt. Short-term and long-term overdrafts are available from most banks.


The property market in Saudi Arabia has recently been opened up to expats and foreigners. As a result, many banks will lend to first-time purchasers who meet their requirements. However, because the Saudi Arabian mortgage market is still in its infancy, potential applicants should shop around before signing on the dotted line.


In Saudi Arabia, many retail banks provide a variety of assets, including mutual funds, bonds, stocks, and insurance-linked pension plans. The Capital Markets Authority regulates a number of investment banks in Saudi Arabia, including BNP Paribas, Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, KKR, Société Générale, and UBS. When it comes to investment banking, there are minimum balance requirements.

Online And Digital Banking

Customers who desire a more convenient way to keep track of their accounts can use Internet banking, which is offered by most banks.

Banking On The Go

Mobile banking apps are now available from Saudi Arabia’s major banks, allowing consumers to check their accounts and make payments via their smartphones and tablets. Mobile-only banks are also available.

Banking For Businesses

If you want to do business in Saudi Arabia, you’ll need the right bank accounts. In Saudi Arabia, however, banking solutions for persons who run their own businesses are largely limited to bank account services.

Transferring Funds

A variety of banking institutions in Saudi Arabia offer easy money transfer services between other countries thanks to agreements with correspondent banks. Customers can send money abroad through ATMs at some banks, such as Arab Bank.

You Can Open A Bank Account

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An Expat's Guide to Banking in Saudi Arabia this 2022 3

Banking in Saudi Arabia is simple enough, although it does take a few more documents than the ordinary foreigner is used to. Copies of your passport, your residence visa, and a letter of no objection from your local sponsor are all required.

Saudi Arabian Payment Methods

Arabs prefer cash to modern payment methods because of their old trading history; nevertheless, this attitude has shifted in recent years, thanks to the convenience of mobile and digital banking services accessible in Saudi Arabia. The following are the numerous payment options:


In Saudi Arabia, cash is commonly utilised for all types of transactions. The total amount of cash in circulation accounts for roughly 60% of the country’s GDP, with cash payments accounting for 38% of all transactions. By 2030, the government wants to reach a 70 percent e-payment target.


In Saudi Arabia, utility providers are still subject to checks. Utility companies and major service providers will take them, although landlords frequently need post-dated cheques from tenants. Local checks pass in a few days, however ATM acceptance varies depending on the bank.

Cards Of Payment

In Saudi Arabia, debit and credit cards are becoming more widely accepted. Even though they may display signs indicating that they accept card payments, many store owners around the Kingdom still insist on cash payments.

Standing Orders And Direct Debits

Direct debits and standing orders can be used to pay bills such as electricity or mobile phone bills in Saudi Arabia. Direct debits have been used since 1997, and standing orders have been in use for some years.

Payments Via The Internet And Mobile Devices

The majority of internet shops accept credit and debit cards for bill payment and purchase. Despite this, just 24% of internet purchases in Saudi Arabia are made with a credit card, with the rest choosing to pay with cash.

Wallets On The Internet

Apple Pay, Mada Pay, and STC Pay are among the e-wallets that have been accessible in Saudi Arabia since 2017. By merging cash, credit and debit cards, and gift cards in a single smartphone app, these systems attempt to simplify payments for users. The majority of them are free to use. As of June 2019, the total number of transactions through e-wallets in the Kingdom had topped 21 million, totaling more than SAR 1.5 billion.

Money Transfers Inside The Locality

Once you’ve nominated a beneficiary to your account, you can make local money transfers between Saudi Arabian banks within a day or two. This process could take a day or two, depending on your banking. Local transactions are not always free, and certain banks may charge a fee.

Money Transfers Between Countries

When banking in Saudi Arabia, international remittance services are commonly available due to the country’s substantial expat population. Expats can transfer money by going to a bank branch, using internet banking services, or withdrawing cash from ATMs in some situations. There are various additional, typically cheaper, ways to transfer money from Saudi Arabia to other nations.

Monito’s online comparison tool can also help you save money on fees, get the best exchange rates, and locate the most cost-effective choice for international money transfers.

Saudi Arabian Banking Fees

Customers’ costs in Saudi Arabia have been capped by the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA). To stay competitive, several banks offer lower rates. Many transactions are less expensive when done online, whereas branch requests can cost up to three times more. Saudi Arabian banks are required to post these fees on their websites and prominently display them in their locations.

Saudi Arabian Offshore Banking

When banking in Saudi Arabia, many expats open offshore accounts because it is the most efficient way to save, invest, and manage money while living overseas. These services are provided by wealth managers and brokerages, although Saudi Arabian institutions also have connections to offshore facilities.

Saudi Arabia’s Banking Security And Fraud

The rise of digital banking, as anywhere else in the globe, has resulted in an increase in bank fraud and security difficulties. In 2017, there were 2,046 reported fraud or attempted fraud incidents with a total value of SAR 214 million.

Anonymous phone calls asking victims to update their banking information over the phone, electronic fraud to steal banking records and personal information, and credit card fraud, especially when travelling, are the most common types of fraud techniques that customers who bank in Saudi Arabia are exposed to.

As a response, Saudi banks have established a variety of client education programmes, including sending out monthly emails and SMS messages warning customers about fraud.

New technology solutions are also being considered by the country. Alhamrani Universal, Saudi Arabia’s largest ATM provider, is testing a biometric ATM prototype with ShoCard, a blockchain-based identity identification technology. Consumers will be able to use a blockchain-based App and face recognition software instead of personal identification numbers to withdraw or deposit money.

In Saudi Arabia, Dealing With Bank Fraud Is A Difficult Task

As soon as you identify a fraudulent transaction, notify your bank. If you see an incorrect transaction on your bank statement, you have 30 days to report it. The bank may require you to complete and fax a document or letter, after which they will investigate the problem. It’s possible that the process will take up to 90 days. The bank may also request supporting evidence, such as receipts, confirmation emails, or text messages relating to the fraudulent transaction.

Change your bank passwords right away, and submit a police report if the bank asks.

Saudi Arabian Bank Cards That Have Been Lost Or Stolen

Saudi Arabian banks are well-equipped to deal with lost or stolen cards. New cards are usually issued between two to five business days, depending on the card supplier. As soon as you find a lost card, contact your bank or credit card company and request that it be blocked. Whether you are at home or abroad, you will almost certainly need to file a police report.

In Saudi Arabia, certain credit card companies and banks offer insurance protection; however, this usually only applies if you report the problem within 48 hours of discovering it.

Making A Complaint About Saudi Arabian Banks

Bank fraud is taken seriously by SAMA. Consumers can call the authority at 800-125-6666 within normal business hours, visit the SAMA headquarters in Riyadh, or mail a letter.

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Adam is an internationally recognised author on financial matters, with over 760.2 million answer views on Quora.com, a widely sold book on Amazon, and a contributor on Forbes.

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