Basics of banking in Saudi Arabia



It would help to have some local currency on hand when you arrive in Saudi Arabia. This should help you meet taxi costs and other expenses that you are likely to incur on arrival in the country.

Currency & Currency Exchange in Saudi Arabia

The Saudi riyal (SR) is divided into 100 halalas. Notes are in SR1, 5, 10, 50, 100 and 500 denominations and coins come in 5, 10, 25 and 50 halala and SR1 denominations. The Saudi Riyal is linked to the US dollar and hence susceptible to fluctuations.

Most major airports have currency exchanges and banking facilities that function 24 hours a day. Exchange at these outlets and those at hotels are likely to be unfavorable. You can obtain more competitive rates from city-centre financial establishments.


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Money Transfers in Saudi Arabia

Money transfers are easy with all the retail banks transferring money to any destination and in any currency. Most people find it convenient to use their own bank to transfer money overseas. There are a number of institutions offering this service which is why you should shop around to get the best deal.

Opening a Bank Account in Saudi Arabia

Opening an account in Saudi Arabia involves a lot of paperwork. It is mandatory to have a residence visa and a ‘letter of no objection' or a ‘no objection certificate' (NOC) from your employer stating your salary. Additionally you will require copies of your tenancy agreement and passport. If you are sponsoring your wife and family they can also open an account with your permission.  

You can open a savings or deposit (there are many types available) account with any retail bank in Saudi Arabia. Many banks will allow you to open savings accounts in major currencies, mainly US$ and GB£. Cash is preferred for most everyday transactions in Saudi Arabia though utility companies and major service providers do accept personal cheques for regular payments. Current accounts offer little or no interest. 

Most banks provide standard banking facilities like direct debits, credit card repayments, cheque clearance and standing orders. A certain number of transactions in a year are usually free, after which there might be a charge levied, this is usually at the discretion of the bank manager. Charges vary between banks so shop around before opening an account with a particular bank. Opening an account with your employer's bank might be a good idea. Cash dispenser cards are routinely issued with a standard security measure of personal identification numbers (PIN) to allow access to your money through ATMs. Most personal credit and charge cards underwritten by Visa or MasterCard might also be issued by a bank. You may have to negotiate this with your banker.

Banking hours vary throughout the country. Most banks are usually open for business from 8am to 1pm Saturdays to Wednesdays, and many banks re-open in the afternoon from 4.30 to 6.30pm, Thursdays 8am to noon and closed on Fridays. Companies dealing in foreign exchange and money transfers usually work longer hours in the evening, particularly if located in shopping malls and main shopping thoroughfares. Banking facilities at major international airports are usually open 24 hours. Public holidays for banks are the same as holiday periods set by the governing administrations for private sector companies.

Offshore Banking in Saudi Arabia

Many expatriates open offshore bank accounts to avoid income tax in their own countries. You may find opening an offshore bank account to be advantageous if you want to earn interest while keeping funds reasonably fluid in the short to mid-term. You may use your offshore account as a central source from which to send funds to other locations, including an account in your home country. Allied benefits include depositing and marinating money in wide range of currencies on which interest paid is tax-free and no withholding tax is payable, no double taxation agreements and guaranteed customer anonymity.



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