7 Best Banks in the UAE in 2023 (Personal and Business)

dubai night financial center

The United Arab Emirates is home to some of the world’s top financial institutions, offering a wide range of banking services to both individuals and businesses. Based on my personal experience both as a customer and a banker, I’ve scoured the country and created a list of the best nine banks in the UAE.

With so many awesome options, it can be tough to know which one to choose. That’s why I’ve taken into consideration your potential needs and sorted all banks by category.

  • Best Bank in UAE Overall – Emirates NBD
  • Best Digital Bank in UAE – Liv Bank
  • Best Bank in UAE for Expats – Emirates NBD
  • Best Bank in UAE for Non-Residents – Emirates NBD
  • Best Bank in UAE for Indian Expats – Mashreq
  • Best Bank in UAE for Business – FAB
  • Best Bank in UAE for SME – ADCB
  • Best Bank in UAE for Crypto – Emirates NBD
  • Best Bank in UAE for Savings – ADCB

So, without further ado, let’s dive into the best banks in the UAE.

Best Bank in UAE Overall – Emirates NBD

emirates nbd tower
  • Emirates NBD is one of the largest banking groups in the Middle East, with over 200 branches and over 1,000 ATMs across the UAE.
  • The bank was founded in 1963 as the National Bank of Dubai, but was renamed Emirates NBD in 2007.
  • Emirates NBD is a publicly traded company and is listed on the Dubai Financial Market (DFM).
  • In 2017, Emirates NBD launched Liv, a digital bank aimed at the younger population in the UAE.

I consider Emirates NBD to be the best bank overall in the UAE for several reasons. Firstly, I’m completely satisfied with the high-quality customer service I’m getting, especially after I moved to Priority Banking. Most of the customers can get Priority Banking too, but it requires a minimum deposit of around $55,000.

Most of my friends also reported positive experiences with the bank, making me even more confident about its great banking services.

Secondly, the bank offers, I imagine, any bank product that exists in the universe. Emirates NBD has you covered if you are looking for:

  • Personal Account
  • All kinds of credit and prepaid cards
  • Business Account
  • Personal or Business Loans
  • Wealth Management
  • Investment banking
  • Islamic Banking

Finally, Emirates NBD is known for its innovative digital banking solutions. The bank has great online and mobile banking itself, as well as has launched standalone digital banks:

  • Liv Bank – for personal accounts
  • E20 – for business accounts

People I know or I have hadn’t any problems with making a larger international transaction with Emirates NBD. The bank understands bigger clients and businesses, and their processes are adjusted to make large transactions go smoothly.

You will need about 7 business days to open a personal account or about 30 business days to open a business account with Emirates NBD. Sometimes, opening a corporate account takes much longer than that. You have to be patient or look for a local contact who can help to speed up the process.

The only drawback I have noticed so far is that the bank charges high transaction and currency exchange fees when you spend money abroad. So, keep this in mind and take another card when you are going to travel next time.

Best Digital Bank in UAE – Liv Bank

liv bank

Liv, a digital bank launched by Emirates NBD in 2017, is a great option for those looking for a digital-only banking experience in the United Arab Emirates.

In opposite to many other fintech startups around the world, the digital bank is launched and owned by one of the largest and most well-established banking groups in the Middle East.

The bank offers a variety of perks that you can usually find in a good digital bank:

  • Liv Visa Credit Card
  • Two free transfers globally per month
  • Liv Young Debit Card for Kids
  • Hundreds of entertainment deals
  • 1.5% interest
  • Up to 15% cashback
  • Emirates Miles: 1 mile per Dirham
  • Budgeting

For me, Liv Bank is clearly the most well-established and well-developed digital bank in the UAE. I think it’s perfect for someone who is looking for a complete online experience and doesn’t need a complex banking product.s

Best Bank in UAE for Expats – Emirates NBD

emirates nbd building

I’ve chosen Emirates NBD as the best bank in the UAE for myself and in my list. And that’s for a reason.

Emirates NBD is a truly universal bank with a wide range of products, so that’s a reason why you will see Emirates NBD as the best banking option in other categories too.

One of the problems that expats face in getting their first bank account in the UAE, especially newly arrived, is the lack of banking or business history that they can prove to the bank. Banks in the UAE love it when you do have another bank account in the UAE. That obviously makes it less risky for them to onboard you as a new customer.

Luckily, Emirates NBD account opening processes are reasonable. So, if one of the best UAE banks is open to a new business, you should try to visit one of their many branches in the country and submit your documents to open an account.

Most of the Emirates NBD customers, including myself, agree that their customer service is good at least, which is often important for expats who may need extra assistance in understanding how banks work in the UAE.

Best Bank in UAE for Non-Residents

emirates nbd scyscraper

I’ll not write a lot here. If you want to learn more about Emirates NBD, see my paragraphs above on why I say that Emirates NBD is likely the best banking option in the UAE for a wide range of customers.

Here, I’ve to note that opening a bank account as a Non-Resident will not be easy in the UAE. That is no different from opening a new bank account as a Non-Resident with Emirates NBD.

If you really want to go through a potentially long process of opening an Emirates NBD account as a Non-Resident, be patient and ready to submit a lot of documents. That’s not so much different from opening personal or business accounts.

Still, that is likely your first-to-go option, as it is a really good bank and getting an account with them is completely possible. More over, Emirates NDB has special banking packages for Non-Resident customers.

Best Bank in UAE for Indian Expats – Mashreq

mashreq bank
  • Mashreq Bank is one of the UAE’s oldest and most established banks, founded in 1967.
  • The bank has a wide network of branches and ATMs across the UAE and a strong presence in other countries in the Middle East.
  • Mashreq Bank is a universal bank and offers a wide range of banking products
  • Mashreq Bank is a publicly traded company listed on the DFM.

While I don’t have much experience with dealing with Mashreq myself, I have a few Indian friends who have bank accounts with Mashreq and are completely happy with their banking services.

I would say that if you are an Indian expat in the UAE, your first two options are either Emirates NDB or Mashreq bank.

Mashreq bank has some special products and account types that are specially tailored to Indian expats, and that’s the only reason why I choose Mashreq bank over Emirates NBD in this category.

Best Bank in UAE for Business – First Abu Dhabi Bank

first abu dhabi bank
  • With assets over $300b, FAB is the largest bank in the UAE and one of the largest in the Middle East.
  • FAB was formed in 2017 through the merger of First Gulf Bank and the National Bank of Abu Dhabi.
  • The bank has a wide network of branches and ATMs across the UAE and a strong presence in other countries in the Middle East.
  • The bank is a publicly traded company listed on the ADX.

FAB is a true blue-chip bank in the UAE. It has a long history and huge amounts of old money in it. The richest UAE residents have bank accounts there.

If you have a bigger business – FAB is the place to get your new corporate bank account. The bank has a great process for transacting large amounts for businesses.

If your business is smaller yet, don’t worry. FAB is open for smaller and startup companies too.

The bank becomes especially good when you climb the ladder and start to keep or transact large amounts.

If you have any trouble opening a business account with FAB, I recommend you try Emirates NBD then.

The Safest Bank in the UAE

I would say that from many standpoints, FAB is the safest bank in the UAE. It is too big to fail, has excellent derisking procedures, and holds the true old money for the UAE.

So, don’t limit yourself to only opening a business account with FAB. First Abu Dhabi Bank is likely one the best places in the world to hold your personal wealth too.

Best Bank in UAE for SME – Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank

adcb bank
  • ADCB is another big bank from UAE on my list. The Bank is over 40 years in the banking business.
  • The bank has a strong presence in the UAE with over 40 branches and a strong international presence with offices in key markets such as India, Singapore, Hong Kong, and London.
  • ADCB was the first bank in the UAE to launch a mobile banking app, and it has continued to invest in digital technologies to provide a seamless banking experience for its customers.
  • The bank is a publicly traded company listed on the ADX.

When you visit Dubai or other emirates of the UAE, you are likely to see a lot of ads for ADCB. The bank ads are everywhere: in restaurants, shopping malls, coffee shops, and retail stores.

Obviously, when a company spends a lot of money, they want to expand and attract a lot of new business.

While I can’t say that getting an account with ADCB is easier than with the other banks in the UAE, it’s not more complicated, either.

My friends who own small to mid businesses are banking with ADCB. They don’t have any big complaints and not going to change their bank accounts anytime soon.

Best Bank in UAE for Crypto – Emirates NBD

emirates nbd building evening

I’ve written a lot about Emirates NBD here. So, a short note on crypto.

If you go to talk to them and say that you are going to use the account for crypto-related transactions – they will refuse you to open a bank account. While being reasonable and open to a new business, as a big bank, they still have to have derisking procedures.

Still, if you use Emirates NBD for your regular personal or business banking and have crypto related transactions from time to time, they will be okay with it.

I think the main point is to show them that crypto is NOT your main business or source of income.

I didn’t hear that Emirates NBD is going aggressive over that and putting customers accounts on hold.

Best Bank in UAE for Savings – Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank

adcb building

I’ve chosen ADCB as the best bank for savings accounts in the UAE because they offer a sweet spot between interest rate, minimum income to open a saving account, and being a large bank.

You want to keep your savings in a large blue-chip bank, right?

The bank offers a wide range of savings accounts, including one that is exclusively for high-net-worth Emiratis.

Other Notable Banks in the UAE

dubai financial center scyscrapers

That was my list of the best banks in the UAE. But what are other banks that I have to mention?

If, for some reason, you didn’t find something that you are looking for with these awesome banks above, here is the list of other notable banks in the UAE.

  • Dubai Islamic Bank
  • Rakbank
  • Commercial Bank of Dubai
  • HSBC Bank Middle East
  • Standard Chartered Bank

From this list, you can definitely check Dubai Islamic Bank’s offerings. Many of my friends are having a very good experience banking with them. And you can open an account as a foreigner there.

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