Banking in Qatar

by Barclays Wealth International on May 28, 2010

Moving to Qatar?

Your guide to expatriate banking services in Qatar

Introduction

Qatar, located in the Middle East on the border of Saudi Arabia, enjoys the second highest per capita income in the world, due largely to revenues generated from natural gas and oil reserves, with Qatar’s reserves of natural gas accounting for around 14% of the world total.

Qatar has sustained its economic growth, despite the recent global financial crisis, with the Qatari authorities investing directly into domestic banks and the banking sector.

The official language in Qatar is Arabic, although English is also widely spoken, particularly in business.

The unit of currency is the Qatari riyal (QAR), and as of April 2010, the exchange rate was approximately 5.70 QAR to £1 GBP (pound sterling).

Banks

Central bank

  • Qatar Central Bank

Commercial banks in Qatar

  • Ahlibank
  • Commercial Bank of Qatar
  • Doha Bank
  • Qatar International Islamic Bank (QIIB)
  • Qatar Islamic Bank
  • Qatar National Bank (QNB)
  • International Bank of Qatar

Foreign banks in Qatar

  • Arab Bank
  • Bank Saderat Iran
  • Barclays Bank
  • BNP Paribas
  • HSBC Bank Middle East
  • Mashreqbank
  • Standard Chartered Bank
  • United Bank Limited (UBL)

Bank opening times in Qatar

In general, banks are open from 7.30am to 1pm (Sunday to Thursday), but a number of banks also open in the afternoon and on Saturday mornings. The city-centre branches of Qatar’s National Bank are generally open both on Fridays and Saturdays.

Banking services in Qatar

Banks in Qatar are extremely well financed, secure and well regulated, with the Qatari authorities supporting domestic banks, where necessary, with direct investments. Branches of both national and international banks can be found throughout Qatar. A number of banks provide drive-in banking services, while others offer mobile banking for customers who live in outlying areas. Large companies often have banks located on-site, as do a number of government departments.

Retail banking services available in Qatar include branch banking, online and telephone banking. The use of credit, debit and cash cards is widespread, and cash is a popular form of payment for everyday transactions. Bank statements and official banking correspondence can be provided either in Arabic or English, and many of the banks in Qatar provide counter services in both languages.

The main types of bank account in Qatar

There are three main types of accounts used for everyday banking and savings in Qatar:

  • Current account – typically used for everyday banking. Current accounts generally have no monthly fees so long as a minimum balance is maintained (around 3,000 QAR or £525 GBP) and many offer unlimited transactions. Interest rates paid on current accounts are generally low
  • Savings account – typically pays a higher rate of interest than current accounts, but access to funds may be limited, and savings accounts may allow only a certain number of fee-free withdrawals. Savings accounts typically require a minimum balance of around 5,000 QAR (£875 GBP) to be maintained
  • Fixed-deposit account – these accounts are primarily for long-term saving, with interest rates offered typically higher than either current or savings accounts. These accounts may offer limited or no access to funds until the account matures, and minimum account balances can be around 20,000 QAR (£3,500 GBP)

Opening a bank account when you arrive in Qatar

Opening a bank account with one of the main banks is a relatively simple process. You will need to provide:

  • A reference letter from your employer, stating your salary and their approval for you to open an account. In some instances, opening an account with your employer’s bank can make the application process simpler.
  • Passport (plus copies).
  • Residency permit (if applicable).

Once your application is approved, the bank will give you a letter that you will need to send to your employer confirming that the bank is happy to receive your salary payments. It is worth noting that changing banks at a later date may be difficult, as your existing bank would be required to authorise this.

Opening a bank account before you arrive in Qatar

An alternative to a domestic bank account in Qatar is an international account. In addition to giving you access to a wide range of international banking services, you will also benefit from a range of other services and banking facilities. These services include tax efficient offshore account options, online banking and a debit card available in major currencies.

An international account can be used by clients living or working in Qatar, provides a convenient and secure way to manage your finances, and is ideal when travelling between international locations.

Currency exchange in Qatar

You will find bureaux de change and money-transfer facilities at Qatar’s airports, many of which are open 24 hours a day, but they typically offer low exchange rates. Many of the hotels also exchange foreign currency, but again their rates are typically uncompetitive. To find the best exchange rates, look for city-centre bureaux de change.

ATMs in Qatar

ATMs are widely available in Qatar, particularly in the major towns and cities, and generally accept a wide variety of both national and international cards. Expect to pay a fee for using ATMs operated by banks other than your own.

Cash withdrawals using debit cards may be restricted to a daily limit set by your bank, and to make cash withdrawals with a debit card you will need to have funds available in your account. Many of the ATMs in Qatar can be operated either in Arabic or English.

Credit and charge cards

Visa and MasterCard are widely issued and accepted, with American Express and Diners Club accepted to a lesser extent. If you withdraw cash from an ATM using a credit card, expect to pay a fee.

Remember that you can often haggle over prices – except if you pay with a credit card. In that case you must pay the first price the seller demands, and there’s likely to be a surcharge applied to credit card transactions..

Cheques

From May 2010, the post-dating of cheques will no longer be accepted, and the recipient of a cheque (regardless of the issue date entered on the cheque) will be able to present the cheque immediately to their bank for encashment. This may cause difficulties for the tenants of rented properties in Qatar as it used to be accepted practice to issue a series of post-dated cheques to the landlord for the duration of a tenancy.

Going overdrawn

In Qatar, going overdrawn on your current account without prior authorisation is taken very seriously. Unauthorised overdrafts attract substantial penalty charges and fees. Issuing a cheque without the necessary funds in your account is considered a serious criminal offence, and the police will be notified at the discretion of the bank (or creditor) concerned. Prosecution is common and punishments can be harsh, including prison terms. When issuing cheques, be aware of the new laws relating to post-dated cheques that will apply in May 2010 (see Cheques, above) – and above all, before you write a cheque, you must ensure you have adequate funds in your account.

Money transfers to and from Qatar

As well as money transfer services offered by the banks, there are a wide variety of specialist money transfer businesses in Qatar. Do research the fee structures and exchange rates before you transfer money.

Currency regulations relating to the import and export of currencies are subject to change. You should ask your bank for the latest details on current payments and capital payments.

As of April 2010, there are no restrictions on the import or export of local or foreign currency into or out of Qatar. However, Israeli currency is prohibited, and can neither be brought into the country nor taken out.

Bank charges

Typically, current accounts in Qatar are free so long as a minimum account balance is maintained. Charges vary between account types and banks, so it is advisable to research charges before opening an account, particularly given that changing banks can be difficult.

Banking in Qatar – other information

Qatar ombudsman

If you have a complaint against a bank and need help, you can contact Qatar’s Central Bank: www.qcb.gov.qa

More information on banking with Barclays Wealth International

For further information about the benefits of opening an International Account before you move to Qatar, you can speak to a specialist adviser at Barclays Wealth International by calling +44 (0) 141 352 3902.

Alternatively, find out more about the overseas banking services and expat banking that are available from Barclays Wealth International.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

delfi fernandes May 29, 2014 at 11:54 am

Does Central bank of Qatar allow opening of USD & Qatari Riyal account in a European Bank.

Reply

ravi July 16, 2014 at 12:01 pm

Does Central bank of Qatar or any other bank ATMs provide the Euros using other national EURO debit card ? (not DOHA Airport…)

Reply

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