Moving to Egypt?
Your guide to expatriate banking services in Egypt
The Arab Republic of Egypt occupies the northeastern corner of Africa. Despite enjoying economic growth, particularly in the past decade, the recent economic downturn resulted in a slowing down of the economy, along with a rise in unemployment.
Arabic is the official language of Egypt, and is the main language used in commerce. However, English and French are also both widely spoken. The currency unit is the Egyptian pound (EGP), divided into 100 piastres. As of April 2010, the exchange rate was approximately £8.58 EGP to £1 GBP (pound sterling)
Banks in Egypt
- Central Bank of Egypt
- Bank of Alexandria
- Banque du Caire
- Banque Misr
- Cairo Amman Bank
- National Bank of Egypt
- BNP Paribas
- Barclays Bank
- Commercial International Bank CIB
- Agricole Indosuez
- Egyptian American Bank
Bank opening times in Egypt
Banking hours are typically 8.30am to 2pm (Sunday to Thursday) in the major towns and cities, with smaller towns and villages operating a more varied timetable.
Banking services in Egypt
Egypt’s banking system has undergone major reforms since the 1990s. Today, the Egyptian banking system is modern, diverse and relatively liberal. It’s also regulated according to internationally accepted standards.
Bank branches are plentiful in Egyptian cities and towns, with new branches opening regularly.
Online and telephone banking are becoming increasingly popular, and theuse of credit, debit and cash cards is widespread throughout Egypt. However, cash is still the preferred payment method for everyday transactions.
Customers of international and national banks have the option of receiving bank statements and bank correspondence in either Arabic or English.
The main types of bank account in Egypt
Egyptian banks offer a wide range of banking services and facilities, including direct debits, standing orders, cheque clearance and processing of credit card repayments. The main types of accounts include:
- Current accounts - typically pay low interest rates on account balances, unless your account has a substantial balance; they are mainly used for everyday banking needs. Many current accounts are provided with an automatic teller machine (ATM) card, and some current accounts offer cheque facilities. You may also be offered credit and charge cards, but spending restrictions usually apply based on your account type and balance. Most current accounts offer customers easy access to funds held in the account, and many offer accounts in a selection of major foreign currencies.
- Savings accounts – designed for short to mid-term savings, and may provide limited access to your money, in return for a higher rate of interest than a current account.
- Deposit accounts – specifically for longer-term savings, and are typically opened for a set period of time (e.g. one or two years) with a fixed rate of interest. Deposit accounts may offer a higher rate of interest, but account holders may have limited or no access to funds until the account matures.
In addition to these accounts, banks such as Banque Misr offer Islamic banking services that function within the rules of Islamic Sharia.
Opening a bank account when you arrive in Egypt
To open a bank account in Egypt, you will be required to provide a range of official documentation, such as your passport, work visa and residence certificate. Whichever bank you’re looking to open an account with, a letter from your home bank and some recent bank statements are likely to be helpful in the application process. You should also take several passport-size photographs with you.
Opening a bank account before you arrive in Egypt
An alternative to opening a local Egyptian bank account is to open an international account before you arrive. In addition to giving you access to a range of access to a range of savings and bank accounts, you will also benefit from a comprehensive range of international banking services, including online banking, international payments and online money transfer services.
International accounts can be opened before you move to Egypt, and provide expats living and working in Egyptwith a convenient way to manage their finances abroad.
ATM and currency facilities in Egypt
Cash is the preferred method of payment for most services or purchases. In hotels, restaurants and a number of shops, you will be able to use a credit card, but is likely that you will have to pay a surcharge. Paying by cheque, particularly for retail purchases, is difficult and cheques are not a widely accepted payment method.
ATMs are common in the main cities, towns and tourist areas. The maximum you can withdraw generally varies between EGP £2,000 and EGP £4,000 (approximately £220 – 450 GBP).
Most banks and building societies in Egypt allow customers a limited number of free cash withdrawals per month from cash machines (ATMs) belonging to their own network, but you may be charged for using an ATM belonging to another bank or network. It is advisable to check before using a cash machine what charges apply, particularly if using a card from a non-Egyptian bank.
Currency exchanges and banking facilities are available at the major airports and many are open 24 hours a day, but typically offer low exchange rates. Hotels can also change foreign currency, but hotel exchange rates are typically uncompetitive. To find the best exchange rates, look for city centre bureaux de change.
Credit and charge cards
In Egypt and throughout the Middle East, Visa and MasterCard are the most widely issued and accepted credit cards. You will also find American Express and Diners Club cards are accepted in Egypt, although to a lesser extent than the major credit cards. Cash withdrawals from ATMs using credit cards incur the highest fees.
When dealing with cheques, always write the recipient’s Arab name in full as the shortened form of Arab names can be very similar. If your cheque is ‘misdirected’, you will not be entitled to reimbursement if there have been inaccuracies in writing out the cheque.
In Egypt, 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 for account misuse and fraudulent activity is common, and punishments can include prison terms.
Buying on credit
In Egypt, banks usually finance large purchases with a number of post-dated monthly cheques that are then passed to the vendor. The vendor will then present the cheques on the appropriate dates. Always keep close records, make sure that the cheques are correct in every detail and be sure to keep receipts. Above all, ensure that there are sufficient funds in your account to meet the payments. There may be serious repercussions to issuing cheques that ‘bounce’, so always inform your bank immediately if there is any chance that you may not be able to honour a payment.
Money transfers to and from Egypt
Money transfers in Egypt can vary from being incredibly slow, to fast and efficient, so it is worth doing some research to save both time and money. As well as banks, there are a wide variety of specialist money transfer businesses. Currency specialists may allow you to transfer your money abroad completely free of charge, and may also allow you to lock into favourable exchange rates for up to two years.
Currency regulations relating to the import and export of currencies are subject to change, so always check with the national bank for the latest details on current payments and capital payments.
Currently, you can import or export up to EGP £5,000 (approximately £580 GBP) and foreign currency up to US$10,000 (or equivalent). Amounts that exceed these limits should be declared to Customs. Contact the Egyptian embassy in your country of residence for specific customs’ requirements.
Bank charges in Egypt
In Egypt, bank charges are incurred on a range of financial products and services, and can be exceptionally high. For this reason, it is advisable to research the marketplace thoroughly, and inform yourself of the level of charges that each service attracts.
Banking in Egypt – other information
If you have a complaint, you should contact the Central Bank, which can be found here:
More information on banking with Barclays Wealth International
For further information about the benefits of opening an International Account before you move to Egypt, 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.