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Egypt - Banking

Travellers are advised that they can freely spend English pounds, US dollars and euros in restaurants and shops based in the tourist areas of Egypt. However, you will often get a better conversion rate by withdrawing local currency from an ATM and spending that, so this is advisable for those living in Egypt.

Egypt uses the Egyptian pound, which is divided into 100 piastres or 1000 millimes. All coins and notes have the values shown in both Arabic and English.

On the streets you will see prices advertised as LE, which is the abbreviation of Egyptian Pound. This is derived from the French term Livre Égyptienne, reflecting the ongoing legacy of the influential French community that was established in Egypt in the 1700s. Commercial banking sites will abbreviate Egyptian Pounds to EGP.

The abbreviation of the piastres is pt.

Most Egyptian currency is in the form of notes. These are 25 and 50 pt, and 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 LE.

The only coins are for 25 and 50 pt, and 1 LE.

Larger notes should only be used in appropriate circumstances. Stallholders, shopkeepers and cafe owners will struggle to find enough change if you try to pay a small bill with a 100 LE note and will probably refuse to accept it.

In fact, the main issue with Egyptian cash is the battle to hoard enough low denomination notes and coins to cover all tips and small purchases. Once you have mastered this, you’ll be managing your cash like a local person.

Using Debit And Credit Cards In Egypt

Egypt may be relatively poor and have suffered a great deal of political and economic turmoil since 2011, but modern technology is being rapidly embraced by communities and business alike.

The acceptance of debit and credit cards is no longer restricted to upscale hotels and restaurants based in key tourist hotspots. Egypt is not a cashless society by any stretch of the imagination, but any business selling food, services or goods to middle class customers for a decent amount will accept card payment. Mobile payment devices are being rolled out in greater numbers than ever before, as widespread WiFi connections make this technology more accessible.

According to the British website Merchant Machine, VISA is the most popular credit card used in Egypt.

Obviously if you are in a small shop or cafe in a remote area, there is a much higher likelihood that only cash will be accepted.

ATMs And Bank Branches In Egypt

The populations of many countries on the African continent are showing a strong preference for digital banking. However, Egypt is different. While digital banking is increasingly used as a way for Egyptian individuals and businesses to organise their financial affairs, the overall preference for bank branches remains. As a result, Egypt has a higher number of bank branches per head of population than many other countries across the world.

The opening times of bank branches vary. Generally they are open Sunday to Thursday, from 8.30am until 2pm or 3pm. Some branches have extended opening hours, meaning they close as late as 5pm or even 7pm, usually in busy city centres.

Each bank branch will have ATM facilities, but these machines also exist in many other locations. Some of these will charge fees, so check the amount on screen before you continue. Your own bank or credit card company may have their own set of charges which will not appear on screen, so ensure you are aware of these.

If you are using a debit or credit card from your home country and a conversion to Egyptian pounds is made, you are likely to be charged a conversion fee, and the exchange rate is unlikely to be the most competitive on the market. So if you are living in Egypt for a while, it does pay to open an Egyptian account in the local currency.

If you are using an international card and the screen asks if you want to select Egyptian pounds or your home currency, choose Egyptian pounds. Whilst both options will issue you with Egyptian pounds, the conversion rate processed by the ATM owner is likely to be worse than your cardholder’s.

Is Your Money Safe In Egypt?

Obviously if you are opening a bank account in Egypt, you want to know that your funds will not disappear overnight.

For 30 years under Mubarak, fraud and bribery continued to be a normal part of business life. Tax evasion was, and is thought to still be, rampant amongst all levels of society.

In March 2017, Cairo Scene reported on the victimisation of an HSBC whistleblower who subsequently lost his job despite his evidence leading to the dismissal of several employees who had been committing fraud. This suggests there are still significant cultural attitudes to overcome about exposing fraud and wrongdoing.

Egypt has experienced several years of major political upheavals. Serious terrorist events and the ongoing threat of terrorism have had a major impact on the tourist industry, in turn causing significant economic damage to the nation. It may be some time before Egypt can be viewed as a politically and economically stable country.

However, the Central Bank of Egypt is at the forefront of banking reform and regulation. More information can be found on the Oxford Business group website.

You are far more likely to be the victim of a scam which could occur in any country. Phishing emails, unsolicited phone calls, callers pretending to be from your bank, tampered ATM machines, sending money to online romancers who you never get to meet – these are all scams that everyone needs to know about. Somehow, despite victims continually appearing on TV, radio and in the newspapers, these scams successfully find new targets every day.

Banks In Egypt

According to the Corporate Finance Institute, the top banks in Egypt in 2017 were:

Credit Agricole, 79 branches

HSBC Bank Egypt, 60 branches

Alex Bank, 210 branches

Qatar National Bank, 215 branches

Commercial International Bank, 174 branches

The National Bank of Egypt, 413 branches

Arab Banking Corporation, 28 branches

Banque du Caire, 150 branches

Banque Misr, 511 branches

Bank Audi, 45 branches

Each of these banks provides a full range of products, including current and savings accounts, debit and credit cards, and loans. Many also offer further services such as accounts for children and young people or business accounts.

Mortgages are a developing market; you are will not be offered one without a residency visa and strong evidence that you have a long-term low risk of default.

When choosing the bank that’s right for you, consider the access to English speaking staff and local branches, as well as the charges which will be levied for the different types of banking transactions. Small charges can add up if you have a lot of activity in your account.

Read more about this country

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