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Qatar - Banking
Opening a bank account
The majority of banks in Qatar require the following documentation to open a new bank account:
- A copy of the account holder’s residence permit
- A passport copy
- A letter from the sponsor or employer confirming the account holder’s status and salary
- At least two passport photographs
- Proof of address (letter or utility bill)
All the required documentation needs to be taken to the bank branch, where the application forms are filled out in order for the account to be processed. Cards and cheque books are generally available for collection or posting several working days later. Non-residents are not able to open bank accounts in Qatar.
There are two main types of accounts that can be obtained in Qatari banks: current accounts and savings accounts. Some banks require the holder to have a minimum deposit in the account all the time, while others may require that a monthly salary is paid directly into the account. Cheque books and debit cards are usually issued, and services such as direct debit and standing order transfers are available to all users. Online and telephone banking is an option in many banks as well. Credit cards are directly offered with some accounts, but there are fees that may be applied with some other services. Cheques and statements can be issued in English language if previously requested.
Banks in this country generally open between 07:30 and 13:00, form Sunday to Thursday. Some bigger branches may re-open in the afternoon and on Saturdays. Most of the banks in Qatar close on Fridays.
ATMs, cash and card payments
ATMs are widely available around the capital Doha, debit cards are accepted in most major retailers, while some petrol stations and smaller traders are based on cash-only transactions.
Issues for expatriates
It is a serious offence in Qatar to issue a cheque that bounces. By doing so, people can face imprisonment and a deportation in some cases. That is why it is important to ensure there are sufficient funds in the account to honour any cheques written. It is also important to know that cheques that are not crossed with “A/C Payee Only” along the two diagonal lines can be cashed by any user.
When buying or renting a car, there was a practice of issuing post-dated cheques, but this was made illegal in 2010. Transferring money from Qatari accounts to an account in the home country is possible, but many banks charge fees for these services.
Exchange rates can vary as well. It is important to be aware of any taxation liabilities in the home country when transferring large deposits internationally. An alternative to opening a Doha-based account is to use an international account which is set up before arriving in Qatar, or an offshore account for transferring savings without incurring tax in other countries.
Pensions in Qatar
Regardless of the age or stage of life, each future pensioner must have a financial plan in place in order to retire. Those who live abroad need to understand how the local laws affect their assets within the country of residence and overseas.
QROPS stands for "Qualifying Recognised Overseas Pension Scheme". It is a set of rules the UK’s HMRC has put in place for foreign destination schemes to receive authorised UK pension transfers. Offshore schemes which are not QROPS may be subject to a 55 percent unauthorised payment charge irrespective of which jurisdiction they are transferred to.
QROPS is good for anyone who has contributed to a UK pension but now lives overseas or plans to leave the UK in the near future. While a QROPS will comply with HMRC's various requirements, its members may benefit from certain features that are not available to UK pension holders.
The good thing about QROPS is that instead of moving the pension to the country where the holder lives, they can move it to a third jurisdiction that is chosen for its beneficial rules. The most common jurisdictions that expats choose are Gibraltar and Malta, and the Isle of Man in some cases.
Once the suitable jurisdiction has been chosen, UK Inheritance Tax no longer applies. QROPS members can leave their full pensions to their families or other beneficiaries upon their death.
If a pension holder had begun to draw an income from a UK pension, HMRC may charge up to 55 percent of the pension pot upon pensioner's death. It is slightly different with QROPS, where the pension holders may pass more than double the amount of money to their heirs.
In addition, QROPS holders have much more flexibility when it comes to taking the amount of income. If only a little income is needed, holders can choose to take benefits later and at a lower amount. However, if more income is needed, the maximum amount per year can be around 20 percent higher than in the UK. Once the income is taken, it is paid gross, which leaves the onus on the recipient to pay any applicable income tax in their country of residence.
QROPS allows UK pension holders to consolidate a number of UK pensions and have them invested with tax-free plans that are available offshore without restriction. This ability to see untaxed growth from a properly structured portfolio is one benefit of taking out a QROPS. It is important to know that QROPS are relevant everywhere. As long as the pension was moved and the holder has been outside the UK for at least five years, returning to the UK permanently is not an issue. While investments are tax-free in Qatar, QROPS is still advantageous to expatriates considering relocating to a tax-heavy jurisdiction in the future.
QROPS jurisdictions are assessed by HMRC according to their various Double Taxation Treaties, applicable tax rates, regulatory rigour and transparency. These are not relevant to Qatar residents since Qatar is a largely tax-free jurisdiction.
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