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Bahrain - Banking

In order to open a bank account in Bahrain, you must have the relevant residency visa already in place otherwise you will not be considered. The banks in the country require a great deal of paperwork and the process can sometimes be quite complicated.

Along with the residency visa, your employer must provide you with a ‘letter of no objection’, which details your salary. This is to prove that there will be a regular minimum amount of money being paid into the account. A tenancy agreement for your home will also be requested by some banks and as an expat, they will also need to see a photocopy of your passport as well as identification papers that have been issued within Bahrain.

A worker who has gone to Bahrain with his family will need to give permission for his spouse and any dependent children to have bank accounts of their own, as he is the legal sponsor for them and is responsible for them while they are in the country.

When you have a current account in Bahrain it is worth noting that most places will only accept cash. A cheque book will be given to you by the bank for certain types of account but this is mainly for the payment of utility bills. There is a general mistrust of cheques and if you write one knowing that there are not enough funds in the account this is considered to be a criminal offence. It is common practice for the police to be informed if a bank’s customer has written a bad cheque and prosecutions are not unheard of. Most who are charged will spend time in a prison cell while they are waiting for their case to be heard. Cheques are no guarantee of payment in Bahrain, which is why most retail outlets will not take them.

Bahrain banks offer a similar service as banks in your home country. You can use your account to pay standing orders, direct debits and bills. Every bank will charge after a certain number of free transactions. The number of transactions and the fees that are applied afterwards will vary from bank to bank. All banks will issue you will a cash card which can be used to access money from an ATM and you can apply to the banks for a credit card. It is possible to go into any bank in Bahrain in order to pay a utility bill, even if you do not hold an account there.

When opening an account in Bahrain, you will be given a choice about which language you want transactions to be made in. Cheques and other documentation can be provided in Arabic or English, and it is common for people to request information in English as most business in the region is carried out in that language.

Overdrafts are not common and are not encouraged. It is possible to arrange an overdraft facility with the bank if you know you are going to have difficulties but most people do not bother. If you go overdrawn with no authorisation then you will find that there are high charges incurred and the bank may want to interview you about why it has happened. Other credit facilities such as credit cards and loans are available, but may only be made available to those who have been in the country for some time already and who have proved themselves to be reliable. This will also depend upon the length of your work contract – a loan with repayments for 12 months will not be granted to those who only have 6 months left on their work contract.

Paying money in works in the same way as in other countries and payments can be made by cash or cheque, or in the case of a salary, by bank transfer. It is possible to pay cheques in that have been drawn on other currencies, but this can take several weeks to clear.

There are several international banks in operation in the region. Banks such as the American Citibank or HSBC from the UK have some branches in the country and using one of these banks may make it easier if you wish to transfer money back to an account in your country of origin. Some banks offer the facility to open an account in another currency such as GBP or USD.

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