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Saudi Arabia - Banking

It is advisable for expatriates to open a local bank account when working in Saudi Arabia, as charges for the transfer of money from overseas can be very high. Some employers require their expatriate employees to have a local bank account. A letter of introduction from the employer will be needed to open an account.

There has recently been a liberalization of the banking sector in the Kingdom, and there is now a number of Saudi and foreign banks offering both personal and business banking services. The availability of Islamic Banking services has also been extended in recent years.

Banking facilities are very advanced, and most main banks offer internet and telephone banking. There are ATMs throughout the Kingdom, which offer a wide range of services including cash withdrawals and bill payments. The Arab Bank even allows its customers to make remittances to their home countries through ATMs, while other banks offer fast and efficient remittance services through their counter services, such as the SpeedCash system operated by the Saudi American Bank (SAMBA).

Due to Islamic law, banks in Saudi Arabia do not pay interest on bank accounts.

The Central Bank of Saudi Arabia is the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA) and its website (http://www.sama.gov.sa/en/link/) provides details of all the main banks operating in the country.

Although Saudi Arabia is still largely a 'cash' society, credit cards are becoming more popular, and American Express, Visa and Mastercard are readily accepted in hotels, restaurants and shops throughout the country. There is usually an additional charge for use of a credit card to make payment.

Bank opening hours vary, but most are open between 9 a.m. and 12 noon on Saturdays to Wednesdays, with some banks also opening in the late afternoon and evening.

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