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Oman - Banking
There is a general mistrust of cheques in Oman and most retailers and service providers prefer to take cash. For this reason a current account is essential for dealing with payments. A cheque is not a guarantee of payment in Oman, but if you write a cheque without having enough funds to cover it you will find yourself in a great deal of trouble. Not all current accounts will issue holders with a cheque book, so if you want one you may have to ask for a type of current account that does. Cheques are available printed in either English or Arabic and other paperwork from your bank can be issued in either language.
You can also choose to pay bills by direct debit or standing order as both these services are available at most banks. Some banks charge a small fee per transaction, but there will be a certain number of transactions each year that are free of charge. The number of transactions and the fees involved will vary from bank to bank. It is worth checking with a few different banks to find out their charges prior to opening an account.
Cards for cash machines are automatically issued on accounts and ATMs can be found at nearly all bank branches and in major shopping areas. There are daily limits on withdrawals from ATMs and these will vary from bank to bank, but can be much higher than in most other countries. Credit cards are available although credit limits will depend upon your personal circumstances and your relationship with your bank. Some banks also offer a ‘web shopper’ card, which is for using solely for online purchases and cannot be used in an ATM.
Most banks in Oman are able to handle transactions in foreign currencies, but paying in cheques in another currency can be a lengthy process while they are being cleared. Overdrafts are available on current accounts but must be negotiated with the bank in advance. There are high charges for unauthorised overdrafts and you may be called into the bank to discuss any discrepancies. The banks in Oman are careful with their dealings with expats as it is fairly common for them to have difficulties with expat account holders.
Savings accounts can be opened with any bank and offer a better interest rate than a current account. They are fairly easily accessible but for higher interest rates it may be worth considering a fixed term savings account, which limits access to the funds. Accounts can also be opened in other currencies, which is ideal if you are expecting regular money transfers or payments from abroad and most banks will offer both telephone and online banking facilities.
Local banks include Bank Muscat SAOG, the National Bank of Oman SAOG and the Oman International Bank SAOG. Foreign banks that have a presence in the country include Barclays, HSBC and Citibank. If you have an account already with one of these banks it may be worthwhile talking to them in advance of your move to the country to see if they can help you to set accounts up before you go, although you will still be subject to the same regulations and checks.
Banks are usually open from 8 am to 12 pm and from 2.30 pm to 6 pm from Saturday to Wednesday. Thursday opening hours are from 8 am to 11.30 am. These hours will alter during religious festivals.
If you should have problems with your bank then there is a banking ombudsman that can help to resolve any issues.
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