When working or living abroad, one of the first things that you need to do is to open your own bank account. But as you would expect, opening a bank account has certain requirements which vary from country to country.
To have an idea, opening an account in Kuwait entails a significant amount of paperwork and stringent formalities that you need to comply with.
Guide to Opening a Bank Account in Kuwait
When people move to live or to work in Kuwait, they don’t usually close their bank accounts back home, most especially when there are payments that need to be covered such as rent and mortgages. However, for the purpose of minimizing one’s tax liabilities when sending funds abroad, an off-shore bank account is almost always necessary.
To get started, here are some of the basic requirements that you’ll need to meet in order to open an account here in Kuwait:
- Residence visa – This will be the primary proof that you are eligible to work and stay here in Kuwait.
- No Objection Certificate (NOC) – This letter or certificate is issued by your sponsor or employer. This document needs to detail your monthly salary as well as the amount that you can regularly deposit on the bank.
- Other documents: Some banks would require you to provide additional documents for security purposes, so, just to be sure, you need to have copies of these on hand:
> Tenancy Agreement – this is needed to establish you place of residence
> Passport – for verification of identity and other required documents
> Identity Photographs
The foreign employee’s dependents (i.e. wife and family) are eligible to open an account with the principal’s permission since, technically, he/she is acting as their sponsor in Kuwait.
Types of Bank Accounts
In general, transactions are paid in cash as most of the people are wary about using cheques here in Kuwait. It’s also important to note that there are only a handful of utilities companies as well as service providers who accept regular payments in cheques, which is quite unacceptable to most if not all local retailers. It is also worth noting that issuing a cheque without sufficient funds is considered a criminal violation within the region.
For the reasons mentioned above, the standard current accounts are mostly not cheque accounts. Standard banking services offered by Kuwait banks include standing orders, direct debits, cheque clearance, and credit card replacements. Of note, there is only a certain number of transactions per year that are non-taxable. This is usually at the discretion of the bank manager.
Also, fees differ from one bank to another, pretty much like in other countries. Therefore, it’s highly advisable to shop around first before settling with a bank to open an account with. One your account has been approved and created, you will be issued a cash card which you need to assign a PIN code in order to access money from your account through ATMs.
Your bank may also issue credit and charge cards, most of which are usually underwritten by Visa or Mastercard and have certain transaction limits. However, you may need to coordinate with your bank representative to avail of these cards.
It might be a good idea to open an account with the bank that your employer uses. Not only will your company benefit from certain offers given to group accounts, but it will also be easier for you to access your salary in the same account system.
Should you wish to open an account with a different bank, it’s better to close your previous account and to not leave any funds with an intention to keep it active as you are likely to incur certain fees for doing so. Remember that current accounts earn a small amount of interest if any at all. And even if they do, you need to maintain a substantial amount of funds to qualify. Therefore, it’s much wiser to put your excess funds under a deposit or savings account.
Tip: As the terms and conditions, as well as restrictions and benefits to opening an account vary among banks, it is always best to speak with your chosen bank’s representative who handles new accounts to gather all the necessary information that you want to know prior to settling with a bank to open an account with.
Savings and Deposit Accounts
Many retail banks here in Kuwait offer savings and deposit accounts. There are no specific types of savings bank here unlike in the US where they have S&Ls or thrifts, or in the UK where they have ‘mutual companies’ or building societies. While it’s common knowledge that most savings accounts have lower interest rates as opposed to deposit accounts, they still have the upper hand in terms of convenience with cash withdrawals.
Savings account holders can track their financial transactions with a passbook, which is usually issued by their bank, but it’s also more common nowadays to receive a monthly statement to review the details and activities on your account. Furthermore, account holders may even be given a cash card for ATMs, a credit card and a cheque book, depending on their type of account.
There are various types of deposit accounts to choose from, each offering unique interest rates tantamount to the amount of fund placed upon deposit and the minimum deposit duration, which is typically a month and in a few others, a week, particularly for those accounts with significant amount of funds. Some banks have standing order facilities for these types of accounts and are authorized to provide cheque books. Just watch out for maintenance fees and check the limit on cheques that you can issue per year.
Most banks here in Kuwait allow their clients to open savings accounts specifically intended for major foreign currencies such as US$ and GB£. However, most expats prefer to send most of their remittances to their accounts outside the region.