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Money Transfers for Expats in Saudi Arabia

Submitted: August 2014

There are no legal restrictions on capital flows to and from Saudi Arabia. As is generally the case for cross-border transactions, fees may apply. You can of course withdraw cash from an ATM in Saudi Arabia with your foreign debit card, but this option is both unfriendly and expensive. It should be viewed as temporary and best avoided.

In practice, the best thing to do in order to save money is to:

  • Plan for the money transfer in advance – otherwise, fees quickly pile up
  • Compare the market and consider using a specialist money transfer company.

The easiest way to transfer money is to have an account in Saudi Arabia opened, and then to proceed with an international wire transfer. While this is the easiest way, this is not the cheapest option (see fees below).

If you’re not willing to make an international bank transfer, e.g. you’d rather go to a money transfer company or have a banker’s draft issued, you would ideally need to have an account in Saudi Arabia before the money transfer.

 

Money transfers and accounts in Saudi Arabia

As said above, a money transfer would require having a bank account in the transferring and in the receiving country. In Saudi Arabia, international wire transfers can be made out of basic current accounts, but it tends to not to have the best value for money on the market.  

Having a current account in Saudi Arabia opened can take some time, as you would need to provide proof of address in Saudi Arabia and possibly an employer reference letter. Additionally, you might wish to take some time to understand what’s available on the market before opening an account.

Saudi banks do offer international banking solutions as part of their private banking services. If you have signed up for private banking services in your home country, you might avail yourself of similar services.

 

Exchange houses

There are over 50 licensed exchange houses in Saudi Arabia dealing with money transfers. While their prices may be more competitive than banks, they must be used with care. Do compare what’s available on the market before making a decision.

 

Money transfer by cheque

Be careful if you ask a Demand draft in Saudi Arabia. Make sure the Demand draft has the required signature from your intermediary, failing which the receiving bank may not credit your account.

For large amounts, two signatures may be necessary.

 

Fees

Your bank is likely to charge you for international transfers, although fees may vary. Typically, the bulk of your charges are reflected in the applicable foreign exchange rate.

Alternatively, you can use the services of a money transfer company. To save money, you can also use a price comparison website specialised in money transfers.

Fees tend to be lower when the transfer involves larger amounts, say USD10,000. This is largely why many expats wait and pile up a lot of funds in Saudi Arabia before making an outbound remittance. Putting all eggs in one basket should be avoided though, as you never know if the money transfer is going to be smooth.

 

Cash control rules

There are no restrictions as to the amount of cash you can bring to, or take from, Saudi Arabia. However, you must make a declaration to the customs authority if you carry at least SAR60,000 (or currency equivalent) worth of cash when you cross the Saudi Arabian border.

The import of Israeli Shekels into Saudi Arabia is prohibited.

 

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