Why you should carefully choose your bank as an expat teacher

When expat teachers first move to a new country, they have to set up a bank account in which to get paid each month. Depending on your school, you may get lots of assistance as you choose (e.g. banks coming to your school to present to you, as part of your induction period), very little help (“Here’s your salary certificate letter- go find a bank by next payday!”), or you may not get a choice and have to use the bank that your school uses.

In most cases, you will be able to choose which bank you want to set up an account with. Remember, you do not have to bank with the same bank as the school! Some teachers claim that banking with the same bank means your salary will always be paid on time; however, I am with a different bank to my school, and I always get paid at the same time and day as my colleagues, so you can discount that theory. I highly recommend taking this great opportunity to investigate what is on offer at various banks to see how much value you can get!


  1. Ask your colleagues (especially those who have been at the school for many years) and teacher friends from other schools  about the banks that they use and why. It is great to hear those firsthand experiences, particularly any negative ones!
  2. When you are in the mall one day, pop in to a few banks and ask them what accounts they have for someone with your salary. If you get rent allowance, include it in your total monthly salary too. Do not be afraid to mention what other banks have on offer, as they can better theirs to attract your custom!
  3. If you are in the United Arab Emirates, log onto Souqalmal to compare all the different bank accounts on offer. You can filter them based on your salary. Many offer great perks, such as access to fitness clubs, a number of free international transactions, an iPad, etc. If you are undecided between a few banks, consider the bank accounts with no monthly fee and how close a branch is to you. You don’t want it to be too far if you need to go to the bank in person.
  4. For me personally, I check a bank’s credit card rather than its current account alone. The credit card is where you can get your best deal with cash back, air miles, free airport lounge access, free admission to fitness clubs/cinemas, free travel insurance, etc. If you are unsure about signing up to a credit card while teaching abroad, click here to read my article, “Should you get a credit card while teaching in the Middle East?” In the UAE, you can check online and compare banks on Souqalmal (UAE). In other countries, follow tip #2 and visit the banks in person to get the best deal you can on your credit card. When I moved to Dubai, I carried out a lot of research on credit cards here and eventually settled on a credit card offered by the National Bank of Abu Dhabi (NBAD). It gives me free airport lounge access (where I have up to 4 hours free access to great food, drink, magazines, comfy seating, and high-speed wifi) and for each AED (dirham) I spend, I get air miles that I can spend on Fly Dubai, Etihad, or Emirates. Best of all, there is no annual charge for life, unlike the majority of such credit cards in the UAE, which charge a minimum of 600 AED per year! So, if I stay here for 4 years, I will have saved at least 2,400 AED (over €600/£500)!

As you can see, spending a day asking colleagues and an evening researching banks online or by phone or in person is definitely worth it and will have huge benefits to you, personally and financially!

Join our supportive Empowering Expat Teachers FB group here where each #eetmoneymonday I share tips and resources to help you become a financially empowered expat teacher.