How to open a bank account in Pakistan

TransferWise content team
28.09.17
4 minute read

While Pakistan isn’t often counted among the top destinations for expats, thanks to many bloggers shedding light on the ease of life in the South Asian country, more and more people have been migrating there for the incredible sense of community, rich culture, historical sites, stunning landscape, luxurious shopping and delicious food.

Because of the complicated banking systems that seem pervasive across Asia, many expats struggle to wrap their heads around their finances as they make their moves. In reality, however, the process of setting up your banking in Pakistan is simple, and this guide will walk you through everything you need to know about opening an account.

Can I open a bank account as a non-resident of Pakistan?

Yes, though you’ll be limited to a non-resident account. All in all, this won’t make much difference in your day to day banking, but you may be faced with different minimum balances, fees or services.

What's the process? How long does it usually take?

The process of opening an account is pretty simple, and usually only takes a day. You’ll need to make an appointment at your nearest bank, and when you go in you’ll be asked to fill out an application form and submit your documents. If you don’t speak Punjabi or Pashto, you’ll probably find a banker who speaks perfect English, though you may want to bring a translator with you just in case.

What documents are necessary for a foreigner to open a bank account?

The exact documents you need will vary from bank to bank, and it’s a good idea to call ahead to find out what you need so you’re not stuck making multiple trips. Some documents that are fairly universally required include:

  • Valid passport
  • Proof of address
  • Proof of employment/ income
  • Documents proving the origin of the funds for your initial deposit

Can I open a bank account abroad? What about at least online?

Yes, depending on what bank you choose. Though some still require you to visit in person, many will allow you to mail in the necessary forms and copies of documents, and a couple will even allow you to complete the process via email.

While fully online application processes don’t really exist yet, it’s still easier to open a bank account remotely in Pakistan than it is in most places.

What banking fees are involved?

No matter where in the world you’re banking, your account is going to come with fees. These can be fairly variable, and it’s a good idea to check out the bank of your choice’s price list before committing to opening an account there. Some fees you’ll probably face include:

ATM fees

Taking out cash at your own bank’s ATM usually won’t incur a fee, but withdrawing funds from another bank’s machine will cost you. While the fees don’t usually top PKR 20, they can add up, so it’s a good idea to try to use your own bank’s ATM as often as possible.

If you’re using a debit card from your home country, it’s a good idea to keep an eye out for foreign ATM fees. These are usually comprised of a flat fee as dictated by the ATM, plus a percentage of your withdrawal that goes back to your bank.

Normal bank fees

While most routine bank fees have been reduced or even eliminated in recent years, you may still run into:

  • Account maintenance fees
  • Account minimum balance maintenance fees
  • Check cashing fees
  • Transfer fees

Fees for international transfers

International money transfers can be more expensive than advertised, so make sure to keep a close eye on what you’re spending. The fee in total is usually made up of a flat rate, a percentage of your transfer, and a markup on the exchange rate, which may not actually be disclosed.

If you do move money between countries often, it’s a good idea to use TransferWise. TransferWise cuts way back on fees by breaking international payments into smaller local ones, and promises to always use the mid-market exchange rate.

Which bank should I choose?

What bank you choose will come down to what type of account you need, what services you use most, and which bank is closest to your home or office. There are a wide range of local and international banks available, including some major players from across the globe like Citibank. Some of the most popular retail banks in Pakistan include:

National Bank of Pakistan

It’s no wonder so many Pakistani residents choose the National Bank of Pakistan, with over a thousand convenient ATMs and even more branches scattered across the country. Some options for National Bank of Pakistan customers include:

  • Current and Savings accounts
  • Online transfers
  • Pay orders
  • Cash cards
  • Advance salaries

Habib Bank Limited

With branches and ATMs across 22 towns and cities, Habib Bank Limited is another common choice for residents of Pakistan. Some of the bank’s features are:

  • Basic bank accounts
  • Savings accounts
  • Loans for home and car
  • Debit cards
  • Internet banking

United Bank Limited

United Bank Limited (UBL) has 115+ branches in Pakistan, alongside countless ATMs. Customers choose UBL for:

  • Consumer loans
  • Debit, credit, and cash cards
  • Deposit accounts
  • Priority banking
  • Corporate banking
  • Investment banking

MCB Bank Limited

Founded in 1947, MCB Bank is one of Pakistan’s oldest and largest banks, with branches in more than 100 towns and cities across the county. Some of the services MCB Bank offers include:

  • Personal and business deposit and checking accounts
  • Internet banking
  • Mobile banking
  • Home remittance
  • Consumer loans
  • Cards

TransferWise

If you get paid or pay in foreign currencies often, it’s a good idea to use TransferWise for your transfers. TransferWise uses a unique transfer methodology breaks long-distance international payments into a series of local ones, saving you significant money on foreign transfer fees. Equally importantly, TransferWise always uses the mid-market exchange rate, the fairest exchange rate, for your transfer, ensuring you don’t get hit with any hidden costs.

All in all, banking in Pakistan is a simple and painless process, and having your financial freedom within the country will be well worth your time and effort. Armed with the right information, you’ll be ready to go in less than a day. Good luck opening your bank account in Pakistan!

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