For expatriates in Bangladesh, the banking and financial system can be confusing. You’re likely to face fees and limitations that wouldn't apply in your home country. To avoid banking pitfalls, read this guide on opening a bank account in Bangladesh.
The process for opening a bank account in Bangladesh will vary, depending on the bank and your status. Student accounts have a different opening process. For example, to open a student account with Standard Chartered Bank in Bangladesh, you’ll need:
- A course offer letter (with details on tuition fees, course start and end dates, and estimated living expenses)
- A valid passport
- An academic certificate
- A copy of your tuition refund policy (if you're using the account to pay in advance for tuition)
A common individual bank account at one of the larger banks in Bangladesh will probably require some or all of the following documents:
- An application form given by the bank
- Two passport-sized photos of the account holder
- Specimen signature card signed by the applicant in front of bank personnel
- Your estimated transaction profile
- A valid passport, voter ID card, Bangladeshi employer ID card or any other official certificate bearing applicant’s photo and signature from the Bangladeshi government
For non-resident Bangladeshis, it may be harder to find a bank that will grant you an account, and there's often a required minimum deposit. For example, for Standard Chartered Bank, it's BDT 100,000 (about 930 GBP). Additionally, Bangladesh hosts several foreign bank accounts, so you may be able to access your international account from within the country. The Bangladeshi Ministry of Finance provides guidance and supervision on business processes. The Bangladesh Central Bank serves as the country’s monetary and financial regulatory body. Both of these bodies will give you more information about banking regulations, in addition to the individual bank you choose.
Your ability to open a bank account in Bangladesh is heavily restricted if you're not within the country. However, some banks allow you to open international or foreign currency accounts. Standard Chartered offers a foreign currency account for deposits in USD, GBP and Yen. There’s no required account balance, but deposits must be made in foreign cash only. This account can be opened from abroad.
Policies will vary based on your bank. Some banks will allow you to nominate a resident Bangladeshi to cosign the opening of your account. In addition, if you bank with HSBC or Citi, you may be able to set up a Bangladeshi account as a component of your international banking profile. Before you travel, make inquiries with your local bank and the bank you're thinking of choosing in Bangladesh.
While Bangladesh isn't always considered the world’s most modernised country, online banking with most of the large banks is fairly common. You can expect to perform basic functions, including: checking your account balance, reviewing your transaction history, obtaining a statement, changing your personal details and paying bills.
In most cases, you'll already have to have an account with the bank before you register for online banking. If you go to the bank to open your account in-person, the bank can set you up with online banking simultaneously. You’ll likely need a mobile number that's registered with the bank and a debit card.
Expats in Bangladesh are sure to find some familiar banks. English-speaking staff and expat service offerings make these banks a sensible choice for foreigners. The following international banks have a presence in Bangladesh:
- Bank Al-Falah Limited
- Commercial Bank of Ceylon PLC
- Habib Bank Limited
- Standard Chartered Bank
- National Bank of Pakistan
- Woori Bank
As an expat, there are certain banks that will be more accessible to you. Due to their wide range of services and availability, you'll likely bank with one of the following institutions:
- Number of branches: 26+ (mostly in populated urban areas)
- Number of ATMs: 83
- Wholly-owned subsidiary of Standard Chartered means a direct partnership with Standard Chartered customers worldwide
- Debit card fee: 690 BDT per year (about 6.5 GBP)
- Account maintenance fee: 690 BDT per year (about 6.5 GBP)
- Offered Products:
- Online Banking and Phone Banking with English capabilities
- Visa Signature Card with priority service and rewards
- Islamic Banking - Shariah-compliant
- International Banking - free ATM cash withdrawal worldwide
- Number of branches: 1207
- Number of ATMs: 83
- Subsidiaries in the UK, USA, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia
- Offered Products:
- Savings and current accounts, including a Hajj savings scheme and foreign currency accounts
- Debit card account with yearly charge of BDT 345 (around 3 GBP)
- A member of Q-Cash Consortium, so card holders can use the ATMs of other member banks of the consortium and Dutch-Bangla bank
- Number of ATMs: 4,000
- Number of branches: 15+
- Known to be one of the more technologically-enabled banks with most services available online
- ATM services are available for cardholders from other banks too (for a small fee)
- Offered products:
- Internet payments system for ecommerce merchants to charge customers
- Dutch Bangla Nexus debit card with account holder photo and PIN
- Number of branches: 16+
- Offered products:
- Special focus on investments and deposits for non-residents of Bangladesh, including money market accounts and fixed deposit schemes
- Tiered savings accounts
- Debit - Visa shopping card (BDT 12 fee for withdrawals from ATMs outside the Commercial Bank network)
- Credit - Visa card for individuals over 18 years of age and making at least BDT 20,000 (GBP 185) per month
- Youth and minor accounts for individuals 12 to 18 years of age with free capped withdrawals
The logistics of banking in Bangladesh can be cumbersome. With intermittent internet access in many areas and long wait times for transactions, you may become frustrated with opening and maintaining an account. Opening an account can happen almost immediately in-person, although to get your debit card by post, you may wait more than a week.
Many bank accounts require a high minimum balance, which you may not be accustomed to as an expat. For example, the minimum balance required to open a local current account or a super savers savings account with Standard Chartered is 100,000 BDT (924 GBP).
Bank schedules are generally open for business between Sunday and Thursday, from 10 AM until 4 PM. It's common for banks to pause during the Muslim call to prayer and close for afternoon prayers. Select banks may also offer services on Saturdays or into the evening.
You’ll likely pay an opening charge and maintenance charge for your bank account in Bangladesh, no matter what type of account it is. For example, Standard Chartered requires a maintenance fee of 500 BDT (4.6 GBP) every half year for a current account. A debit card costs 600 BDT (5.5 GBP) annually. Student and youth accounts are the only account that may be free of fees. It's likely that you'd still face penalties for overdrawing or closing your account though.
International money transfer services are available through some, but not all, banks. If you look out for banks with expat services, English language capabilities or branches outside of Bangladesh, these banks are more likely to offer transfer services. Foreign currency accounts are also popular for expats; they allow you to deposit and withdraw money from your local currency. Inquire with your specific bank for details.
Rates and fees vary from bank to bank when it comes to international money transfers. Some banks mark up the interbank exchange rate, or the exchange rate at which banks buy and sell currency. Use Transferwise to avoid these fees if you have a Bangladeshi bank account or know someone who does.