Managing Personal Finance in Saudi Arabia for Expatriates


Saudi Arabia is known to have a rich history as well as diverse culture. Its flourishing economy attracts numerous expatriates seeking fresh opportunities and adventures. When expats secure an opportunity in the country, their journey doesn’t stop there. Their journey of handling personal finance in Saudi Arabia also begins. Managing your finances in the country will come with certain challenges and opportunities, so you should be ready for it. It won’t be the same as what you’re accustomed to in your home country.

Understanding the Saudi Arabian Financial Landscape

Overview of the Saudi Arabian economy

Oil production and exports significantly contribute to the country’s successful economy. With the country’s Vision 2030 program, they aim to decrease reliance on oil by expanding sectors like tourism, entertainment, and technology. Two important changes are driving the country’s economic transformation – labor market reform and digitalization.

Currency and exchange rate considerations

The official currency is the Saudi Riyal (SAR). Expats need to consider currency and exchange rates when converting their home currency to SAR for everyday expenses or investments. These exchange rates could greatly affect their buying power and cost of living so they should always be mindful of it.

The tax system in Saudi Arabia

In Saudi Arabia, there is no individual income tax for people who earn their income solely from employment. If you have other earnings apart from your salary, you might have to pay taxes as a business or through a permanent establishment. Non-residents who earn income from a source in Saudi Arabia are taxed based on withholding tax rules.

Banking and Financial Services for Expatriates

Opening a bank account:

To choose a reliable bank for your financial needs, it’s essential to conduct thorough research and select one that aligns with your requirements and proximity. Forbes Middle East ranks Saudi Al Rajhi Bank as the topmost valuable bank in the region, alongside other notable institutions like Saudi National Bank, QNB Group, First Abu Dhabi Bank, and Kuwait Finance House. Begin by gathering the necessary documentation, such as a valid passport, residency visa, proof of address, a completed bank application form, and a letter of no-objection from your employer or sponsor. Next, visit the chosen bank branch in person, although some banks may offer online account opening for expatriates. Ensure accurate information is provided in the account application form. An initial deposit may be required by some banks to activate the account. Following submission, the bank will review your documents and may conduct a background check. Once approved, you can activate various account services like a debit card, online banking, or a mobile banking app to start managing your finances conveniently.

***Remember that the exact requirements and steps may differ slightly depending on the bank. 

Currency exchange and international transfers

Currency conversions can be done through local banks or currency exchange offices. Saudi Arabian banks have international transfer services, so if expats want to send money abroad or want to receive funds from overseas, they can do so quickly and securely. These services may include wire transfers or remittances. When doing international transactions, it’s important to be aware of exchange rates and fees as they can vary from bank to bank. Currency exchange and transfers could be conveniently done through online platforms of banks, making it easy to do such transactions at the comfort of homes or offices.

Resources and Support

Financial education programs and resources

In Saudi Arabia, there is a growing availability of financial education programs and resources aimed at helping individuals improve their financial knowledge and make wise financial choices. At one of Saudi Arabia’s Global Money Week, government organizations, NGOs, shopping malls, schools, universities, colleges, and banks participated to learn about financial literacy. Throughout the event, children and adults received personal financial advice about building their future and being smart about money. They learned about the basic concepts of money, planning, and savings.

Networking and support groups for expatriates

Expatriates living in Saudi Arabia can join a thriving community of networking and support groups. In these groups, they’ll find other expats who share the same experiences and sentiments of working in a foreign country. It’s an excellent opportunity to establish connections and seek advice on various life aspects, including financial management. Most of these groups function through both online platforms and in-person meetings or events.

Seeking advice from financial professionals

The best advice to get from when it comes to financial planning are the professionals – certified financial planners, investment advisors, tax consultants, and the like – because they’re the experts in the field and they know a lot more about handling finances than the average person. They can also provide tailored guidance and solutions on certain areas that many are not familiar about, such as crafting investment portfolios or planning for retirement. Engaging with them can help individuals align their financial goals and ultimately achieve financial security.

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