In the Wrong Business in Saudi Arabia

I have begun to think that I am clearly in the wrong line of business in the Kingdom.  I work 5 days a week, 9 hours per day with a 30 minute lunch break…which is pretty standard in the Kingdom.  Except when it comes to Ladies banking…  I need to make a transaction at my bank so I called the number to find out their hours and which evenings they stayed open later as is the custom here in the Kingdom (at least with the men’s branches).  I learned that while men’s branches of banks will work 8 – 5 as well as have evening hours at various branches plus have some branches open for several hours on Thursdays (the first weekend day), the ladies branches are strictly 0930 – 1630 Saturday through Wednesday.  No evening hours or weekend hours as well.  Is it just me or does this further allude to how women in business (and in general) are not taken as seriously in the Kingdom?  Due to these working hours if I am unable to conduct my business either over the phone or via online banking, I must then take time off from my job to conduct my business at the bank.  And from past experience, one must always allow at least an hour once inside the bank for the business to be concluded. 


Now in fairness, if one works for a large employer there usually will be a branch of the bank which the employer has contracted within the facility.  This bank will also likely be co-ed (ie, non segregated) if located in an institution such as a hospital.  Unfortunately though in my case the bank located where I am working is not the same bank with whom I do business so I’m out of luck in that capacity.


While on the subject of banking I have also learned some other interesting tidbits which is useful for an expat in the Kingdom to know about.  Allegedly wire transfers both within and outside the Kingdom can be performed through online banking.  I am saying allegedly as I am still working on doing one and it has not been completed yet.  For example, I wish to transfer some funds back to my home country (USA).  First I have to go to online banking and create the beneficiary (ie, the entity to whom I wish to send funds).  While I am asked to complete the details such as name and location and account number I was not asked to provide the ABA routing number or the amount I wished to transfer.  I filled out the online form in its entirety and chose “save” as that was the only option available.  I then receive a message stating the request had been saved and to then check back in 24 hours.  I immediately called the bank to ask what was that all about; that my transfer had not been completed.  I was told this multi-step method has been implemented for security and verification purposes. 


I’ll keep this post open until (inshallah) the transfer has been completed in order to let others know how well (or not) the online banking option will work.  If I am not successful I will have to bite the bullet and take time off from work and go to the bank personally to conduct this transaction.


Now it is day two or 24 hours since I made the transaction.  Guess what…the bank has no record of such a transaction even though I had printed out the page which contains the transaction reference number.  So what did they do…they asked me to make another transaction.  I made another transfer request and again printed out the confirmation page.  I called the bank back and still their system shows no record of a transaction.  They now advise they want to research the problem and will get back to me.  In the meantime I am kind of left in limbo as I am still unable to make a transaction (at least via online) with my bank.

  In closing this post I can say the transfer has been made but not with a resolution of the online banking matter.  The bank never could explain to me why the online banking was not working.  I ended up having to take time out from my work day and go to the nearest branch of my bank to have the transaction conducted face-to-face.

15 Responses

  1. I have found an alternative way to transfer my money form Saudi Arabia to the United States. In Riyadh, there is a wiring service called SpeedCash. You go there and set up an account with them where you provide them with all the necessary information such as your bank name, checking account information, etc. back in the US. When you use this service, the money almost always get to your home bank in about 24 to 36 hours regardless of the day of the week.

    But here’s the only drawback. You must go to your local Saudi bank and actually withdraw the cash (yes, it means waiting in line) and physically go to the SpeedCash building.

    Their operating hours are Saturday through Thursday 8:30 a.m. until noon and then 4:00 p.m. until about 8:00 or 8:30 p.m. I hope this helps anyone that is looking for a different way to safely transfer theri money to the United States or elsewhere.

    Oh, I almost forgot. You can transfer up to 30,000 SARS at a time which will cost you a 50 SARS fee for doing this. I think it is worth it. I had trouble with transfering my money from my local bank as well and someone told me about SpeedCash.

  2. A decade ago (in the pre-online-banking days), I would simply feign ignorance of the local custom and go into the closest branch of our bank in Riyadh to arrange for wire transfers to our US account. The men were so anxious to get me out of there — yet did not wish to be rude to an obviously Western woman — that I was sent to the front of the line and my business was taken care of immediately!

  3. I have heard enough from my husband re: his frustration with the banking system here that I am utterly relieved that there is no need for me to use a bank here!

  4. It has been an experience that I did not expect or anticipate. In many ways the Kingdom is so modern but when it comes to infrastructure such as telecom, internet, banking, etc., there is a definite uphill road to climb.

  5. I think it especially weird because I’d say any woman not working with a bank-branch in her office-building would find it quite difficult to be restricted to those hours.
    And yes, duuuuhhh, obviously women aren’t taken seriously, so why open ladies-branches for them?

    Here you are supposed to do all your bank-business by internet. They get confused and flustered if you show up at the physical bank and want something done.

  6. I have had pretty good luck with SAAB bank after an initial uphil climb getting set up. But once your online banking is set up, it is relatively easy to use. They changed the sysytem recently where you have to submit the transfer details first, then call them and get the OK,and then go back in and do the transfer. but it works and I really can’t complain about it.

  7. Brad – thanks for the info about SpeedCash. I’m still having challenges with timely wire-transfers to the US so this may be the viable option.

    Aafke – The banks all offer online banking but whether it is the bank’s system or the internet in general, this can be catch as catch can if trying to use.

    Malcolm – Glad to hear your experience improved. I can perhaps add why there are the delays that a transfer must be submitted but may not be approved for 24-36 hours. Naturally all funds will go through SAMA (Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority). SAMA cooperates with US officials on money transfers and wiring of funds in support of the war on Global Terrorism. Part of the delay has to do with transfers being investigated and “checked out.”

  8. Use NCB, I have always been waited on by men when I walk in the Riyadh branches. I was turned away once and indeed I had tried the ladies section but was getting nowhere. The assistant branch manager tried being a jerk but I reported him to the head office in Jeddah and was called by the Branch Manager and he kept apologizing saying this is not the strategy of Al Ahli or NCB.

  9. Thanks for the suggestion. Actually stay tuned…I have a future post about my experience of service at a men’s branch of a bank!

  10. Just came across this website which helps in transferring money worldwide. You might wanna check it out
    Basically it takes money from ur credit card n sends it to ur bank. It has a huge list of banks across all countries.
    For some countries like India, they dont charge any extra fees. But then again, I guess u do loose some money, as they use their own exchange rate.. and other cc expenses.

    Anyways I wait to cash my first pay cheque (even if i m a male) coz by the time i get off work, the bank closes!?

  11. Ruman,

    Please share the site with us! And thanks for posting.

  12. Oops, I guess it got embedded with the html coz i put it in tags …

    its ! (nothing to do with Mazda’s xoom xoom ad)

  13. My husband has recently become employed in KSA. He does not have his Iquama as of yet. Anyway to transfer funds to or from him to the states until he gets it? Thanks

  14. Depending on his employer, the employer may advise him of which bank to go to (with his passport) that would allow him to make a transfer. Or, he may wish to check out the Speed-Cash places. You do not mention what city he is in though. I am aware of Speed Cash in Riyadh but cannot say for certainty of the other cities. Western Union also has offices.

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