The best international banks in Pakistan (and what you'll need to open an account)

An international bank account is ideal for anyone living an international lifestyle. If you're new to Pakistan, moving soon, or want an account that can help you manage overseas transactions, this is the guide for you.

Xe Consumer APAC

July 7, 20216 min read

Creating an online bank account in Pakistan

Looking for an international bank in Pakistan that will cater to your foreign currency needs? Good news: there are quite a few to choose from.

The banking system is the country’s best-performing sector —and the greater Middle East's. The industry's assets have risen over the years, and more profits are posted every year. By the end of 2019, the sector had 25% overall profitability, mainly because of increased interest rates.

The country’s central bank is the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), incorporated under the State Bank of Pakistan Act, 1956. The SBP regulates liquidity, supervises Pakistan Banks, and monitors the soundness of the country’s financial system.

Pakistan has a variety of banks —from Islamic banks to microfinance banks. There are 6 foreign banks that serve citizens, expats, and even Pakistanis who live abroad.

If you’ve just arrived in the country —or simply want an international account you can access while abroad —you’ll want to look into the best international banks in Pakistan. You should also be familiar with the requirements for opening a bank account, so nothing will delay your international transactions.

How to open a bank account in Pakistan

Opening a bank account in Pakistan is simple, but many banks require expats to open a non-resident account. The account has a higher minimum balance and attracts higher fees.

Depending on the bank you choose, you can open an account online or at the local bank branch. You will need to fill out an application form and attach the required documents. If you’re applying online, you’ll have to upload your identification documents and any other documents required.

Once the bank approves your application, you will receive communication. And it's worth mentioning that some banks will still need you to visit a local branch even if you apply online. Every bank account attracts fees: account maintenance fees, check cashing fees, and transfer fees.

What do you need to opening a bank account in Pakistan?

The exact documents required to open a non-resident account vary from one bank to the next. It also depends on the account you’d like to open. To avoid multiple trips back home, it’s best to confirm the documents your bank needs ahead of time. Here are the important documents all banks ask for.

  • Proof of employment/income

  • A valid passport

  • Proof of address

  • Documents proving the origin of your initial deposit

  • Copy of a recent utility bill (optional)

Types of expat bank accounts in Pakistan

There are many bank accounts to choose from depending on your needs. However, the most popular bank accounts for expats are:

1. Current Account

This is the best account for expats who transact frequently. It comes with internet and mobile banking and you can easily make electronic payments and get a checkbook for non-cash payments.

A current account allows you to make unlimited ATM and check withdrawals. However, the amount you can withdraw daily varies from bank to bank. The account is a great option for professionals and businesspeople who withdraw or deposit money frequently.

Most banks don’t set a minimum balance for current accounts. You also get free phone banking services, email and SMS alerts with every transaction, and you’re exempt from annual Zakat deductions. The minimum deposit for current accounts is mostly PKR 1,000 (or about $7 USD) but it may vary from bank to bank.

2. Foreign Currency Account

A foreign currency account can either be a current or a savings account. You can make deposits or withdrawals in foreign currency, transfer funds abroad, and access traveler’s checks and other remittance services.

The credit card issued for the account is usually valid even outside Pakistan. If you choose a savings account, your money will earn some interest. While most banks levy taxes and Zakat on foreign currency savings accounts, a few don’t deduct withholding tax and Zakat on non‐resident accounts.

To operate a foreign currency account, you need a minimum balance of $1,000 USD, but this varies from bank to bank. The minimum account opening deposit is USD $250, or its equivalent in Pakistani Rupees.

Which are the best international banks in Pakistan?

The best international bank will depend on your individual needs and preferences—like the account type, the services you need, and access to customer service. There’s a wide range of banks in Pakistan, but these are the best for expats and Pakistanis living abroad:

1. United Bank Limited

United Bank Limited was established in 1959 and its headquarters are in Karachi City. It is one of the oldest and largest privately-owned banks in Pakistan. The commercial bank has a network of about 1,370 branches locally, 14 branches internationally, and an overseas presence in over 19 countries.

The Bank has a strong financial profile and consistent profitability. By March 2021, its total assets amounted to PKR 2.33 billion ($14.73 million USD). UBL is the bank for you if you’re looking for priority banking, investment banking, or corporate banking.

2. Standard Chartered

The Standard Chartered Bank in Pakistan is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Standard Chartered Bank UK. It was launched in 2006. By the end of 2020, the bank had 47 branches in ten Pakistan cities.

Standard Chartered is a great bank for expats and Pakistanis who have relocated because it has an international presence in over 70 countries. You’ll also love its remote banking feature that lets you do all your banking quickly and efficiently.

The bank’s services include retail banking, commercial banking, corporate banking, and institutional banking. By March 2021, its total assets were PKR 757.03 billion ($4.79 billion USD).

3. MCB Bank

MCB Bank was founded in 1947 and was nationalized in 1974 as part of the government’s economic reform movement. It was privatized in 1991. MCB is an award-winning bank that won the prestigious Euromoney Award for Best Investment Bank in 2016 and 2017. The bank’s headquarters are in Lahore, Pakistan.

MCB Bank is a multinational bank that serves the Middle East, South Asia, and Eurasia. Its customer base is approximately 4 million. By March 2021, its total assets were worth about 2 trillion PKR (over $12 billion USD). MCB is popular for personal and business banking, checking accounts, home remittances, internet banking, and mobile banking.

After you open a bank account, how should you send money transfers?

If you frequently make international payments or get paid in foreign currency, consider using Xe money transfer for your transactions or to send money between bank accounts. We simplify international payments and save you time and money on your transfers to over 130 countries, Pakistan included.

Our transfers are fast (we can reach Pakistan in just minutes). Additionally, our [EL1] exchange rates are some of the most competitive in the markets, so you can trust you’ll get a great rate for your transfer. You can also lock in a rate and send money at a later date, or set a rate alert to know the minute the markets move in your favor. Open an account today and start sending money. It takes less than 5 minutes!

Get Started

When you open an international bank account in Pakistan, you’ll settle in faster. And if you’re far from home, you can easily send money to your family or friends. Having the right information makes it easier to choose the best bank account. You won’t worry about your money’s safety, making financial transactions, or accessing your money.