Practical Life in Cairo

Bank services in Cairo

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The banking system in Egypt is undergoing major reforms and becoming more liberalized and modern. It is still behind Western banks in supplying a range of mortgages and investment opportunity, but is supervised and regulated according to internationally accepted standards.

The culture in Egypt is a cash-driven society. Most grocery stores or local shops only take cash. Try to keep a couple 10 or 20-pound notes on you at all times.


Egypt's currency is the Egyptian pound, abbreviated by EGP, LE, or £E. It comes in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, up to a 1,000 pound notes. 100 piastres is equal to one Egyptian pound, but they are rarely used as their worth is so small.

The Egyptian pound has been gradually devaluating. At one point, the Egyptian Pound was rated almost the same as the British Pound. Unfortunately, that is no longer true.

To find the value of the Egyptian pound in comparison to other currencies, use the currency converter.

Credit and Debit Cards

Upscale and international stores take major credit and debit cards. Some shops and restaurants mark which credit and debit cards they accept near their entrances.

It is also possible to withdraw cash advances from your credit cards, provided you know your PIN. However, you will pay interest from the moment of your withdrawal. Also, note that many banks now assess a 1 to 3 percent "transaction fee" on all charges you incur abroad (whether you're using the local currency or your native currency).

ATMs in Egypt

Automated teller machines (ATMs) are common throughout Cairo and Alexandria. All major cards are accepted. Exchange rates vary from machine to machine. A small conversion fee is also charged on exchanging currency.

Be sure you know your personal identification number (PIN) and your daily withdrawal limit before you depart. You should also notify your bank of travel plans so they are aware of where your card will be used and do not put a stop on it for suspicious activity. Also consult with your bank to find out if they have any partnerships with the country you are visiting. Make sure you understand the fees and regulations in your contract to avoid excessive fees. Remember to make a record of your credit card number and the emergency phone number for cancelling your card, should you lose it.


Moneychangers are frequently advertised at entrance points and in the downtown area. Egypt is unusual in that jewelry stores and markets may offer the best rates. Make sure you understand the rates before committing and know competitors rates. Changers at international airports are usually offer the safest service.

The absolute best rates can be found by taking money from an ATM. This depends on your home bank, but it is usually the safest and cheapest way to withdraw money.

Most expats keep a certain amount of US dollars or Euros in a safe at home. They save these to exchange at favorable times, or simply as a safe guard.

Electronic Transfers

Electronic money transfers are available at most large banks in the big cities. Account holders should use the IBAN number and swift code to transfer funds internationally. Service charges are variable (depends on the sending and receiving bank).

    To receive a money transfer, provide the sender with:
  • Account name
  • Account number
  • Sort code
  • Name of bank
  • Swift code

Transfers from the same bank normally take effect on the same day; from other banks this process can take up to five working days. Transfers from abroad require the international IBAN code, may take longer and incur additional costs.

The easiest way to complete a transfer is if you have a dual-currency account, such as the connection between Deutsche bank and Bank of America. Electronic transfers to dual currency accounts incur no or very low fees.

Opening a Bank Account

Savings and current accounts are available from Egyptian banks. Expats may only open a bank account once they've received the identity card. They also need:

  • Residency visa for at least six months
  • Tenancy agreement
  • Minimum deposit of several thousand Egyptian pounds
  • Application
  • Photographic proof of identity (passport or National Identity Card from the country of origin)
When visiting a bank, including opening an account, a branch will assign you a customer service number process requests. When they call your number, clients proceed to a teller window for service. The wait time varies depending on branch location, time of day and the date. Beware of visiting prior to vacation days.

Expatriates often select international banks with branches of their home bank in Cairo. This makes the transition pain free and may offer the best exchange rates for moving money between accounts. These banks are used to international customers and provide information in services in different languages.

Local banks are another option, but they may not be used to dealing with foreigners and present more difficulties. If you are not familiar with Arabic, you may be able to bring a friend or advisor to help.


Bank hours are Sunday through Thursday, 8:30 until 14:00.

Update 4/12/2011


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