Currency, Cash, and Cards
In Jordan the currency is called Jordanian Dinar, often shorted to JD and even Arabic speaking people often say “JayDee”. The official currency abbreviation is JOD. The currency is broken down into 1000 fils with coins of 50, 100, 250 and 500 fils, while 50 fils is also 5 piaster and 250 fils is a quarter JD and 500 fils half a JD. The half JD coin consists of two metals and has 7 corners. The quarter also has 7 corners, is just one type of material and a bit smaller than the half JD coin. There are bills of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 JD. For smaller items and taxi use, it is recommended to always have some cash and especially 1 JD bills, in case “the driver has no change”, see my explanation on Taxis.
While credit cards and the ATM cards provided by Jordanian banks are widely accepted in malls, restaurants and such, it is good advice to always have cash with you, in case the digital payment options are not available or not functioning. Downtown or in smaller restaurants as well as in taxis you will not get far with plastic money.
There are plenty of banks in Jordan. Most of them also operate in other (Arab) countries. The biggest one among them is Arab Bank, which is what I use, also because my company has their main accounts there and money transfer is quick. There is also:
- The Bank of Jordan
- Jordan Kuwaiti Bank
- Jordan Ahli Bank
- Bank Audi
- Housing Bank
- Cairo Amman Bank
- Capital Bank…
and plenty of others. There are also some international banks such as Citi Bank or Société Générale. We did not have too good experience with Jordan Kuwaiti Bank and Cairo Amman Bank. They are all safe institutions I assume. However, customer service might differ a lot, setting up an account is painful and you end up waiting and things don’t work, they might ask you to come again or the internet banking is not set up correctly and so on. To avoid these experiences, I suggest you go to Arab Bank at the branch next to the 5th circle, since it is much bigger than in the malls and they can serve you with all kinds of requests. The experience was good. For me and my wife, it took around 2-3 hours to open an account. However, when you are prepared and have all the necessary papers you walk out with a bank account, a working ATM card plus your internet banking set up and SMS or E-mail notifications to your phone activated.
In order to open a bank account, you need several documents. It is better to have all this together to avoid coming more than once because everything goes a bit slower in Jordan than you might be used to. Here is what you should bring:
- Residency (Iqama) – when you work in Amman your employer will make sure you get a residency card. That might take a while but is mandatory in order to open a bank account, at least at most of the banks
- Copy of contract of employment – to show that you work and how much you earn
- Rental contract – to proof where you live and that you reside in Jordan
- 3 months electricity bill – I do not know why it is requested
Also be prepared that one of the first questions will be, how much money you earn. Depending on your monthly income you will be treated differently, by different staff and offered a different type of bank account ranging somewhere from standard/normal over a premium to VIP/platinum customer. The benefits might be something totally irrelevant to you and the only important thing is that you have a functional bank account with a working ATM card.
Update April 2018 – If you want to transfer money to other accounts, even within Arab Bank, be sure to ask right from the beginning for that service to be enabled as you have to fill and sign several forms first in order to do so. That way, a second password will be set up so you can verify transaction online.
You can setup EUR and USD accounts as well free of charge instantly via online banking. It is also possible to withdraw USD at some ATMs (Safeway 7th Circle, Airport, Dead Sea) or at the branches. You can transfer money between your accounts (of different currencies) at any time through online banking and the app.
Transferring money internationally
If you are from Europe or the US, look into TransferWise. It is a UK based company cooperating with banks in Europe and is authorized by the Financial Conduct Authority under the Electronic Money Regulations 2011. It is trustworthy and I used it to send money from Europe to the states. They offer a borderless account. You can have accounts in different currencies, send money overseas and also offer a Debit Card depending on where you have your residency. The exchange rate is based on the mid-market rate which is normally accessible to private customers. Of course, they are a fee for exchanging money, but it is lower than what banks usually offer. Fees of course also depend on how much money you transfer.
I transferred EUR from my German bank account to TransferWise then exchanged it to USD for a low fee and transferred it to the US, which only cost then 1.35 USD since the money came from a USD account then. Also, the money arrived within two days which is pretty fast for an international bank transfer.
It is also an interesting option if you get paid from the UK or Europe since they offer free receiving of funds into the account.
They also have an App of course. Feel free to explore.