Tamara Pitelen chronicles the journey to opening a bank account for a small business that also offers an online merchant payment gateway. It is three months since I first attempted to open a business bank account for my new born company, Awakenings Media. You can read my first blog about this journey here. I have succeeded in opening a Rakbank business account. The process took about eight weeks and involved the hapless staff of Rakbank paying me a visit to my office at least five times. Three of these visits were because someone back at their head office did not think my signature was suitably consistent across the various documents they required me to sign. So, a number of young gentlemen were forced to make the trek from their office in Deira to my office in Media City – via public transport – so that I could have another go at signing my signature 25 times in the same way. I ended up telling the last man that I just couldn't do it. I couldn't write my signature the same way 25 times. He said, "please Madam, please, just print the letters, it must be the same." So, I ended up dropping the usual flourishes, strikes and swirls that one makes when doing their signature and reverted to primary school block printing of the letters in my name. I know this is going to come undone. I know that in, say, six months or so, I'll forget and sign a cheque with my usual flourish, which will be rejected by the bank and involve weeks of back and forth trying to sort it out. Anyway, I do want to give full credit to Rakbank for being so obliging. In stark contrast to various other banks that couldn't be bothered even emailing me more than one word answers (Citibank), banks with random fees for nothing in particular (ENBD) and banks I've long decided to avoid for a long and bitter list of reasons (HSBC Middle East), Rakbank went far and beyond the call of duty to help me open my account. It just took quite a long time. However, I've since found out that Rakbank can't offer me a merchant payment gateway for my website. As a small publishing company, I'd need to take payment from people through my website in return for subscribing to my magazine. We are not talking Donald Trump levels of transactions here but I do need to be able to take payment by credit card or Paypal from people who want to buy my magazine. It turns out that only four banks in the UAE have the license to offer an online merchant payment gateway. This big four are Emirates NBD, National Bank of Abu Dhabi , Mashreq Bank and Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank . Why can't a UAE -based start-up just use Paypal? Mainly because you can't get the money out of Paypal unless it's linked to a bank. I've already decided against ENBD because of their random AED 200 a month fee for just having an account. So I just called Mashreq Bank and they tell me that yes, I can open a Business Value Account that will get me a merchant payment gateway, the main conditions include maintaining a minimum balance of AED 10,000 (falling below gets you a AED 250 per month fee) and a standard monthly fee of AED 50. I can live with that. Within half an hour of my inquiry call on 24 December 2013 , I got a call back from a gentleman who is emailing me the initial set-up documents for the payment gateway. By early January, I had my account set up and activated, my Visa debit card and chequebook couriered to me and I was told the set up of my online payment gateway was on the way. It all took about 10 days and nobody said anything about my inconsistent signature. So, if you're a start-up looking for a UAE bank that can offer you a business account with an online payment gateway for your website, I recommend Mashreq Bank . Next step, getting the payment gateway integrated into my website. I'll do another blog about that.
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