Dealing with Moroccan banks without losing your mind

Even after spending more than a year dealing with banks and international transfers, I still think it’s a hard game! In this post, I’ll share my process of finding the best bank in Morocco, how to accept international payments and what are the fees.

Banking is something that scares lot of people wanting to start working on the internet. That’s why I’m trying to share these information in order to make it a little bit easier for all.

This post is part of the Legal series where we talk about the legal side of working remotely from Morocco. Laws, banking, accounting, taxes, etc… We cover them all.

Find more articles like this one on the Legal category.

1 – Choosing a bank in Morocco

I’ll give you some tips on how to choose your bank. But let’s keep something in mind. Banking sucks everywhere. You’ll sweat and get angry. And that’s how banks work. With these tips, I’m not telling you how to choose the best bank. I’m telling you to choose the one that sucks less.

What do you want in your bank? That’s the question to start with. For me, I had three things in mind:

  • I want a bank that communicates and an account manager that picks up the phone when I call.
  • I want open and updated information I can see online. I don’t want to get hit by some fees I don’t know about.
  • I don’t want to deal with a bank that’s still using systems and processes from the 90’s. I don’t want to visit the bank for the smallest thing I need. The majority should be done remotely.

As you can see, the cost isn’t an option for me. I personally prefer to pay more if I can get things done remotely by email or phone. And with this in mind, I started searching for the best bank I can find! And I didn’t spend too much time to find the one.

Banking in Morocco is still old, but quickly catching up. A bank website is all you need to learn a lot about the bank:

Testing bank’s communication process

Find a contact form in their website, and send an email asking for information. Don’t use the phone. All banks have a call center, and you’ll probably get an answer in the same time period from all banks. But email is different. It’s asynchronous, and they can answer you whenever they want.

In how much time did you get a response to your email?

This will tell you if the bank is using all mediums (phone, email…) to interact with customers (if you get an answer in the first place). The time to answer your email will give you an idea about how they treat their customers. If they can answer an email, from a complete stranger posted in their website in few hours, odds are they can answer emails from customers really quickly.

Who responded to your email?

If you got an answer from an account manager, that’s a good thing. It means the banks forwards the questions to the best people to give the best answer. And this also means when you have a question in the future, you’ll get your answer quickly from the best source.

Testing a bank’s openness

Can you find all prices on the website?

I’m not sure why banks talk about their products but don’t include the price. What I’m I supposed to do with incomplete information? Here is a hall of shame from banks not including the price in their products: BP, CIH, BMCE, and there are more.

Can you find all banking fees on the website?

Are they listed and easy to find? Or hidden somewhere really deep? This will tell you if the bank is really open about its practices.

I used BMCE bank before, in a personal account, and one day I was obliged to pay a fee. When I asked where I can find about this fee, I’ve been told it’s on an INTERNAL document and not public. I asked to see the internal document. And I saw it… Now think about it! Isn’t this stupid?

If you can get all fees information online, that’s a good thing!

I did run this on multiple banks and the one that did stick for me was CFG Bank. The selling point is that all information are online, from subscription prices to fees. My email was answered quickly by an account manager. In our first call, I was really clear that I want to do everything by email or a call and they were ok with it.

2 – Banking branches aren’t all ready to deal with you

So what does this actually means? It means you can’t open a company account in all bank branches. The majority of bank branches are for individual accounts only.

So your first job is to find branches that can create and manage a bank account for your company. I suggest you call your desired bank and ask for this information.

If you want to use CFG Bank, and you’re in Casablanca, there are two branches you can use: ‘Agence Al Massira’ and ‘Agence 2 Mars’. Another thing about CFG Bank, and I think it’s the same for all other banks: you only need this branch to open your account, usual banking operations can be made from any bank branch or by sending an email (or calling) your account manager.

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3 – Cracking the International payments code

In order to receive an international payment, you need three information:

  • Bank Name: That’s the name of the bank
  • SWIFT/BIC Code: That’s a unique code of the bank known internationally
  • IBAN: That’s a unique account number (like RIB in Morocco)

These will be delivered to you by your bank. But let’s get a little technical as things aren’t easy as they sound.

If your clients are in the USA or Canada, to my knowledge (last updated in early 2019), there is no Moroccan bank that can do direct transfers with banks from the USA or Canada. They can only deal with Europe so far.

What does this mean? Before receiving your payment, it will transit from another bank in Europe. And sometimes, not your bank. Why is this? Opening a branch in Europe is expensive, so Moroccan banks tie relationships with other banks to avoid opening a branch there. For CFG Bank, they are using BMCE Bank in France. For CIH Bank, they are using BNP Bank in France, etc. These information will be given to you by your bank alongside the SWIFT/BIC Code and the IBAN. And you should communicate it to your clients.

So why I’m telling you this? For two reasons:

  1. If your clients are in the US and Canada. You need to make sure to communicate this to them. They need to understand that even if you’re based in Morocco, your payment need to go through another bank in Europe (usually France) before hitting your account. Explain that it’s not a tax/money evasion, it’s just a third party bank to cover international wire transfers.
  2. Expect delays. Given your money will pass through two banks, expect it to take a little bit longer to reach your account. Usually, international transfers should take around 48 hours. But from my experience, it’s usually 72 hours and up.

4 – International payments fees

Banks love fees. Users hate fees. And the show goes on.

Banks like to keep this in a gray area. But keep looking into your bank’s pricing details, they are obliged to put it somewhere. For CFG bank, the pricing details are easily accessed from here page 17 (in case that link is broken, you can find the new link in their page for companies).

The prices for international transfers are 0,050% with a minimum of 14€ + SWIFT processing fees of 7€ + a change commission taken by Bank Al Maghrib.

These fees, except the change commission, can be paid either by the sender (your client) or the receiver (you).

That’s it for banking in Morocco. I hope this post was helpful for you. More posts talking working remotely and legally from Morocco can be found in our Legal category.

Information like this and many more are available in our e-book. You can get a free chapter today!

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