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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 11 December 2018

How FAB's four-day closure will affect UAE customers

With the bank's branches closed and mobile and online services unavailable during the stoppage, consumers must be prepared

First Abu Dhabi Bank will close many of its services to customers from 1pm on November 29 until 8am on December 4. Courtesy FAB
First Abu Dhabi Bank will close many of its services to customers from 1pm on November 29 until 8am on December 4. Courtesy FAB

First Abu Dhabi Bank (FAB) customers must “plan ahead” to prepare for the financial institution’s four-day closure over the National Day weekend, according to experts.

FAB told The National the shutdown from 1pm on Thursday, November 29 to the end of Monday, December 3 will give the bank, formed by the merge of First Gulf Bank and National Bank of Abu Dhabi in April last year – time to integrate the two banks’ IT systems.

"We have been gradually integrating our legacy banks’ processes, policies and governance structures to form a unified brand," an FAB spokesperson says. "The unification of our legacy IT systems will complete our integration journey and enable us to provide harmonised products and services to customers."

The bank says it chose to carry out the work over a weekend and public holiday, "when most businesses will be closed, to ensure minimum disruption to customers".

FAB, which has assets in excess of Dh732 billion - making it the UAE’s biggest bank and the second-largest in the Middle East – urged customers wanting to make payments such as bills or remittances during the closure to complete transactions by midnight November 28. Mobile and online services will be available until then, while bank branches will be open until 1pm on Thursday, 29. All services will have resumed by 8am on Tuesday, December 4.

Keren Bobker, a consumer columnist for The National, says customers must plan ahead "as four days without a banking service could cause real problems".

“I recommend withdrawing cash and also making sure you have no cheques expected to be paid in or standing orders due that could be an issue if payment is delayed," she adds.

Ambareen Musa, chief executive and founder of financial comparison site Souqalmal.com, says customers should consider the closure as “an extended bank holiday".

“While all branches and over-the-counter services will be unavailable during the four-day period, customers will still retain access to the funds in their bank accounts via debit and credit cards.”

Jonathan Rawling, chief financial officer of the financial comparison website yallacompare, also advises customers to withdraw enough cash before the closure rather than depend on the cut off dates.

“There will be long queues in the bank's branches and their cash machines. Any international transfers should also be scheduled three to four business days prior to November 30,” he says. “Customers should depend on secondary credit or debit cards that they may have for unplanned purchases and expenses."

Here we explain how the bank closure will affect FAB customers:

What services will be unavailable during the closure?

All regular account services will be unavailable. This includes opening and closing your accounts, online and mobile banking and international and domestic fund transfers. Inward and outward remittances will also be unavailable and customers will be unable to buy or sell foreign currencies, set up or amend standing orders and direct debits, access statements or apply for or settle a loan. The bank’s customer contact centre will also be available around the clock.

Anything else?

Other services such as new cheque book requests, balance confirmation letters, letters of credit, stop-payment requests, statement requests, account maintenance requests and new product/loan applications will be unavailable until 8am on December 4.

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What happens to regular payments due during this period?

All incoming and outgoing payments, cheques, remittances and standing orders will be processed after the integration work has been completed. “If you have an automatic payment to a credit card to pay off a balance in full, any late payment could result in added interest and significant fees,” warns Ms Bobker.

To avoid late payment charges on a credit card payment or mortgage to another bank, or utility bill, for example, the bank recommends setting up the payment before the closure or speaking to the financial institution involved to alert them of the issue. It is also wise to make sure you have enough cash in your account to meet the early or later payment. FAB says its credit card holders whose monthly payment is due during the stoppage will not incur any late payment penalties.

Can I still check my statement online?

No, your statement will be unavailable. Ms Musa advises logging on to your account ahead of the shutdown to check/download your up-to-date account, credit card and loan statements.

Can I still use my cards and the ATMs?

Yes, customers can still head to the shops or online to make purchases on their debit and credit cards. They can also withdraw cash from an ATM but they cannot deposit cheques or cash. Most FAB-branded ATMS will work, but customers can access their cash from any other ATM. The Dh2 charged for using another bank’s ATM will only be refunded to any customers that hold e-dirham and Ratabi pre-paid cards.

Will my cards stop working at any point?

Yes, there will be temporary outage for a few hours early on Monday, December 3. Those travelling during that period should be aware of time-zone changes and factor that into their plans. Also, services such as changing your pin or passcode, activating your credit card, changing your credit card limits or credit card loan instalments will have to wait until after the closure.

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Is there a limit on how much cash I can withdraw on my debit card?

Yes, daily limits will apply for debit cards. The maximum standard debit customers can withdraw is Dh8,000 a day. Those holding cards such as Platinum or Etihad Platinum can withdraw up to Dh15,000 a day and World Elite cardholders can withdraw up to Dh20,000 a day. Remember, you will not receive any SMS alerts for any withdrawals you make during the systems integration and you will not be able to view your existing or remaining balances - so keep track of your spending. Credit card customers can spend or withdraw as normal.

Is there a limit on how much I can spend?

Yes. World Elite and Platinum cards can spend up to Dh25,000, while standard cards can spend up to Dh15,000 per day. Credit card expenditure depends on your limits.

Will I still need my 3D secure password for credit card payments?

No, these will be discontinued. Instead, whenever you make a transaction, a One Time Password authentication will be sent to your mobile or the e-mail address you registered with the bank.

What happens if a credit or debit card is stolen?

“Card-blocking services will remain available throughout systems integration,” a FAB spokesperson says. “If customers suspect that they have been a victim of fraud, they can block their card by calling our Customer Contact Centre 24/7 on 600 525 500.”

What happens if a customer receives a remittance?

You cannot send any money during the closure and any inward remittances sent to you during the integration period will have the current value date and forex rate of December 4 applied.

Will accounts change after the integration?

Yes, some account holders will have a new customer ID, account numbers and there may be a change to how their name is shown on their account. A FAB spokesperson says all customers will receive a new IBAN number.

“Standing orders and regular payments will not be impacted by the change of IBAN, with these payments automatically re-routed after the change takes place,” says the spokesperson. “In the meantime, customers can continue to bank as normal using their existing account details.”

What about Elite or private banking customers - can they still access services?

All Elite centres will be closed during the integration, however, private banking clients can access Switzerland and London booking centres to continue transactions. Redemption of investment positions will also be available to private and Elite clients on December 3 via their investment manager.

How will business banking be affected?

Most banking services will be temporarily unavailable. This includes trade and working capital services, online and mobile banking, stop payment requests, internal and external remittances. As with retail customers, any loan or credit card payments, along with direct debits and standing orders, will be processed after the suspension on December 4. The bank advises companies looking to make payments outside the country to set-up payment instructions before November 28. Suppliers and employees should be alerted that payments might be delayed.

Will salaries be delayed?

"Salary payment requests received within normal cut-off times before the systems integration period will be processed and credited to the respective accounts as usual," an FAB spokesperson says. Salary payments received during the closure will be processed from December 4 onwards. "To avoid any inconvenience to employees we have asked employers to, if necessary, make alternative arrangements, including a recommendation that all salaries for the month of November are paid by November 28."

Will about investment services?

All investment and asset products will be unavailable for standard account holders. These include bonds and structured products, funds, global equities deposits and Bancassurance. The last time to make investments before the systems integration is 11am on November 29. Trade requests can be made via a relationship manager during the integration, however, the banks says it cannot guarantee this will happen.