A Guide on the Cheapest Way to Send Money to the UAE

A Guide on the Cheapest Way to Send Money to the UAE

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If you’re struggling to find the best way to transfer money into the UAE, this guide helps you narrow down your choices to only those with the best exchange rates and lowest transfer fees.

After all, the difference in getting AED9,500 and AED10,00 in your account for the same amount of currency comes down to those two factors.

Having said that, this guide shows you the popular money transfer service providers available online and a comparison of their transfer fees and exchange rates, so you can get the most AED into your account as possible.

Before we jump in, you can also check Monito for the latest exchange rates and transfer fees for all the popular money transfer service providers.

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Good to Know

Depending on which country you come from, you may have to file an annual report with your government if you’re bank account in a foreign country goes over a certain limit.

Americans have to file what is called a FinCEN form 114 when they do their taxes each year if they had the equivalent of US$10,000 or more in their UAE bank account at any time during the previous year.

If not, the IRS could penalize them with fines.

Having said that, if your government enforces the same laws, follow them to a T, or you could face hefty penalties or worse.

What to Watch Out for When Sending Money to UAE

You have plenty of options when sending money to the UAE, but they all don’t yield the same amount on the receiving end. To get the highest amount, you have to look at three factors:

  • transfer fees
  • exchange rates
  • transfer speeds

Starting with transfer fees, let’s cover each one in more detail.

Transfer Fees

Transfer fees are what money transfer service providers charge to transfer your money from a bank account outside the UAE to a bank account inside the country.

These transfer fees can be hidden or disclosed upfront, but they usually come in three forms:

  • fixed fees
  • percentage fees
  • combination fees

We’ll cover each one in the sections that follow.

Fixed Fees

Fixed fees are a type of fee that everyone must pay when sending money from one bank to another, especially internationally.

The good thing about fixed fees is that they never change. So, you can send a few hundred bucks or tens of thousands of dollars into the UAE, and you pay the same fee no matter what.

This means that for large transfers, you should pick a money transfer service provider who charges fixed fees.

If you’re originally from the U.S. and have an account with Bank of America, you pay only US$45 to send money to the UAE, making them one of the most cost effective options for sending large sums.

But there are other fees you should be aware of, and we’ll look at one of them next.

Percentage Fees

Percentage fees work as the name suggests; banks charge a percentage of your total transfer amount.

That means that when you send a few thousand dollars or less to the UAE, you should find a money transfer service provider that uses this fee structure.

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Wise uses this type of fee structure for international transfers, and that’s why they are sometimes the best choice for expats. I say sometimes because low fees doesn’t always equal more AED in your bank account.

Combination Fees

Money transfer service providers who charge combination fees include both fixed and percentage fees in their payment structures.

PayPal, Western Union, and some banks charge combination fees, which means you should be weary about using these services unless you have no other choice or it’s an emergency.

Now that I’ve covered all the fees you’ll come across when sending money to the UAE, we can move onto another important point – exchange rates.

Exchange Rates

Exchange rates are how much banks are willing to buy and sell a specific currency, and you objective when sending money to the UAE is to get the best exchange rate possible.

You can use the exchange rate tool on XE.com to check the mid-market rates and what the money transfer service provider is willing to give you.

Aim for the service provider who offers the closest rates to XE’s mid-market rates to ensure you land the most AED in your bank account.

But remember, exchange rates are just one part of the equation. Fees are just as important. So, it makes sense to pick the service provider who offers the best exchange rates and the lowest fees.

With that covered, let’s look at transfer speeds.

Transfer Speeds

The final thing you have to consider before sending money to the UAE is how quickly you’re going to need your cash.

If you’re in a financial bind or need funds to cover a medical emergency, you obviously want to go with a money transfer service provider that’s going to deliver your money in a matter of minutes.

However, if you have time to spare, or you just need to send money to the UAE to cover your general living expenses each month, then you can schedule transfers and not worry about how quickly they arrive.

In general, banks tend to be slower for international transfers, whereas online money transfer service providers like Wise and XendPay are faster.

Now that the above points have been cleared up, let’s look at your money transfer options.

Money Transfer Service Options

To maximize how much AED you get in your receiving bank account, pick a money transfer service provider that offers the best exchange rates and lowest fees.

In the sections below, I cover the most popular methods for expats.

Wise

As far as getting the most AED in your receiving bank account Wise comes in first place, just above XendPay.

On a US$1,000 transfer to the UAE, Wise gives you mid-market rates and the following transfer fees on top of its US$56.33 percentage fee:

  • bank debit — US$15.97 fee
  • wire transfer — US$4.14 fee

In the end, you wind up with AED3,637.53 in your UAE bank account if you choose Wise’s cheapest transfer fee – the wire transfer method.

Check out our in-depth review of Wise to find out more about its services and discover how it can save you money on your next international transfer.

XendPay

XendPay sits just under Wise for most affordable transfers to the UAE, especially on transfers of US$10,000 or less.

xendpay

XendPay may forgo mid-market rates, but they do offer “free” transfers on the first US$2,275 you send into your bank account in the UAE.

After that, it charges anywhere from 0.41 percent to 1.5 percent in transfer fees and takes 2 percent to 3 percent of the mid-market rates in exchange fees.

Having said all that, if you transfer US$1,000 to a bank account in the UAE, you walk away with AED3,636 in your bank account.

Bank Transfers

Bank transfers are a cost effective way to send large sums of money – say, US$10,000 or more – from your home country bank account into a bank account in the UAE.

For Citibank account holders, this is the most affordable option, as it only charges US$25 per international transfer. For Citigold or Citi Priority account holders, you pay even less – US$17.50. Moreover, Citigold Private Clients don’t pay any transfer fees.

However, Citibank takes a cut of the exchange rates, usually about 0.01 percent to 0.5 percent. So, you won’t be getting the mid-market rates found on Wise, but the cheaper transfer fees make them more cost effective.

Considering all this, Citibank lands you AED3,580.68 on a US$1,000 transfer and AED36,633.18 on a US$10,000 transfer.

Citibank, then, is more costly for US$1,000 transfers but less costly for US$10,000 transfers into the UAE.

Western Union

Western Union is one of the longest-running money transfer service providers available in-person and online. And although they may be quick, they aren’t the cheapest when it comes to transferring money into the UAE.

western union

Western Union takes 2.5 percent of the mid-market exchange rates as an exchange rate fee. On top of that, they charge US$0.99 in transfer fees.

It doesn’t sound like much, but the numbers don’t lie. Because of its high exchange rate fees, Western Union only gives you AED3,623.50 on a US$1,000 transfer into the country.

Also, you can only transfer up to US$50,000 to the UAE using Western Union, so if you need money for a down payment on a condo, you’re best bet is to use a bank transfer.

Xoom (PayPal)

PayPal’s Xoom is a speedy choice for sending money into the UAE, but that speed comes at a cost.

paypal-logo

Xoom charges a debit or credit card fee of US$20.49 on a US$1,000 transfer. For a transfer of the same amount using PayPal or a bank debit, you pay a US$4.99 transfer fee.

As for exchange rate fees, Xoom charges 2 percent to 4 percent of the mid-market rates, although it doesn’t disclose the exact amount.

Considering all of that, if you send US$1,000 to the UAE using Xoom you get AED3,524.25 on the receiving end, making them the most expensive option on this list.

Additionally, you can only send a maximum amount of AED10,569 (roughly US$3,000) into the UAE using Xoom.

ATM Withdrawals

You can use your ATM card to withdraw cash at mostly every ATM in the UAE, and luckily, ATMs can be found all throughout the country.

ATM fees in the UAE vary from machine to machine, but in general you can expect to pay AED99 for international withdrawals. But then there’s the fee that your home country bank charges too, so be mindful of that.

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To avoid ATM fees, you can get a bank account at TD Bank or Charles Schwab in the U.S. or Canada, or Metro Bank in the U.K. These banks reimburse for all international ATM fees.

As for daily withdrawal limits, banks in the UAE cap off the limit at AED5,000 per day.

Cryptocurrencies

Cryptocurrencies are legal in the UAE The country has, in fact, been developing its own digital asset called EmCash.

However, finding a cryptocurrency machine in the UAE is challenging. At the time of this writing, there is only one cryptocurrency machine located in Dubai.

The Best Method to Send Money To the UAE

Wise is your best choice when sending US$1,000 to the UAE. However, once you get into the tens of thousands of dollars, bank transfers get you more AED on the receiving end.

MethodSpeedUS$1,000US$10,000
XendPay1 to 3 DaysAED3,636AED36,363
Wise1 to 3 DaysAED3,637.53AED36,464.94
Xoom1 DayAED3,524.25NA
Citibank2 to 3 DaysAED3,580.68AED36,633.18
Western Union1 to 4 DaysAED3,623.50AED36,235

Since these are general guidelines, let’s look at some country-specific recommendations for sending money to the UAE.

Country-Specific Recommendations

When sending money to the UAE from the U.S., U.K, or Canada, here are your best choices.

United States

Wise beats out all the other money transfer service providers when it comes to sending money from the U.S. to the UAE, especially if that transfer amount is under US$10,000.

For larger transfers, then Citibank is the best method for American expats. Its US$25 international transfer fee makes them one of the most affordable options for large international transfers into the UAE.

United Kingdom

Wise is an affordable option for U.K. expats who need to send money in the UAE, as they offer the largest amounts on the receiving end.

For transfers of GBP10,000 or more, check out Lloyds Bank. It charges just GBP9.50 for international money transfers from the U.K. to the UAE.

Canada

For Canadian, Wise comes in as the most affordable way to send money to the UAE as long as that amount remains lower than CAD10,000.

For anything over that amount, transferring through RBC Royal Bank as they only charge CAD10 for international money transfers.

Now, on to You

That wraps up our guide on how the cheapest way to send money to the UAE.

You should be well-equipped with the info you need need to make the best choice in your situation, whether for transferring a few hundred bucks, a few thousand dollars, or tens of thousands of dollars into the UAE.

And whatever you do, don’t forget to check Monito before committing to an online money transfer service provider. They update their website every day with the latest exchange rates and transfer fees for all the popular service providers.

John Wolcott is the global editor for ExpatDen. He's a New Jersey native who now lives in Bangkok with his wife and two daughters.