Once you’ve started working in Dubai, you’ll want to send your hard-earned dirhams home.
You’ll first want information on how the dirham stacks up to the US dollar. It is good to know that the United Arab Emirates dirham is pegged to the dollar, so that you don’t have to worry about currency fluctuations.
One US dollar equals roughly 3.68 UAE dirhams, a rate that has held steady for the past fifteen years! The amount of cold hard cash (dirhams) that one is allowed to leave the United Arab Emirates with is 100,000 AED – to avoid suspicion of money laundering.
Where you’ll find your money siphoned off is through transfer fees charged by institutions on both ends, and through any other additional “back-end” charges that may be not explicitly stated.
For that reason, check with your bank in the USA regarding how much it charges to accept international money transfers. Then find an exchange centre or bank in the UAE that holds a dirham to dollar exchange rate that is as close as possible to 3.68, and charges one flat rate to transfer money.
Using Online Banking to Transfer Money
When you start working in Dubai, you’ll need to set up a local bank account in order to have your salary deposited. Salaries are paid once a month in Dubai (unlike in North America, where salaries are paid twice a month). To set up a bank account you’ll need
- Your passport
- A residency visa (stamped in the passport)
- A no-objection letter from your employer (who will generally be your sponsor)
- If you’ve received your Emirates ID (EID), then bring that too
UAE Banks that offer online international money transfers include HSBC, Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank (ADCB), Citibank, and Emirates NBD. These banks require you to first set up an account in person. Then, you use your account number to create an online banking account.
Some banks, such as ADCB, also have a mobile application that allows you to transfer money using your smart phone.
Once you’ve got an online bank account, you set up a beneficiary or payee. The payee can be yourself, using your destination account in the USA. You need to identify your bank’s name, your account number, and bank address in the US, as well as provide routing information.
The Dubai bank may ask for an IBAN number or SWIFT code to identify your US bank. You may find that SWIFT or IBAN is called something else in the United States, so check with your US bank that they have some sort of routing code, and keep it handy.
Once you’ve entered the payee details, there will be a short wait so that the Dubai bank can verify the authenticity of your American account. This process is in your best interest. You should receive a phone call from your Dubai bank to verify your payee or recipient account within a day or so.
After you’ve set yourself up as the beneficiary of your Dubai money transfers, you can begin to transfer money. Each time you transfer funds, a one-time security code will be sent to your mobile phone in Dubai so that you can enter it when prompted on the online banking website.
This security measure ensures that you are aware of the transaction and give permission for funds to be transferred.
The fees for online bank transfers are shared by both banks, at around 10 to 15 dollars per bank, per transaction. That means you pay around 30 dollars each time to transfer money.
With some banks, you can also choose that only one account (that of either the payer or payee) will pay the associated service charge. Because it is a flat rate, it makes more sense to send larger amounts, fewer times. Many Dubai banks offer incentives to transfer money online, such as a number of free transactions or reward points.
You’ll be issued a confirmation number once the transaction has taken place online. Keep this, and verify with your bank in the US that the money has come through. Give it a couple days, keeping in mind that weekends in the United States do not coincide with weekends in Dubai (Friday and Saturday).
Using a Money Exchange Centre in Dubai
There are a number of money exchange centres in Dubai. These exchanges perform remittances to US bank accounts, and to individuals at a recipient agent in the US. They generally conduct the money transfers through Western Union.
If you need to get money to someone in the US in a hurry, or you don’t have a Dubai bank account, an exchange will be useful.
Some well-known exchanges in Dubai include al Ansari Exchange, which charges a minimum of AED 45.00 to send money to the US, and al Ghurair Exchange. Both of these companies have outlets in Dubai Mall.
If using a money exchange to send funds to a bank account in the US, you’ll have to bring
- The name of the recipient (your name, if transferring to yourself)
- The full name of the bank in the USA
- The account number
- The routing code (for US bank accounts)
- The address of your particular branch, in the USA
- Your UAE resident’s ID (Emirates ID) presented to the exchange agent doing the transaction
It takes two to three working days to perform an exchange from an exchange centre to an American bank account. It is worthwhile to check if your particular bank in the US charges to receive the transfer.
Another option is to use Western Union to transfer funds directly to an individual in the US, who will be required to present their ID to get the funds. There is no wait time for this transaction – the funds are transferred immediately.
In my opinion, this option is good in case of emergency. I would prefer to have a secure exchange directly to my bank account.
Overall, I’ve found the most efficient way to send money is via online transfer set up through my bank account in Dubai. It may be more expensive than hunting down the cheapest exchange centre, but the money arrives promptly and I’ve never lost a transaction.