Sending money by transferring from the USA to Dubai, or any other Emirate of the United Arab Emirates, poses no problems at all. The UAE is, after all, a US ally and trade partner; it most certainly isn’t Syria or Iran, (both currently severely hampered by US trade restrictions) despite its geographical proximity to both of these countries.
In addition, Dubai, which does not rely on oil wealth to generate its income, long ago decided that a key part of its forward economic strategy was that Dubai should be recognised as the banking and financial business hub for the entire Middle East and North African region. That requires safe, transparent and well-regulated banks and financial institutions so that anyone dealing with them, or doing business through them can have the full confidence that their funds and transactions are secure.
Bank to Bank
Obviously, the safest way to shift money from point A in the US to point B in Dubai, UAE is to let your bank do it for you. In US cities and big towns, this should not prove to be any great problem, but, say, you and your forebears have been banking with the Citizens Bank in Union MS since before WW2, it might be a different story.
Small rural US banks probably don’t get too many requests to transfer funds in unfamiliar currencies to places that they also have little idea of. It might make them just a touch nervous. But even if they aren’t able to do it themselves (and the Citizens Bank website doesn’t give any indications that it facilitates International Transfers), they should be able to refer you to a nearby branch of a larger bank which will perform this service for you.
There are a few things (apart from the money) that you will need and it will save you time if you arrive at the sending bank with all of these to hand. You’ll need proof of your own identity and physical address; you’ll need the full name and physical address of the recipient of the funds; you’ll need the International Bank Account Number of the account the funds are going to. You’ll also need the name and physical address of the bank the funds are going to (right down to the actual branch which is the primary location of the account) and finally the Swift code for the bank.
So then, eight boxes to be ticked for a successful, trouble-free transfer. We’ll talk about each of these in a little more detail and for the last two, we need to get just a little more technical, but I promise to keep it to the minimum. It’s all so that your transfer can proceed in safety, with the least fuss and stress to you, the sender.
For proof of ID, most folks will opt for their US passports, passport cards or a valid US driver’s license (with photo ID and not less than 8 years old). Your Social Security Cards will also be accepted, as will your original birth certificates. Department of Defense ID cards will also do fine. That’s not all the cards and documents you can use to establish proof of identity, but one of these will be the most likely first choice. To establish proof of address, an official letter addressed to you at your stated address will usually suffice – something like an electricity, or water utilities bill.
The full name of the recipient of the funds shouldn’t be a major problem, but just check that it is spelled correctly. Addresses in the UAE all contain a PO Box number, as there is no physical delivery of mail. It is either personally collected from a rented PO Box at a local branch of the UAE Postal Service (called Emirates Post) or collected on your behalf by a representative of your employer from the company’s PO Box and then delivered to an internal mail box for you. However, it is very important that you give a physical residential address for the recipient as well as the PO Box. No physical address sets off all kinds of alarm bells. You will need to do the same for the bank – full name, branch and physical address.
OK – that’s six of the eight items on the check list dealt with. Now the final two, slightly technical ones I promised – IBAN and SWIFT code. IBAN stands for International Bank Account Number – a 23 character unique identifier of the country, bank, branch and account. Strangely, the USA is one country that has not signed up to this convention, but US banks should all be familiar with it.
An IBAN looks like this: AE98 0210 0000 0XXX XXXX XXX. AE identifies the country as the United Arab Emirates; the number 98 does the same; the 021 identifies the bank – in this case Citibank, UAE; the 6 zeros convey information about specific branches and the final 10 digits in the string are the account number. Do check this very carefully and several times.
A SWIFT code stands for Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications; it’s sometimes also referred to as a BIC – or Bank Identifier Code. It really helps to identify the receiving bank – all part of the electronic trail that makes sure the money gets to the right place and the right person. You can actually locate these codes yourself by using the swift.com website. Try it out – you just need to know the name of the bank and the city it’s located in: start with Mushreq Bank, Dubai. All legitimate banks, even if the name is unfamiliar are registered and their SWIFT codes are locatable via this useful site.
So there you have it – ID, addresses, SWIFT and IBAN and you’re good to go.
Internationally known money transfer specialists
So why, you may ask, if the banks are safe and certain, would I entrust transfer of my money to anyone else? Banks and specialist fund-transfer companies are businesses. They charge you for moving your money from point A to point B. They also set exchange rates – that is, they sell you UAE Dirhams at a price that is profitable for them. Also, the receiving bank in the UAE will charge you for their part in the business.
Household names in the US, like Western Union or Wells Fargo have specialised in the transfer of money from one country to another for a long while. Because it’s their core business, they may choose to offer lower transfer fees and better exchange rates – all of which save you, the customer, money. It doesn’t hurt to shop around and see who will give you the best deal. And you’ll still need to have those 8 items dealt with above on hand, no matter who you chose to go with.
Other web-based money exchange and transfer services
In this keen and competitive business world, there are new players offering all manner of deals to entice new custom. Amongst the more interesting is the ability to get cost quotes from the exchange-dealer, all online.
From the site of the well-known XE.com, you ask for a quote on the cost of transferring AED XXX to a Dubai account. This will be given to you in $US. If you like what you see, you go ahead and provide all the details of the recipient, in exactly the same way as you would via a bank transfer.
Once you confirm this transaction, the agreed exchange rate is locked in. In other words, if it were to go higher, XE can’t charge you more, but similarly, if it were to move in your favour, you can’t go back to XE and ask for a better deal. You then wire the amount you are to pay to XE by the any of the methods detailed on the site and XE completes the UAE side of the transaction for you.
It sounds very convenient and has the potential to save you even more than either of the first two transfer methods detailed, but obviously, you need to set up a verified account with XE before any of the steps above can proceed.
Safe? I haven’t seen or heard any reason to believe otherwise. XE is a legitimate business and stands to gain far more from a large cohort of happy and satisfied customers than it does by regularly losing people’s money for them. In addition to XE, there are plenty of other equally well known exchange-rate websites now diversifying into the business of actually doing the funds transfers for the people who previously just looked to them for information.
Finally, there’s no shortage of online companies and entrepreneurs ready, willing and able to move your money for you. Safe? As with all money matters, “caveat emptor / buyer beware”. Go carefully and look for evidence of feedback from satisfied customers, but even then scammers have ways of creating references out of nothing. Be safe!