With expats forming a majority of the UAE’s population, it’s little wonder the country offers numerous methods for people to send money back home. And while transferring money is not rocket science, it pays to do your research and be aware of all the facts.

From banks to online brokerages, we look at the most popular ways to remit your hard-earned cash.

Compare costs & make every dirham count

The most common ways to send money from the UAE are via bank transfers, exchange houses and online brokerages, each of which has different fees and rates.

Let’s have a look at the costs for sending money from the UAE to India or the Philippines, two of the top three countries receiving money from the UAE today, according to the World Bank.

Mode of transfer UAE to India – Fees per transaction UAE to Philippines – Fees per transaction
Exchange houses AED 15 – AED 20 AED 5 – AED 25
Bank transfers AED 0 – AED 50 AED 0 – AED 50
 Western Union* $4 – $12 $0 – $10
 Online brokerages Depends on exchange rate Depends on exchange rate

* Western Union rates depend on the amount transferred, whether you’re transferring cash or sending money online, and how each recipient wants to receive the funds

[Related: Transferring or receiving funds? Anticipate these bumps]

Banking on it

Some banks offer free money transfers to certain countries: Emirates NBD’s DirectRemit allows free transfers from the UAE to India and the Philippines, for example. Others have special services at cheap rates. RAKBANK’s RAKMoneyTransfer allows account holders to send money to India at rates starting from as little as AED 5 and to the Philippines for AED 20. Similar services are offered by some other lenders, such as ADCB.

However, to use banks to make your transfers, you must be an account holder first. And while they may offer free remittances, it’s not standard, so make sure you read the fine print beforehand. Exchange rates between banks and other money transfer services also vary, but this can work to your advantage as long as you calculate the overall costs, including transaction rates.

Going the money exchange route

Perhaps the most popular way for people in the UAE to send money home is through money exchanges, such as UAE Exchange, Al Ansari Exchange, and many others.

While anyone with a valid ID can use these services, there is usually a flat fee per transaction. If you’re sending money to India or the Philippines, these will range from AED 5 to AED 25; for other countries, the costs may be higher.

It’s better to transfer larger amounts in one go, rather than small amounts multiple times, and since exchange rates vary between firms, take time to shop around and do the math.

Brokering the best deal

Online brokerages are ideal when you’re sending large amounts of money. Buying and selling currencies in high volumes – a minimum amount is often set – allows them to absorb the cost, meaning it’s not passed on to you, the customer.

They also allow you to choose to transfer money when a particular exchange rate is favorable.

So whether it’s the bank, money exchange or online brokerage, make sure it’s the right option for you and your money.

[Related: Why do expats remit money?]