According to the UAE Central Bank, nearly 75% of everyone sending money  from the UAE uses a money exchange company with the rest using a bank. A big reason for this could also be the fact that many blue-collared workers in the country do not have access to traditional banking services.

Ultimately, when you choose from among the most common money transfer services in the UAE, the best deal is no doubt the one that allows the recipient to receive the most.

The World Bank has a remittance prices comparison calculator to compare both fees and exchange rate margins on USD 200 and USD 500 in all the most popular remittance ‘corridors’ in the world and from all exchange houses.

For the UAE, that means comparisons of transfers to 12 countries – India, Pakistan, Egypt, Philippines, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Sudan, South Sudan, Jordan, Indonesia and Yemen.

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

Now the best way to compare the banks, the exchange houses and the online brokers is to build a quick excel table and compare those three criteria for each of them

Admin Fees Exchange Rate Time to Recipient
Exchange House A
Bank A
Bank B
Online broker A

[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, you must be an account holder to transfer money through a bank. 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.  Do not forget to negotiate the rate with your bank if you are transferring a big amount.  Many banks do offer free transfers but watch out for the rates they are offering and compare them to others.

Going the money exchange route

Perhaps the most popular way for people in the UAE to send money home is through money exchanges.

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, fees 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.

Here is a list of exchange houses you can check for their online rate before going out there:

Sending money through your bank credit card

Many banks in the UAE also offer free international money transfer facilities on credit cards. The way this is usually advertised is that you can send money back home  without having to wait for your salary to arrive. There are no transfer processing fees, and no cash advance fees applicable. Maximum remittance amounts may be limited to AED 7,500 to AED 10,000 per billing cycle. This could be lower or higher depending on which credit card you’ve signed up for and what limit you’ve been assigned.

Transferwise allows you to use your credit card or debit card to transfer fund and their fees include Debit/Credit card usage fee and their admin fee so make sure you actually total all the costs of the different transfer channels before choosing one

What to watch out for: While this service is good to use if you ever to need to send cash back home urgently and you’re short of it in your bank account, it is important to keep in mind that if the total balance due is not paid in full every month, you will be charged a hefty interest.

Compare, compare, compare

Make sure you do your homework before you pick a place.  Now at some point, if it is a regular transfer, you may look at whether any of those channels have a loyalty program or offer more than just remittance to decide who you want to stick.

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?]