15 September 2023

How to Send Money to the UAE

As-salaam 'alykum! With one of the world's most inclusive, innovative, and inspiring economies, the UAE is a world-leading business hub. Find out how to send, receive, and exchange business payments in the Emirates.
How to Send Money to the UAE

If you’re looking to expand business operations into the Middle East, or set up a new business in Dubai, for example, you’ll likely need the ability to transfer money quickly from the UK to the UAE. You'll want to do it cost-effectively to keep as much of your precious profit as possible. That’s where we can help.

In this guide, we’ll talk you through your different options for sending money to the UAE for your business transactions, along with the potential cost implications and other helpful information. Let’s get you up to speed.


What methods of payment are available?

If you want to transfer from the UK to the UAE, you have various options for funding it. Most providers will accept corporate and personal credit cards, debit cards, bank transfers, direct debits, and e-wallet services like Apple and Google Pay. 
Consider additional fees (e.g., a cash advance fee) that your card issuer may charge if you use a credit card. You’ll need to factor this in when working out the overall cost. So, what is the best way to send money to the UAE? Let’s go over your options.

Bank transfer

You can ask your bank to transfer the funds you want to send. This is a popular choice for many individuals and businesses because it’s usually easy, comfortable, and convenient. But for those exact reasons, it can also be expensive. Here’s why:
  • Banks usually charge a fee to arrange and process money transfers 
  • Some banks may also charge a percentage of the total amount you’re transferring (as much as 3-4%).
  • Banks may use their own foreign exchange (FX) rates which could cost customers up to 5% more.
Because all banks are different, checking your business account's terms is essential to see your bank’s international transfer charges. If they charge a lot, consider an alternative.

Wire transfer

Wire transfer services are another option for transferring money to and from the UAE. As with other services, there are pros and cons to this type of transfer. For example:
  • You have a choice of how the money is received. Many services offer bank transfers, eWallet delivery, or cash pickup from a physical location.
  • If you want a faster transfer, you’ll probably pay significantly more.
  • These services often add a currency exchange rate markup, meaning the sender must pay more or the recipient receives less. Either way, the provider pockets a healthy profit.
  • Wire transfers can be less secure and more difficult to trace. Ensure that an independent body regulates your provider for greater peace of mind. The DFSA in Dubai regulates 3S Money.

Money transfer services

The UAE has a range of frameworks and systems for facilitating money transfers between 
domestic and international financial institutions:
  • It uses the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications (SWIFT) payment system to enable financial transfers to and from 200 countries worldwide. 
  • The UAE’s Central Bank has access to the Gulf Corporation Council’s Real-Time Gross Settlements system (GCC-RTGS), enabling instant money transfers between GCC states.
  • The Arab Regional Payments System (BUNA) enables central and commercial banks to send and receive cross-border payments through the Arab region. This multi-currency platform encourages financial integration to promote ease of trade and investments across the region.
  • Through Project Aber, the Central Bank of the UAE (CBUAE) is looking to use technology to make cross-border payments with its closest neighbours more efficiently. While not yet operational, Project Aber would involve the Saudi Central Bank (SAMA) and the CBUAE in developing a common digital currency.
  • In 2020, the UAE and Israel signed an agreement to allow direct SWIFT payments between the two nations.

Online payment platforms

Online banks or Electronic Money Institutions (EMIs) offer many of the same financial products and services as traditional banks, but they don’t have physical branches. EMIs like 3S Money are quickly becoming the service of choice for money transfers. This is especially true for businesses that operate internationally. Here are a few reasons why:
  • Savings: EMIs offer lower fees and more competitive FX rates than traditional brick-and-mortar banks.
  • Simplicity: All your business transactions are accessible in one easy-to-use platform.
  • Scale: Your business can grow quicker with greater access to multiple countries and currencies.
International businesses are turning to EMIs for alternative banking solutions because they enable payments in different countries without holding local bank accounts.


Cash pick-up 

Some transfer providers offer the option to pick up physical cash at one of their locations near your recipient. 
This service is often an option provided by international transfer specialists, so the same pros and cons apply. It's straightforward, and the cash can often be available in minutes, depending on the opening hours of the physical location.  
However, with this option, business owners face the risk of losing out to significant markups on currency conversion. This solution is reasonable for occasional transfers but problematic and costly for regular payments. 

Digital wallets

A digital or mobile wallet is another option for sending and receiving cross-border payments to and from the UAE.
PayPal was one of the first digital wallets and is still the world's most widely used. It’s a popular personal (peer-to-peer) transfer tool, but for business transactions can be expensive. There are no set-up fees, but the standard charge is 5.4% + around $0.30 per transaction. There are also hefty currency conversion charges to be aware of.
There are many other digital and mobile wallets (Payconiq, for example). Which works best for your business will depend on location and specific needs.

What currencies are supported?

The UAE uses the Dirham as its official currency and has the AED international code. 

Before 1966, the UAE used the Gulf Rupee, which was tied in value to the Indian Rupee. When the Indian Rupee was devalued, some Emirates used the Qatar and Dubai Riyal, while Abu Dhabi used the Bahraini Riyal. In 1973, all the Emirates adopted the Dirham and have used a single currency ever since.

You can make transfers from the UAE in many different currencies however, it’s always recommended to send (and request) transfers in the local destination currency. This helps both you and your recipient save money.

The currencies available will depend on your provider, but 3S Money offers 65+ currencies (with FX rates up to five times lower than traditional banks).


Currencies Receiving from UAE




Currencies Sending from UAE




Factors to consider when sending money to the UAE

There are several factors to be aware of when making business transactions to the UAE. Let’s delve into these.

Fees and charges

So, how much does transferring money to the UAE cost? Well, international transfers via traditional banks can be expensive. Let’s look in more detail at those different charges. The following costs and fees are to be expected when making international transfers to the UAE:
  • Outgoing transfer fee: You’ll most likely be charged a flat fee for sending an international transfer. For UAE banks, this can be up to AED 100 (approx. $27). 3S Money charges just $1 (or your local equivalent) per transfer, regardless of how much you send. 
  • Incoming transfer fee: A flat fee for receiving international payments can range from zero to 25 AED ($6-7 USD). 3S Money charges $0.00.
  • Initiation fee: Some banks might charge you a fee if you request the transfer over the phone or in person rather than online. Expect this to be around £20. 3S Money doesn’t charge initiation fees.
  • Commission: Banks might also charge a fee based on a percentage of your transfer amount. For UAE banks, this is currently around 3-4%. 3S Money charges just $1 per transfer (or your local equivalent) regardless of how much you send.

Speed of transfer

So, how long do transfers to and from the UAE take? The answer is: it depends. Many transfers to and from the UAE will take a few days. Generally speaking, how long depends on the type of transfer and the system(s) your provider uses.
  • Transfers via traditional banks tend to be the slowest. They often have a correspondent bank through which the money is sent, leading to longer processing times.
  • Transfers using the SWIFT network can take up to four working days to reach the recipient.
  • Wire transfers vary in speed, depending on the provider and product. Some providers offer cash pick-up or mobile wallet options where the money is available within minutes. Bank transfers typically arrive the next day.
  • Remember, if you send a payment over a weekend or public holiday, expect your money to take longer to reach its destination.
  • The federal government in the UAE has implemented a four-and-a-half-day working week. Standard working hours are 7.30 am - 3.30 pm on weekdays and 7.30 am - 12 pm on Fridays.

Religious and public holidays

The banking services in the UAE, Dubai, and other MENA regions can be impacted by religious holidays - particularly Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha - widely celebrated by Muslims in the region.
To allow employees to engage in religious activities and spend time with their families, banks may adjust their operating hours or close altogether. While ATMs and online banking services may still be available, customers should expect processing delays and limited access to certain services during these holidays.
Plan payments before any religious observance period to avoid delays or complications if possible.

Security and safety

With international payments comes many risks, so it’s important to make your payments safely and securely. Here are safety factors to consider when making international payments to and from the UAE:  
  • Beware of transfer scams.
  • Don’t send cash in the mail.
  • Always confirm you have the correct details (i.e address, recipient name, account number etc.)
  • Using a wire transfer or money transfer app is usually safer.

Transfer limits and regulations

There’s no limit to how much you can transfer. However, some providers cap the amount you can send in an individual transaction. So, you may have to complete multiple transfers if you want to transfer a large amount.
3S Money doesn’t impose transaction limits. Once approved for an International Business Account, you can easily transfer high-value payments to and from the UAE across 190+ countries and 65+ currencies.
In cases where your provider imposes a cap, look out for multiple transfer fees. If you send payments regularly in this way to pay supplier invoices, for example, the costs could mount up.
When transferring large amounts, there are a few things you should consider:
  • Some providers cap the amount you can send in a single transfer, so you may have to do several.
  • There may be a limit on the number of transfers you can make in a 30-day period.
  • Larger amounts can take longer to process, depending on the provider.
  • Your provider may enquire about large transfers. This is considered best practice and an essential part of how regulated institutions meet their obligations.

Benefits of opening a 3S Money account in UAE

The UAE’s unique geographical position makes reaching markets in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia easy. The financial infrastructure required to support and encourage international business is equally well-developed.
Abu Dhabi, the capital of the UAE, has recently emerged as a recognised centre for innovation in telecoms and IT. This digital expertise will only continue to help businesses thrive thanks to developing new ways to reach consumers and send and receive payments more efficiently. Opening up a 3S Money account in the UAE is easy and has many benefits for budding businesses. Some of those include:
  • Access to multi-currency accounts: 3S Money allows businesses to open multi-currency accounts. This means they can hold and manage funds in various currencies.
  • Easy cross-border Transactions: With a 3S Money account, businesses can often make cross-border transactions more efficiently and at competitive exchange rates.
  • More streamlined B2B payments: 3S Money may offer features like expense management, invoicing, and reporting tools designed to meet the specific needs of businesses and streamline B2B payments.

Overview and next steps

We’ve covered a lot in this article, so here are some tips and main takeaways to consider:
  • With a 3S Money International Business Account, you aren’t capped at how much you can transfer to and from the UAE (you can access 65+ currencies across 190+ countries.)
  • Even small delays to payments can be a big issue for small businesses, so plan to ensure your transfer arrives on time.
  • Avoid many small transfers where possible, as individual fees can add up.
  • Ensure that an independent body regulates the provider you use. 3S Money is licensed by the DFSA and uses safeguarding to protect 100% of your funds.

3S Money - the better bank account alternative in UAE

When running a business, you’ll want to keep costs to a minimum. That’s even more important when your operations are international.
Fortunately, alternative banking solutions (like 3S Money) are here to save you time and money when completing international transfers to countries like the UAE. 3S Money’s International Business Account offers global payment solutions for businesses looking to operate in multiple countries – all from one easy-to-use account.
Ready to start making and receiving payments to and from UAE? Get started today!


Meet the authors

Matthew Ivo


Matthew Ivo is the lead Content Manager with a strong background in crafting engaging finance-related articles. With extensive experience in the field, Matt’s writing brings clarity and valuable insights to complex financial topics, captivating readers with his expertise.


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