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Cash and ATMs in UAE & Dubai: Info you need for ATMs, fees, limits, exchange, cards

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The United Arab Emirates consists of seven “emirates” – each one more unique than the other. Endless skyscrapers and Dubai’s shopping compete with the culture and heritage of Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi. With vast desert landscapes and pristine beaches, the UAE offers a fusion of traditional Arabian hospitality and cutting-edge innovation. Understanding cash and ATMs in UAE – the Dirham, and acceptance of card or cash payments is crucial for any visitor. This guide will help ensure that you can explore the UAE with convenience, enjoying the opulent experiences and modern marvels it offers.

Will I need cash in the UAE, or may I use my card instead?

Most of the places accept cards. Travellers use their cards extensively; it’s estimated that between 70 and 80 % of transactions are made without cash. 

You’ll need cash for the following:
Public transport
Local bazaars and marketplaces
In many places, little purchases from street food vendors
Tips

Card usage is allowed for:
Local taxi – just check in advance if their machine is working.
Services for tailoring
Travel agencies
Neighbouring restaurants, some of which are sit-down
Luxurious hotels
Well-known theme parks
Local spas
Pre-paid taxi booking services (such as Careem, Uber, etc.)
Shopping at malls and branded establishments
Rental automobiles
Online booking for travel, lodging, and excursions.
Coffee cafes that are visually appealing
Elegant sit-down restaurants
Many low-cost hotels and hostels

Which payment methods are accepted? Are US dollars, euros, or pounds accepted in the UAE?

UAE will mainly accept its Dirham (AED or Dh). The denominations are Dh 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, and 1000.

In several locations, especially popular tourist spots, USD is widely accepted. However, local currency is preferred for all other uses.

Always pay in AED to ensure you get good exchange rate.

How to get the local currency in UAE / Dubai

There are three main ways to obtain cash in UAE / Dubai:

ATMs or currency exchange or money transfer & local pick-up

Where are the ATMs in the UAE / Dubai?

There are about 4,500 ATMs in the UAE. These are run by a few foreign banks and the top 15 banks. In the UAE / Dubai, major towns have ATMs, and smaller areas have a few (at most one or two) choices for obtaining cash. However, if you’re visiting far-off places like islands or deserts, don’t expect to find them.

ATMs are usually found at:
All big airports
Markets and town squares
The primary main streets in large towns
Retail centres like shopping malls and shopping streets
Bank branches
A few office complexes

This is where finding ATMs will be difficult:
Tiny airports on islands
Local bus stations
Secluded retreats and resorts
Places of worship

How can I find currency exchanges there?

Approved currency exchange locations: These are present in all well-known tourist destinations that carry currency exchange signage. See if they request documentation from you or to see their permission certificate. These show that the exchange centre is legal. UAE has a large selection of reliable currency exchangers. ATM Fee Saver mobile app and Web app has the list available.
Banks: Bank branches can easily exchange your money into dirham, especially if it is coming from currencies like US dollars, euros, pounds, Japanese yen, Thai Baht, Indian Rupee, and Singapore dollars. The amount you set aside for commissions on each transaction should be between 0.5% and 2%.
Hotels and airports: A wide range of currency exchange services are available at both large and small hotels and airports. The exchange rates aren’t great, though. Large hotels offer rates comparable to banks.
Internet platforms and smartphone apps: Some foreign exchange providers offer online and mobile platforms that let you make your currency exchange ahead of time online and pick up the money at a physical location in UAE / Dubai.

Pro tip:
Avoid exchanging cash at airports. The rates are not good.
Steer clear of dealing on the black market – You’ll likely have a bad experience.
Carry new notes with you. If the notes are dirty or damaged, you can be charged more.

Do ATMs and currency exchanges run around-the-clock in the UAE / Dubai?

Indeed, ATMs are frequently available 24×7. It shouldn’t be a problem to use them whenever you want, day or night, as many of them are standalone ATMs. For ATMs inside some bank branches, they’re probably open only between only from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Remember that Thursday and Sunday are UAE’s weekly holidays however, currency exchanges may sometimes work half days on Mondays or Saturdays (its super confusing, we know!).
Currency exchanges are normally open from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., except in airports. So, if you would want to exchange currencies and need to receive money in the UAE / Dubai, be mindful of the times.

Do ATMs in the UAE / Dubai accept foreign debit and cards? Do currency exchanges also?

Yes, in fact! ATMs in the UAE readily accept foreign credit and debit cards.
Authorised money changers typically accept debit and cards. But these are usually expensive transactions. Therefore, it’s best to avoid it and exchange it for cash.

Acceptable cards in the UAE / Dubai

ATMs in the UAE accept Visa, Mastercard, Cirrus, and Plus cards. A few ATMs may accept debit cards. The ATMs don’t usually accept American Express, JCB, UnionPay, Maestro, or RuPay.
Most people accept Visa and Mastercard for payment. The places where you can use your American Express card won’t be too many.
Currency exchangers like to swap hard cash. Visa and Mastercard are also accepted. Please be advised that there will be fees associated with using your card at a currency exchange.
Also see: Reasons why your card won’t work at foreign ATMs and solutions for them.

Are there ATMs in the UAE like in other nations?

Indeed, very much so. Modern UAE ATMs look and operate just like those in the US, UK, Europe, Australia, and India. Remember to take your card out of these ATMs after withdrawing cash, as some of them take your card in entirely.

Banks in the UAE with ATMs

The most popular ATMs in the UAE are:

Emirates NBD
Emirates Islamic Bank
ADCB
Mashreq Bank
ADIB
RAK Islamic Bank

The UAE / Dubai is home to ATMs from the following foreign banks:

HSBC
Citibank

Global ATM Alliance: This alliance of several banks allows its customers to withdraw money for free from any of its partner banks located abroad. Many US, UK, European, Australian, and Latin American banks, including Bank of America, Barclays, Deutsche Bank, and others, are members of the Global ATM Alliance. However, there isn’t a local bank in this network’s UAE section. Therefore, don’t rely on it.

What are ATMs in the UAE called?

The words “ATM” or the bank’s name are typically all that are displayed on an ATM.

UAE ATM’s PIN formats

ATMs in the UAE / Dubai usually accept 4-digit PINs. Some may accept longer ones.

When it comes to swiping, many businesses continue to use old technology that requires a magnetic stripe on the card in place of a chip and pin. So get a card that has that too.

Language used in the UAE / Dubai at ATMs and currency exchanges

Default: Arabic and English. Some ATMs can also support Urdu and Hindi. You can choose this at the beginning of the transaction.

If you cannot understand these languages, it’s fine. Use the camera feature of Google Translate to translate the selections on your phone in real time! Note: Because these translations are not always accurate, please take your time and finish the transaction without haste.

At currency exchange places, you can communicate in the two languages mentioned above.

Restrictions on withdrawals UAE and ATM fees in UAE

Withdrawal limit: Generally speaking, ATMs only permit withdrawals of Dh 5,000 per transaction. Some ATMs may not have a limit and allow you as much as your bank’s limit allows.

Regarding ATM fees, good news! In the UAE / Dubai, ATM fees range from Dh 0 to Dh 26.25. So some ATM brands don’t charge any fees at all!

Read here: All different types of ATM fees abroad

Find free ATMs, currency exchanges, and money transfers in the UAE / Dubai, use ATM Fee Saver.

Finding fee-free ATMs in the UAE / Dubai, currency exchange or money transfer places are easy when you download the ATM Fee Saver mobile app or use the web app. The app gives you the ATM Fees in the UAE and limitations on withdrawals for foreign cardholders. The app has a calculator to help you determine the exact expenses related to your withdrawals. It also provides navigation to the ATM of your choice and information for 50 countries, including the UAE / Dubai.

The better ways to avoid paying outrageous fees at ATMs and currency exchanges in the UAE

Use the free ATMs located across the country.
Download the ATM Fee Saver app to find ATMs that charge little or nothing at all.
When completing an ATM transaction, choose “Without Conversion” or “Decline Conversion.”
Consider getting fee-free cards from your country
For currency exchanges, avoid using no-fee exchange offices at all costs when converting currencies in the UAE / Dubai. In case they say “no fee,” it means that their fee is factored into the exchange rate. Nothing is ever free when exchanging currencies.
Steer clear of using credit and debit cards for exchanging currency.
Avoid bringing too much Dirham from home. You will get a lower exchange rate..

Check out our in-depth article, Withdrawing cash overseas?

Are currency exchanges and ATMs in the UAE / Dubai safe to use?

Yes, in general. There are numerous ATMs with cameras and security personnel. The crime rate is low in the vicinity of ATMs. Pickpocketing happens more often.
Use the following safety measures
For lesser chances of skimming – use ATMs in Bank Branches
Prevent large fraudulent transactions – Regularly check your card transactions, report immediately if you see something you don’t recognise.
Don’t be in a soup when travelling – carry a backup card
Avoid card being misplaced or misused – always keep it in your direct line of sight, even when handing it over to someone
Be safe when doing an online transaction – Do not use public Wi-Fi.
But whenever you use an ATM abroad, you should always take certain safety measures. On the topic, we’ve written two comprehensive pieces. You can read these by going here:
When exchanging currencies, only use authorised and registered exchange locations.

Also read:
The top eight things to avoid when travelling abroad
The top 8 things to never do when travelling abroad

Is it safe to travel in the UAE using cash?

It is generally safe to travel in the UAE / Dubai with cash in hand. But try not to carry more cash than you actually need.
It goes without saying that you should always carry cash on hand because you might need it for the various uses it was previously discussed in the text. By using these suggestions, you can travel in the UAE with cash in hand:
Instead of storing all of your cash in one place, divide it among many wallets or pockets.
Consider stashing some cash in a safety belt or fanny pack.
Avoid showing off big quantities of cash in public.
When paying, try not to flash all of your cash.
It’s safer to carry your wallet in your front pockets.
In crowded areas like buses, trains, and streets, keep your wallets, purses, and bags close to your body and safe.

FAQs

Is it free to withdraw cash in the UAE?

Yes, there are six bank ATMs that do not charge fees for users using international cards.

Are cards from the US, UK, Europe, Australia, and other nations accepted in the UAE / Dubai?

Without a doubt, yes! Generally speaking, cards from the US, UK, Europe, Australia, and other countries can be used at ATMs in the UAE.

Are there Bitcoin ATMs in the UAE?

Indeed, there are a few Bitcoin ATMs in the UAE / Dubai.

Are there any Bank of America ATMs located in the UAE / Dubai?

No, there aren’t any Bank of America ATMs in the UAE.

Any Citibank ATMs located in the UAE

There are a lot of Citibank ATMs in the UAE / Dubai.

Any Barclays Bank ATMs in the UAE?

No, there aren’t any Barclays Bank ATMs in the UAE.

Any HSBC ATMs in the UAE?

It’s true that there are a lot of HSBC ATMs in the UAE.

Any Standard Chartered ATMs located in the UAE

It’s true that there are a few Standard Chartered ATMs in the UAE.

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