A money exchange centre in Sharjah. [Image used for illustrative purposes] Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/ Gulf News

For decades, exchange houses in the UAE have been providing affordable and reliable remittance and payment solutions to the country’s diverse expatriate population. By continually evolving with customer needs and demands, we have built lasting relationships based on trust and credibility with expatriates from all over.

Even today, exchange houses continue to be the most preferred mode of remittance in the UAE.

In 2018, remittances from the UAE reached Dh169.2 billion, of which Dh128.6 billion — or 76 per cent — was sent through exchange houses. In the first half of 2019, of the Dh80.97 billion sent, Dh63.26 billion transferred via exchange houses.

So, what makes exchange houses the go-to solution for expats looking for the best way to send money to their families back home?

Competitive charges

When it comes to the cost of sending money, which includes transfer fees and the exchange rate mark-up, the UAE is one of the most affordable countries to send money from. Let’s consider the top four remittance corridors from the UAE — India, Pakistan, the Philippines, and Egypt.

According to World Bank data for the third quarter, the total average costs of sending $500 (Dh1,835) from the UAE to India, Pakistan, the Philippines and Egypt are 1.53 per cent, 1.28 per cent, 1.34 per cent, and 1.94 per cent, respectively.

Contrary to reductive claims, these numbers are far below the global average cost of sending money, which stood at 6.84 per cent in the second quarter.

The cost of sending money to the top corridors is also below the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) target, which aims to achieve the Global Average of 3 per cent by 2030. The remittance market in the UAE is highly competitive, and the service charges are among the lowest in the world.

Remittance costs vary depending on the corridor and mode of transfer. However, with over 90 exchange houses in the UAE, customers have the option to choose the best deal while sending money.

Always in compliance

Exchange houses and remittance providers are regulated by the Central Bank of the UAE, which prioritises security. The country has a robust regulatory environment, which is updated regularly to fight against risks such as money laundering and terrorist financing.

Consequently, exchange houses invest heavily on upgrading their compliance infrastructures. However, the rising cost of compliance has never reflected in the transfer fees that exchange houses charge.

The Foreign Exchange and Remittance Group (FERG), which is a non-profit consortium of 67 exchange houses in the UAE, conducts regular training sessions on Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Counter-Terrorist Financing (CTF) for member exchange houses to ensure that the industry is up-to-date with the latest developments and compliance requirements.

By providing safe and secure money transfers and other financial services for decades, exchange houses in the UAE have built trust among customers.

Value addition

With exchange houses, customers are not limited to sending money to a bank account. Depending on the corridor, customers can choose multiple ways to send money, such as bank transfer, cash pickup and mobile wallet.

From blue-collar workers to corporate customers, exchange houses cater to all customer segments and offer solutions that meet different needs. Besides affordable and convenient remittances, exchange houses also provide a range of value-add services such as foreign exchange, bank deposits, bill payments, mobile-top ups, and other payment solutions.


For customers, exchange house branches serve as a one-stop solution for a variety of payment requirements. Moreover, through numerous partnerships with financial and non-financial organisations across the world, exchange houses also offer more convenience for beneficiaries to receive the money sent from the UAE.

Digital ways

Once again, evolving to meet the changing expectations of customers, exchange houses have started their journey of digital transformation. While still at a nascent stage, multiple exchange houses have started offering online money transfer services to their digitally savvy customers.

We are aligned to the UAE government’s vision of driving innovation across sectors and are working closely with the Central Bank of the UAE to create a digital future for the UAE’s remittance industry. Multiple exchange houses are working on their digital strategies and developing their omnichannel presence.

We are confident that the trust and reputation that we have built through our offline channels over the years will reflect on the success of our digital platforms. The UAE is the world’s second-largest remittance country and contributes to the development of various economies. Exchange houses in the country have been instrumental in helping expatriates achieve their financial aspirations for decades, and we take pride in the work that we do.

The developmental impacts of remittances are far-reaching. From alleviating poverty and helping families get access to better education and health care, to helping communities and countries grow, remittances play a vital role in the global economy. Exchange houses in the UAE have served as facilitators and looked beyond profit margins to create one of the most reliable, secure and affordable remittance infrastructures in the world.

We understand the needs and aspirations of the UAE’s expatriate population, and we will continue to work towards maintaining our reputation as their preferred choice.

Osama Al Rahma is CEO of Al Fardan Exchange and Vice-Chairman of FERG (Foreign Exchange & Remittance Group).