Whether you’re shopping at the markets or in the world-famous Dubai Mall, some negotiation is expected in Dubai (and elsewhere in the Middle East, too).
Unfortunately, using your credit card quickly wipes out any preferential terms you might have agreed to. This makes it a good idea to have at least some paper money on you.
Thankfully, Dubai has an extensive ATM network you can use to withdraw cash.
Here’s what you need to know.
There are thousands of ATMs in Dubai. You’ll find them at the airport, inside and outside banks, at the Metro station, in shopping malls and supermarkets, in hotels and in other locations around the city.
Dubai is an international financial centre, so many international banks have branches and ATMs in the city. ATMs locators for these international banks are below:
Local banks with extensive ATM networks include:
If your credit or debit card belongs to the Cirrus, Maestro or Plus networks (the three most common card networks worldwide), ATMs in Dubai will most probably accept it. Your bank can confirm which network your card belongs to.
Remember to advise your bank that you’ll be away. If you don’t, your transactions may be flagged as suspicious and your card frozen.
All ATMs display the logos of the card networks they accept. You can also look for the nearest ATM online. Use Visa’s online locator for Plus cards and MasterCard’s online locator for Cirrus and Maestro cards.
Dubai ATMs accept both chip-and-pin cards and cards with just a magnetic stripe on the back. Most banks’ ATMs use four-digit PINs. However, HSBC uses 6-digit PINs.
ATMs in Dubai typically have daily withdrawal limits in the region of AED 5000. This is probably much higher than the daily withdrawal limit imposed by your home bank.
Using an ATM is often a better deal than using a currency exchange service, because the transaction is performed using the mid-market rate. The situation is different if you choose to be charged in your home currency, because the ATM will then make up an unfavourable exchange rate using Dynamic Currency Conversion. Avoid this exchange rate rip-off by always choosing to be charged in the local currency - Dirhams.
That said, you may be charged some ATM fees.
ATMs in Dubai don't charge withdrawal fees. However, your bank back home may charge a withdrawal fee and a foreign currency exchange fee. These vary from bank to bank, so it’s best to ask beforehand.
Avoiding ATM fees in Dubai is very simple.
Several international banks have operations in Dubai. If you’re a customer, you can often use their ATMs in Dubai for free. Citibank, for instance, offers fee-free withdrawals to customers from all its ATMs worldwide. HSBC also offers fee-free withdrawals, but only if you’re an Advance or Premier customer.
Barclays and BNP Paribas are both members of the Global ATM Alliance. If your bank is an alliance member, you can use their ATMs in Dubai free of charge.
Even if your bank isn’t an alliance member, or doesn’t have ATMs in Dubai, you may still be able to make ATM withdrawals fee-free or at a reduced cost. Just ask your bank whether it has a partnership with another bank in Dubai.
Alternatively, check your bank’s terms and conditions to find out whether one of your cards is cheaper to use abroad. As a general rule, debit cards have lower fees than credit cards. In fact, you should avoid making withdrawals with a credit card. Besides high fees, the withdrawal is treated as a cash advance, or loan, which means it will attract interest.
Because fees are charged per transaction, it’s often cheaper to make one large withdrawal instead of a series of smaller ones.
ATMs in Dubai have large withdrawal limits, so you should use this to your advantage. Of course, do keep in mind that your bank may have a lower limit, so check this out beforehand. If at all possible, try raising the limit ahead of your trip.
If you have a bank account in Dubai, or know someone who does, use TransferWise to make the transfer ahead of time and save even more. Not only does TransferWise use the real mid-market exchange rates to convert your money (which almost always beats the banks), but since your currency is received and sent via local banking systems in both your home country and in the U.A.E., all those nasty international fees magically disappear. Give it a try.