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Using a credit card in the UAE

Get the best out of your plastic while touring Dubai.

Updated

Fact checked

Digital payments are on the rise in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), so you shouldn’t encounter many issues if you’re using a Visa or Mastercard — the most common networks in the country. But you could come home to high fees if your card isn’t travel-friendly.

Our pick for use in UAE

Luxury Card Mastercard® Titanium Card™

  • Patented brushed stainless steel front and carbon back—weighing 22 grams.
  • Earn one point for every one dollar spent.
  • 2% value for airfare redemptions with no blackout dates or seat restrictions.
  • 1% value for cash back redemptions.
  • 24/7 Luxury Card Concierge®—Available by phone, email, and live mobile chat.
  • Exclusive Luxury Card Travel® benefits (e.g., amenities, room upgrades and complimentary food and beverages).
  • Members-only LUXURY MAGAZINE®.
  • Cell phone protection, Lyft credits, Postmates discounts, Fandango perks and more.
  • Annual fee: $195 ($95 for each authorized user).
  • Terms and conditions apply.
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Compare credit cards for use in the UAE

When choosing a credit card to use in the UAE or anywhere abroad, consider those that don’t have foreign transaction fees. Most strong travel credit cards waive these fees while also offering top perks for your travels.

Name Product Foreign transaction fee Annual fee Purchase APR Filter values
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
None
$95
15.99% to 22.99% variable
This popular travel card's signup bonus is worth up to $750. Get even more value out of your travel, dining, and Lyft rewards by transferring them to miles.
The World of Hyatt Credit Card
None
$95
15.99% to 22.99% variable
Earn 25,000 points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. 25,000 points after spending another $6,000 in the first 6 months.
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card
None
$149
15.99% to 22.99% variable
Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months of account opening.
Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi
None
$0
15.24% variable
Earn valuable cash back on everyday purchases at gas stations, restaurants and Costco as well as eligible travel with no foreign fees.
Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card
None
$95
15.99% to 22.99% variable
Earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
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Compare up to 4 providers

ATMs in the UAE

The safest way to withdraw money in the UAE is to use bank ATMs. If you’re heading to any of the major cities or tourist destinations, such as Dubai, you’ll find ATMs in abundance. International bank ATMS like Citi, HSBC or Barclays will give you a higher withdrawal limit than local banks.

When withdrawing money, try to select an amount that will give you bills in smaller denominations when possible. If you receive large bills, break them at your hotel or a reputable shop.

Cash in the UAE

Although you shouldn’t have an issue finding ATMs or paying by card in most shops, restaurants or hotels while in any of the UAE’s major cities, it’s worth carrying some spare cash with you at all times. Transportation, such as taxis and buses, require cash payments even in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

Make sure your cash isn’t damaged when you receive it, as many merchants will refuse to accept damaged bills.

Find a great deal on your travel money for UAE

Chip-and-PIN

Like in the US, Chip-and-PIN is the most common form of payment method in the UAE. Simply insert your card and enter your 4 digit pin-code.

Some hotels in Abu Dhabi may require a credit card for deposits, so it’s advisable to carry a combination of various payment methods while traveling.

Some vendors will accept contactless payments keep an eye out for the symbol. If your credit card network is Visa, the contactless limit in the UAE is 300 dirhams. If your credit card network is Mastercard, check with your bank since different financial institutions may set different limits.

Is it safe to use my card in the UAE?

Typically, yes. By exercising caution when using your credit card in the UAE, you should have a safe and hassle-free experience.

  • Keep your PIN safe. Use one hand to enter the PIN and the other to shield it from prying eyes and hidden cameras.
  • Select ATMs with care. Try to stick with ATMs in banks and avoid using ones in the street.
  • Watch out for skimmers. When installed in an ATM, a card skimmer works by stealing information from credit and debit cards. If you feel the card slot is not as smooth as it should be or if there’s a problem with the keypad, cancel your transaction and look for another ATM.

Keeping your credit card physically safe

While crime rates are relatively low in the UAE, theft is one of the top crimes carried out in Dubai. Always remain alert and keep a close eye on your belongings. Whether you’re in a crowded tourist destination or on a peaceful beach, stay aware of your surroundings so you don’t have to spend your vacation dealing with stolen or lost credit cards.

Potential credit card fees

Credit card fees can leave a noticeable dent in your pocket when you’re traveling overseas. Know what you’re up against well in advance and choose a card with no or low fees.

Foreign transaction fees

Credit card issuers typically charge a fee equivalent to 1% to 3% of your transaction. Carefully review your card’s fine print to avoid statement surprises. Some cards designed for travel come with no foreign transaction fees, so this could be a good time to switch.

Learn more about cards designed for overseas spending

Currency conversion fees

If a retailer offers to bill your credit card in US dollars, dynamic currency conversion comes into play. While this might sound like a good deal, you’ll actually end up getting a worse exchange rate and you might end up paying currency conversion fees. Whenever you’re presented with an option, choose to pay in the local currency.

You can get an idea of costs by using these online currency conversion tools from Mastercard and Visa.

Cash advance fees

Using your credit card to withdraw money from an ATM may not make sense unless it’s an emergency. Each time you withdraw funds from an ATM, you’ll pay your card’s cash advance fee and APR, which is typically higher than your purchase APR. However, some cards designed for overseas spending will waive this fee.

What is a cash advance fee?

A cash advance fee is calculated — and charged — when you withdraw cash from your credit card. It’s usually the greater of a flat fee or a percentage of the transaction. For example, “2.5% of the transaction, minimum $3.”

Which credit card issuers are accepted in the UAE?

Visa and Mastercard are most widely accepted in the UAE. Some large hotels and restaurants may accept American Express and Discover as well.

Merchant acceptance
ATM acceptance
Visa
check mark iconHigh
check mark iconHigh
Mastercard
check mark iconHigh
check mark iconHigh
American Express
exclamation point iconMedium
exclamation point iconMedium
Discover
exclamation point iconMedium
cross mark iconLow

How to prepare before traveling to the UAE

  1. Go with Visa or Mastercard. Carry at least two cards on your trip to the UAE, preferably connected with Visa or Mastercard. You can take an American Express card as a backup, but it’s not as commonly accepted as Visa and Mastercard.
  2. Bring a travel-friendly card. Some cards charge as much as 2% or 3% of each overseas transaction. You can save a lot with a card that comes with no foreign transaction fees.
  3. Keep your bank posted. Banks, in their efforts to thwart fraudulent transactions, block credit cards if they detect suspicious activity such as unexpected overseas transactions. To make sure this doesn’t happen, let your bank know about your travel plans before you leave the US.
  4. Keep emergency numbers handy. Know which numbers you’ll need to call if you end up losing your card or if you need an emergency replacement.
  5. Know where you’ll get cash from. Consider using your debit card to withdraw cash from ATMs, as you’re less likely to incur the higher fees associated with credit cards. If you need to exchange money, stick to banks or official money-exchange offices — possessing counterfeit money in the UAE is a serious crime. Try to avoid exchanging money at airports and popular tourist destinations because of typically poor exchange rates.

Bottom line

The UAE is a swipe-friendly country. And while it’s always good to have cash on hand, you won’t have trouble using your credit or debit card while visiting especially if it’s a Visa or Mastercard. If you’re planning a long trip or you travel often, consider a travel credit card.
See more guides on using a credit card in other countries.

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