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How to Qatar: Cheaper ways to send money home

by Lisa Gay

Sending money home via your bank is quick and easy. But, you are probably not getting the best rate, as there are usually some hidden fees when converting foreign currency. These are not usually disclosed up-front, so you are often only made aware of them when you have slightly less than you expect in your home bank account. There is no one perfect tactic for getting the best deal, and different strategies will work better for some foreign destinations than others. Nevertheless, here are a few options you can explore.

1- Ooredoo Mobile Money (OMM)

Hosted by Ooredoo, this digital wallet can be linked to any bank account in Qatar. It has a very user-friendly interface and a variety of helpful options like handling payments to domestic staff, topping up Karwa cards, and sending money to other OMM accounts.While you can get a basic account with just an Ooredoo number and a QID, you can hold and send larger sums once you register in-person at an Ooredoo store. With a full account, you can transfer up to QR 10,000 per day digitally through exchange houses like MoneyGram and Al Dar Exchange to over 200 countries.  Ooredoo often offers cashback options on transfer fees for further savings. You can also top up your OMM account by inserting cash directly into the Ooredoo machines found in a variety of shopping malls.

Beautiful middle eastern woman wearing abaya

2- Western Union

Western Union has a widespread network covering over 200 countries and territories, making it an obvious choice for expats. But, one serious downside is that you can only send up to QR20,000 per transfer, which makes it impractical for large cash transfers. The best rates are reportedly found online, and their website and mobile app are very user-friendly with detailed and regularly updated FAQs. You’ll need to register with your personal details before sending your first transfer. To finish registration, you will be asked to send photos and a short video of your QID to Al Fardan Exchange (details are on the Western Union website).  Transaction fees start from QR 15, and you can earn My WU points for discounts on future transactions. While Western Union is traditionally popular for direct, person-to-person cash transfers, you can use their services to send money to your foreign bank account as well.

3- Lulu Money App

Lulu Hypermarket operates this currency exchange and money transfer service to over 170 countries. They have a same-day service for select countries at their physical locations. However, most transactions will take the usual two to three working days. Lulu Money has an app that you can link to a Qatar-based debit card and use to check rates instantly. While you can download the app and fill in your QID and other details, you still need to visit a Lulu Hypermarket to actually start using it. Transaction fees are generally around QR 15.

4- Al Dar Exchange App

While a lot of money transfer and exchange shops in Qatar are working hard to release online portals or mobile apps, Al Dar has been ahead of the game—their mobile app is already a few years old. At the time of writing, Al Dar is allowing new users to register online with their QID and an email address. They also offer regular promotions offering free transactions, but as with any other platform, cross-check with other online options to see if this makes a difference to the final amount.

5- PayPal

You can open a local PayPal account with QNB—it will convert your riyals into dollars, which you can then use to send to your PayPal account in your home country. It’s likely not the most cost-effective option, as PayPal charges you to receive money. For instance, if you send money from Qatar to your US account, PayPal will keep 4.4% of the total amount. The rate will vary depending on the destination country, and may even be higher if you need to convert to any other currency. We’d only advise using this method if you frequently use PayPal for online shopping.

6- Foreign currency accounts

Some banks offer foreign currency accounts, which can help lessen the hidden costs of transferring money, especially if a branch of your Qatari bank is in your home country. For instance, HSBC offers accounts in pounds and dollars. So, if you have another HSBC account in your home country, you can take advantage of their free money transfer service.

7- Online currency traders

These methods induce the most headaches, but using online currency traders will save you the most money. First, figure out whether they accept Qatari riyals; if not, you can trade through US dollars to arrive at the best rate. TransferWise does not yet support riyals, but you might be able to transfer through a foreign currency account. Alternatively, Europeans and Americans can consider a US-dollar transfer to Revolut, an online bank that offers currency exchanges at the mid-market rate (the cheapest you can get). Alternatively, if you are sending large amounts of money home, check rates with monito.com to choose an online currency trader that will offer the best rate.