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GCC Currencies 101: A Crash Course

Friday, 02 December 2016
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Are you relocating to one of the GCC countries to start a brand new life? Even if you're all set, is your mind struggling with calculating rents, figuring out utility charges and other expenses in the new currency system?

Fear not – we’ve created a primer to help you come to grips with the currency systems in the GCC countries. Money management in the new currency system might seem complicated at first, but you’ll get the hang of it very quickly.

Now, here are some things to keep in mind:

Look to the dollar:

The GCC is an oil exporting region. And globally, oil is traded in US Dollars (USD). To facilitate their exports, GCC currencies are all pegged to the USD – with the sole exception of Kuwait, which in 2007 moved to a currency basket that includes the US Dollar. Most expatriates automatically calculate GCC currencies in how much they are worth back home, but it’s helpful to remember that a trade peg exists with the USD.

There are 6 currencies in play:

The GCC is a common marketplace comprising of six countries – each with its own currency.
The Bahraini Dinar (BHD), Omani Rial (OMR), Qatari Riyal (QAR), Saudi Arabian Riyal (SAR), UAE Dirham (AED), and are all pegged to the US Dollar.
The Kuwaiti Dinar (KWD) is pegged to a basket of currencies that includes the Euro and US Dollar.

GCC Currencies 1

Exchange rates are easy to remember:

Because they’re all pegged to the USD, GCC currencies are related to each other in ways that are quite easy to remember.
For instance, the exchange rates of UAE Dirham, Saudi Riyal and Qatari Riyal are all approximately similar. One Bahraini Dinar and one Omani Rial is worth around USD 2.60 or AED 10 each.
The Kuwaiti Dinar, due to its slightly different peg, fluctuates against other GCC currencies. On 25 November 2016, KWD 1 was worth USD 3.28, or around AED 12.

Currencies divide and sub-divide:

“Fils” are the most popular currency subdivision in the GCC region.
One UAE Dirham comprises 100 fils. Each Kuwaiti Dinar divides into 1,000 fils, as does each Bahraini Dinar. Saudi Riyal subdivide into 100 “halalas” while each Qatari Riyal works out to be 100 Qatari “dirhams”.
Meanwhile, “baisa” is the subdivision of choice for Omani Rial, with 1,000 baisas coming up to OMR 1.

Some easy denominations:

The UAE Dirham is denominated in notes of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1,000 dirhams. There are 3 types of coins in circulation in the country - 25 fils, 50 fils and 1 dirham coin.

The Saudi Riyal has notes for 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500 riyals. 5, 10, 25 and 50 halala coins are in circulation.

Meanwhile, the Kuwaiti Dinar comes in widely-circulated ¼, ½, 1, 5, 10 and 20 dinar notes, with 10, 20, 50 and 100 fils coins available.

The Qatari Riyal is denominated in 1, 5, 10, 50, 100 and 500 riyal notes. The coins used include 1, 5, 10, 25 and 50 dirhams.

The Bahraini Dinar comes in ½, 1, 5, 10 and 20 dinar notes, with coins in 5, 10, 25, 50 and 100 fils.

For the Omani Rial, the notes are 100 baisa, ½, 1, 5, 10, 20 and 50 rials. 5, 10, 25, 50 and 100 baisa coins are in circulation, as well as ¼ and ½ rial coins.

So, there you have it – some basic rules of thumb when it comes to managing GCC currencies. We hope you have a wonderful time starting your new journey in the GCC.

Last modified on Friday, 02 December 2016 10:35

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