Basics of banking in South Africa


Currency & Currency Exchange in South Africa

The South African unit of currency is the Rand (R); one Rand is divided into 100 cents. Currency notes in circulation are in the denominations of R10, R20, R50, R100 and R200 and coins are in values of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 cents, and R1, R2 and R5.

You could procure some South African currency before arriving to meet expenses that you will most likely incur on small purchases and public transport. R100 and R200 notes are not widely accepted and quite a few R200 notes in circulation are counterfeit ones. 

You have several options to change money in South Africa: banks, private exchange bureau, credit and debit cards and change machines. Most banks in major cities have foreign exchange windows where one can buy and sell foreign currencies, obtain a cash advance on credit and charge cards and buy and cash travelers' cheques. Of all the available options, banks usually offer the best exchange rates but may impose charges of R25 (£2.15) or more.

There are a number of private exchange bureaux at airports, main railway stations and major cities which work longer business hours than banks, are easier to deal with than banks and charge little or no commission. There are automatic change machines which accept up to 15 currencies, including US$, sterling, Euros and Swiss francs at airports and in tourist areas in major cities have. However, the change machines and exchange bureau both offer the worst exchange rates.


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Opening a Bank Account in South Africa

Both residents and non-residents can open bank accounts in South Africa. While it is possible for one to open an account through correspondence, opening an account in person is a better way of doing it.

To open an account in person, one must be at least 18 years old and furnish proof of identity such as passport and proof of address in the country such as a utility bill. To open an account through correspondence you will need a reference from your bank, a certified signature, photo copy of relevant pages of your passport and rand draft. Compare fees for international money transfers and other services by visiting the bank's website before opting to bank with them. You could also ask friends and colleagues to recommend a bank.

Cards in South Africa

All banks provide their customers with credit cards and debit cards which can be used to obtain cash throughout South Africa and also abroad, usually via the NYCE and CIRRUS networks. Daily withdrawals from ATM's are usually limited to R 2,000 (£175). Do not rely solely on ATMs to obtain cash, as they often run out of money or are out of operation.

Money Transfers in South Africa

To make international money transfers from South Africa you could send a bank draft by registered post/make a bank transfer/use the of Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications (SWIFT) system/use a specialist currency dealer to make the transfer for you. Telegraphic transfers through MoneyGram and money transfers through American Express offices by Amex cardholders are other options.


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Banking Guide