Banks and foreign exchange in South Africa

With a favourable exchange rate for many international currencies, you’ll find South Africa an inexpensive destination. And an easy one – our financial institutions are world-class, with no shortage of banks, bureaux de change and automatic tellers.

A R5 (five rand) South African coin
A R5 (five rand) South African coin. (Image: Wesley Nitsckie, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Flickr)

Rands and cents

South Africa’s unit of currency is the rand, which is divided into 100 cents. Notes come in denominations of R10, R20, R50, R100 and R200, and coins come in 5c, 10c, 20c, 50c, R1, R2 and R5. There are two R5 coins in circulation, both of which are legal currency. All transactions are rounded down to the nearest 5c.

How far will my money go?

A long way. With a favourable exchange rate for the major international currencies, you’ll find South Africa an inexpensive destination.

Banking made easy

You’ll also find South Africa an easy destination to navigate. From the moment you step off the plane, you’ll start seeing banks, bureaux de change, and automatic tellers.

The major banks have branches as well as automated teller machines (ATMs) in most large towns – and all over the cities. ATMs are linked to all major international networks, and it is possible to draw currency from them. They accept Cirrus or Maestro cards as well as all major credit and debit cards. You will not be charged any fees over and above those levied by your own bank.

Always be vigilant when drawing cash from an ATM.

International banks have branches in the major cities.

Banks are generally open from 8.30am or 9am to 3.30pm Mondays to Fridays, and 8.30am to 11am on Saturdays. Many bank outlets in larger towns, and especially those in shopping centres, have extended these hours, and some are open on Sundays. Branches at airports adjust their hours to accommodate international flights.

Credit cards and cash

All major credit cards can be used in South Africa. If you have a so-called “chip card”, you will be required to enter a pin code. Pin-based debit cards are often accepted too. Remember to notify your bank in advance that you will be travelling.

When it comes to paying for fuel, you can pay cash or use your credit card.

Road tolls, on the major routes between cities, can be paid using MasterCard or Visa. Fees vary from under R10 to around R200, depending on the route you are travelling on.

Foreign exchange

To exchange cheques for cash at foreign exchange dealers, you must present a valid passport.

Travellers’ cheques can be cashed at all banks, bureaux de change and at some hotels.

Remember that all money transactions that involve foreign exchange must be done by authorised dealers. In terms of exchange control regulations, it is illegal to buy or sell foreign currency to anyone except an authorised dealer.

Taxes

All South Africans pay value-added tax as it included in the price of most goods and services. It is currently set at 14%. Visitors are not exempt from paying it, but if you are a foreign passport holder you can claim it back on the items you are taking out the country if their value is over a certain limit. Be sure to request a tax invoice when buying goods.

Foreign exchange services

Forex services are offered by Absa, FNB, Nedbank and Standard Bank and credit card companies.

The Reserve Bank website carries a full list of authorised dealers.

Brand South Africa reporter

Reviewed: 1 August 2013

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