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.
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.
- For the latest exchange rates, see the “market indicators” box on the right.
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. See our section on safety tips for travellers.
International banks have branches in the major cities. Thomas Cook (represented by Rennies Travel) and American Express foreign exchange offices are also available in the major cities.
- See the list of international banks with a presence in South Africa below.
Banks are generally open from 8.30am/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, with American Express and Diners Club enjoying less universal acceptance than MasterCard and Visa. 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. Filling stations – or garages as we call them – used to be cash-only operations, until the government changed regulations in 2009. This means that some smaller stations may still not accept cards – check with the attendant what payment method they accept before filling up. Luckily, most filling stations have ATMs on site.
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.
- Visit the Automobile Association of South Africa’s website for the latest toll fee rates.
To exchange cheques for cash at foreign exchange dealers, you must present a valid passport.
Thomas Cook and American Express 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 (see lists of dealers below). In terms of exchange control regulations, it is illegal to buy or sell foreign currency to anyone except an authorised dealer.
All South Africans pay Value Added Tax (VAT) 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 more than R250. Be sure to request a tax invoice when buying goods.
- See our Traveller’s customs guide for more information on VAT refunds.
Credit cards and related services
South Africa’s ‘big four’ banks
Capitec is the newest kid on the block, attracting many new customers because of its simplified service and low fee structures. Bidvest Bank operates the Rennies foreign exchange retail network, which has more than 90 branches.
- See the Ombudsman of Banking Services for its full list of Banking Association members.
Foreign exchange services
Forex services are offered by Absa, FNB, Nedbank and Standard Bank, as well as by the credit card firms listed above. Other Department of Finance-authorised foreign exchange dealers in South Africa include the following financial institutions:
- Bank of Baroda (SA branch)
- Bank of China (Johannesburg branch)
- Bank of Taiwan (SA branch)
- Bidvest Bank/Rennies Foreign Exchange
- Calyon Corporate Bank: Credit Agricole (SA branch)
- China Construction Bank Johannesburg
- Citibank, South Africa
- Deutsche Bank AG (Johannesburg branch)
- Habib Overseas Bank
- HBZ Bank South Africa
- HSBC (Johannesburg branch)
- Investec South Africa
- JPMorgan Chase (Johannesburg branch)
- Mercantile Bank
- Sasfin Bank
- Societe Generale
- (SA branch)
- South African Bank of Athens
- Standard Chartered Bank South Africa (Johannesburg branch)
- Standard Chartered Bank South Africa (Johannesburg branch)
- State Bank of India South Africa
The following are authorised dealers with limited authority, meaning they are authorised by the Treasury to deal in foreign exchange for the sole purpose of facilitating travel-related transactions.
Some operators offer a 24-hour delivery service as well as help with applying for extra allowances.
- Ace Currency Exchange
- Albaraka Bank
- EuroDollar Foreign Exchange
- Forex World
- Global Foreign Exchange
- Imali Express
- Inter Africa Bureau de Change
- Master Currency
- Sikhona Forex
- Tourvest Financial Services, trading as American Express Foreign Exchange Services
- Tower Bureau de Change
Note: The Reserve Bank website carries a full list of authorised dealers.
Reviewed: August 2013
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