Banking in South Africa

Information for tourists and expatriates

In my Expat Cape Town guide about banking in South Africa you will read answers to the most frequently asked questions by expatriates and tourists.

But first let's start with a quick overview to give you a rough idea about South Africa's banking and economy.

How safe is my money in South Africa?

The economy in South Africa is still quite stable considering the insecurity worldwide in sight of the global financial crisis. And although the inflation is relatively high it seems to be under control.

As the current inflation index (CPI) lays at 5.0% as of July 2011 and did fall due to higher food prices and oil price for almost two points, the interest rates did drop this year accordingly.

The repo rate which had hiked up to a high of 12% in December 2008 has come down to a 30-year-low of 5.5% since November 2010. Now the South African repo rate is being kept at 5.5% (November 2010). Rate hikes for most of the emerging markets are not predicted for the near future.

The growth in loans especially also in home loans fell continuously, which was also due to stricter laws regulating the bond sector and now homebuyers will now need some support to get the housing market going again. The prime lending rate is currently down at 9%. ( August 2011)

The South African currency tumbled a bit since the global crisis started in October 2008 and the rand did get quite a hit and but due to the ongoing economic crisis in the US the Rand is around R7 to the US Dollar. The Rand is quite stable but the political conditions in the neighboring countries do reflect in the currency. But on the other hand South Africa is one of the ten members of the "Big Emerging Markets" with China, Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, India, Indonesia, Poland, South Korea and Turkey.

Which are the biggest banking institutions in Cape Town South Africa?

Banking in South Africa is as easily done as in many developed countries overseas. To get an overview of the products and interests these banks offer please refer to their websites. For a more personal information arrange a meeting with a private banker who will get you the basics of banking with his financial institution.

The biggest banking institutions which offer a vast array of financial services in South Africa are:

Standard Bank


First National Bank

Absa also offers "Islamic Banking" for its Muslim customers.

On all of these South Africa banking sites there are also branch locators to find a branch for convenient banking near you.

Banking in South Africa - Business Hours:

Most of the banks refer to these standard banking hours.

• Monday - Friday: 9 h -15 h

• Wednesday: 10 h -15 h

• Saturday: 8.30 h – 11.30 h

Please take note that banks will be closed on Sundays and public holidays.

Where can I draw money after hours?

After-hours-banking in South Africa can be done by using a debit or credit card. You can get cash at ATMs (Automatic Teller Machines) in Shopping Centers or petrol stations and outside the banks' branch offices.

Often you will be able to make online transfers and get recharge vouchers for your hand phone as well at the banking machines. Please be careful, as you should be anywhere else in the world, when drawing money or making transactions with your card.

Can I use my bank card from overseas?

Most tourists and expatriate banking customers have got banking cards from banks overseas which you can use here.

With an overseas banking card you will be able to draw money from ATMs (Automatic Teller Machines) and draw money from your card at the counter of the local banks. Your daily maximum to draw is R2000.

The local Bancomats or ATMs take credit cards issued by overseas banks as long as they are supported by VISA or MasterCard, American Express, Diners, VISA-Electron or Maestro Cards.

ExpatCapeTown Advice: Be aware of the transaction charges and fluctuating exchange rates in foreign currency.

How to pay for my shopping?

In South Africa the most common method of payment is by cash and plastic, i.e. bank cards. Many stores also offer customer cards, which are linked to a credit account. With these store credit cards you can choose which credit i.e. budget and payment methods you prefer.

Therefore you will be asked at the tills almost everywhere:

"Cash or Credit?" or "Straight or Budget?".

This means actually if you will pay by cash and debit/credit card from your bank ("cash"/"straight") or with the store’s credit card ("credit"/"budget"). Sounds confusing? Is really isn’t.

So if you do not own a store credit card, just reply "cash" or "straight". Got it!:-)

Some chain stores like Dischem and Clicks drugstores as well as Woolworths offer a points program where you will either qualify for discount vouchers or you will support with your payments a charity program like the My School program. But these store cards are strictly for rewards and can not be used for payments.

Paying at the Petrol Station

Please be aware also that for payment at gas and petrol stations you will need cash or a special Garage card, which you can apply for at your local bank when opening an account.

This Garage card can only be used for payments at petrol stations for gasoline, diesel and petrol as well as other services offered by garages and car wash outlets. This measure was taken in SouthAfrica to counter crime related to credit card fraud.

How can I pay my bills in South Africa?

A lot of South Africans and expats alike prefer to make payments online and transfer money via internet banking in South Africa. Credit card and debit card payments are accepted for payment in most shops at the shopping centers and restaurants.

If you have South African personal cheques they are accepted by many private people and some businesses in Cape Town. In this case you should have a picture ID as proof of your identity, but be to be sure you should ask ahead receiving any service.

For getting information on how to pay your utility bills click here

More on Banking in South Africa: Who can open an account in South Africa?

In general, only residency-holders are allowed to open an account with a bank. Tourists and temporary residency holders who are only granted accompanying temporary visas without their own work permits will not be allowed to open any cheque account, but they can open a simple transaction account.

For more detailed information about expatriate banking in South Africa and how to open an account in Cape Town please bookmark my site as more about expat banking in South Africa is soon to be added.

Any other questions about Banking in South Africa you think I should add? Then contact me here.

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