Banking in South Africa
If you're living in South Africa, here's a guide to banking as an expat in South Africa and information on how to open a bank account in South Africa.
From how to set up an account before you arrive to the where, how, and when of banking once you're there, we take you through the details of banking as an expat in South Africa.
The currency in South Africa is the rand, which is divided into 100 cents. Coins come in denominations of 5c, 10c, 20c, 50c, 1 ZAR, 2 ZAR and 5 ZAR, and notes in denominations of 10 ZAR, 20 ZAR, 50 ZAR, 100 ZAR and 200 ZAR. The ISO 4217 currency code for the rand is ZAR, but you will also often see it simply abbreviated as “R”. The exchange rate is favourable for many international currencies and banking is a relatively modern institution in South Africa.
South Africa’s “big four” banks are Absa Bank, First National, Nedbank and Standard Bank.
In urban areas there is no shortage of banks, bureaux de change and automatic tellers. The card systems are the CIRRUS and NYCE and are used for both credit and debit cards. However, the ATMs often do not work or are empty even though you can, in principle, withdraw a maximum of a 2,000ZAR a day.
Banks are generally open from 9am to 3.30pm Monday to Friday, and 8.30am to 11am on Saturdays. Those at the airports adjust their hours to accommodate international flights. Most large towns and all cities have branches of the major banks and international banks can be found in major cities as well.
In these centres you can use all major credit cards but VISA and Mastercard are more widely accepted than American Express and Diners’ Club. In small towns you may find only cash is accepted.
It is often possible to open a bank account before you leave your home country and it is advisable to do so as it can be difficult to open an account quickly in South Africa with no in-country credit history. A number of banks in the UK—such as Investec Bank and Old Mutual--are themselves based in South Africa. If your home bank has an international presence, such as HSBC, Lloyds Banking Group, Barclays, or NatWest, you will find it easier to set up an account for use in South Africa. HSBC has even launched an Advance Account service in the UK, which offers assistance opening international accounts.
If you do not open an account before arriving in South Africa, you will need to bring your passport and a utility bill to your chosen bank in order to prove identity and address.
American Express South Africa
Diners Club South Africa
MasterCard South Africa
Visa South Africa
The 'big four' banks
First National Bank
Foreign exchange services
ABN AMRO South Africa
Bank of Baroda (SA branch)
Bank of China (SA branch)
Bank of Taiwan (SA branch)
Barclays Bank South Africa
Bidvest Bank/Rennies Foreign Exchange
Calyon Corporate Bank (SA branch)
China Construction Bank Johannesburg
Citibank South Africa
Commerzbank (SA branch)
Deutsche Bank (SA branch)
HBZ Bank South Africa
HSBC South Africa
Investec South Africa
JPMorgan Chase (SA branch)
Société Générale (SA branch)
South African Bank of Athens
Standard Chartered Bank South Africa
State Bank of India, South Africa
Tower Foreign Exchange
CIA World Factbook economy numbers for South Africa:
Rand (ZAR) per US dollar: 7.38 (2010), 8.4234 (2009), 7.9576 (2008), 7.05 (2007), 6.7649 (2006)
Central bank discount rate:
- 7 percent (31 December 2009)
- country comparison to the world: 36
- 11.5 percent (31 December 2008)
Commercial bank prime lending rate:
- 11.71 percent (31 December 2009 est.)
- Country comparison to the world: 43
- 15.13 percent (31 December 2008 est.)
Stock of narrow money:
- $65.87 billion (31 December 2010 est)
- country comparison to the world: 41
- $52.04 billion (31 December 2009 est)
Stock of broad money:
- $256.2 billion (31 December 2010 est.)
- country comparison to the world: 34
- $199.8 billion (31 December 2009 est.)
Stock of domestic credit:
- $328.3 billion (31 December 2010 est.)
- country comparison to the world: 32
- $255.2 billion (31 December 2009 est.)
Market value of publicly traded shares:
- $704.8 billion (31 December 2009)
- Country comparison to the world: 19
- $491.3 billion (31 December 2008)
- $833.5 billion (31 December 2007)
Population below poverty line:
- 50 percent (2000 est.)
Erin Russell Thiessen / Expatica
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