Banking in South Africa

Banking in South Africa

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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.

Useful links

Credit cards
American Express South Africa
Diners Club South Africa
MasterCard South Africa
Visa South Africa

The 'big four' banks
Absa Bank
First National Bank
Standard 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)
Capitec Bank
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)
Master Currency
Meeg Bank
Mercantile Bank
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:

Exchange rates:

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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4 Comments To This Article

  • V posted:

    on 24th June 2014, 14:41:09 - Reply

    So this article is setting up people to be on South Africa's corporations, hence, banks hit list?

    The banking systems, the insurance systems, the service provider systems are the foundation that has created the crime among the civilians of South Africa. From the beginning of time insurance companies worked together with the banks of South Africa in network in creating a crime syndicate to become wealthy.
    All these corporations have laid the foundation for these criminal activities, hence the reason why South Africa offers a University degree for Technical Science and their employees in certain rankings are required to have these certificates; these corporations create their criminals from inside done to the syndicate thieves on the street - car thieves for insurance schemes, tracker companies place their victims on a list, while syndicate criminals are hired as car hijackers, car-parts are on high demand vehicles used for resale through corporations (car companies) its the reason why banks only finance cars with insurance under two years, then there is the insurance payouts on life-covers and property that results in murder, whereby these corporations would have a list of people and families setup to be randomly
    killed for estate duties and insurance through their hired syndicate programs, and cellphone service providers have personal details of the civilians and again these systems setup for corporation fraud. (example, if there are over 5 million that assists these service provider from banking to cellphone account holders, if 100 thousand of those civilians are target by a corporation planned syndicate "fraudulent activity" for an 'X'-amount to be raised, then that is 100 thousand x (multiply by) the 'X' amount gained by the corporations.
    Its a numbers game and the civilians who support these corporations come in numbers while trying to create their lives through the number system - its an accepted game for these corporations and the victims preyed upon are the Civilians, monitored from their accounts and defrauded through the information in the data systems of the banks, currently FICA is setup to monitor everyone's activity, the massacres of murder and crime related activity, stolen vehicles etc. has always been estate duty that controlled civilians lives, these corporations created these criminals and now it is gone out of control, that victims are setup on every level.
    The whole system of South Africa, (Corporations) banking to service providers are all setup for fraud, These companies can't control the rate of the activity of crime any longer because there are more greedy employees on board that see the system for what it is, creating them outlawed in services offered. What needs to happen is that South Africa's corporate systems, the banking systems to service providers; 'needs' to collapse to then be restarted to serve its nation on a secure moral safe platform to then build a steady foundation. In the meantime as this building of corporations stands, the building is crumbling from hidden places and as much as they try to repair the exterior, there is always going to be leak that reveals the fate of this systems, as destructive in the activity of the Corporations. Everything is wasteful, the civilians are setup to create wasteful lives, they study, they get employed, they build their lives with living expenses, bank accounts that qualify for vehicles and homes; and then they murdered for off for a life they tried to create because of insurance and estate duties. The sad part is they teach their next generation that it is an accepted way. Lives created to then be destroyed for the fun of it, to maintain the lives of greedy 'elites' sustaining their high currency lives and the poor South African nations need to pay for this, the system that always controlled the country from Europe from Apartheid systems to now this upgraded version of keeping control of the country of its people.
    The Homecoming Revolution International Expo's funded by FNB for calling expats back to South Africa for 'job creation', really? Is South Africa not already sitting with many unemployed people as it is? What do they want with these expats the funds and security they come with when they move back to South Africa as they required to transfer their international funds in South Africa's banking systems, why? So they can add to the funded system of the wealth to these banks by being eventually murdered off, their wealth stolen and then the country gets blamed, as South Africa's crime rate..... Really???
    Internationally famous people are targeted by the same system (stars are literally being murdered for their wealth) again its all connected to the Cabals banking systems that created the global matrix in banking and funded related institutes. People are made to be enslaved by the service providers of all kinds then they are setup to be victims for insurance aid and schemes, which is the viral fraudulent activity that is going on from theft to murder of the supporters of these service providers. The sad part of this game is they are on a list to be victims of these systems.
    Some already know this and title it ‘that is life’ and others just choose to turn a blind eye, in the meantime the rest pretend like they actually don’t know and try to be treated differently, that they are not victims – it’s just the hackers and the fraud-ers they say; but they fail to question who created such smart people to outsmart the civilians?
  • Shane posted:

    on 30th January 2014, 07:40:10 - Reply

    South African banking systems are some of the best in the world, a lot of European countries actually adopted the SA systems. If you decide to write something about a place... Don't stay as a tourist, spend at least six months there before [Edited by moderator]
  • Rudi posted:

    on 12th February 2013, 16:29:43 - Reply

    I have only come accross 2 faulty ATM machines since the inception of ATM facilities in RSA.
  • S Roberts posted:

    on 6th December 2012, 15:23:35 - Reply

    This information is extremely out-of-date. Things have changed significantly for the better. One of the better banking systems in the world.