Financial services in South Africa
South Africa is home to a world-class financial services sector, which offers a comprehensive range of products and options, whether you are seeking a home loan (mortgage), vehicle finance, or simply a bank account or credit card. The latest technology is used by all the banks, and it is possible to do banking practically anywhere using the internet or even your cellphone (mobile). Various international banks also have a presence in South Africa. The official legislation governing banks (the Banks Act) is similar to legislation in countries such as the UK and Canada. The main bank in South Africa is the state Reserve Bank. Then there are several large private banks, and some smaller ones. The Financial Services Board has an oversight role in the industry. South Africa’s well-maintained, professional financial services sector makes the country a safe and attractive investment arena. South Africa emerged from the recent global recession relatively unscathed, due in part to its properly regulated financial regime.
Currency and payment methods
The South African currency is the South African Rand (ZAR). Usually, it is represented by a single “R”. There are 100 cents in a Rand. Bank notes are printed in denominations of R10, R20, R50, R100, and R200. The R200 note was altered recently, and older notes may not be accepted at all businesses. If you are in possession of older R200 notes, it is wisest to inquire at a bank about their acceptability. Coins are minted in denominations of 5c, 10c, 20c, 50c, R1, R2 and R5.
Currency exchange can be done at banks, bureaux de change, and even some hotels. You maybe required to produce proof of identity when you change your money, so it is best to carry a passport at all times. There is a limit on how much money you can bring into the country with you, and at present the amount has been set at R5000 in cash.
The most popular credit cards in South Africa are MasterCard and Visa. You can also use American Express and Diners Club, but these cards are not issued very often in South Africa. There are ATMs (automated teller machines) virtually everywhere in South Africa, and most of them will accept an international card. Credit cards are accepted by most businesses, with the notable exception of petrol (gasoline) stations. Do not try to buy petrol (gas) using a credit card.
If you are using traveller’s cheques, you should buy them in US dollars or GB pounds. Buying them in another currency may result in extra exchange rate charges when you change them into ZAR. Traveller’s cheques are accepted in banks, hotels, restaurants and a selection of tourist shops. However, if you are planning on staying in South Africa for a considerable period of time, it is best to open a local bank account.
Most banks operate from 09h00 to 15h30, Monday to Friday, and 08h30 to 12h00 on Saturday. However, opening hours of banks are getting longer, and some banks now close at 17h00 during the week.
If you are going to change a large sum of money, you should get a feel for the exchange rate of your currency to the ZAR by following reports in the media on the exchange rate. It helps if you do this over a period of time, so that you can identify how volatile the currencies are relative to each other, and what the general direction of movement is. In South Africa, most newspapers publish exchange rates on a daily basis in their business sections, and you can also use a search engine to find an estimate.
However, since finance is obviously an acutely important part of an immigration plan, to South Africa as much as any other country, make sure of how you will cover your costs. Be prudent and sure that you will be able to handle any unforeseen costs. Check our Related Services section for more information on transferring money and funds, opening bank accounts, etc.