Opening a bank account in South Africa

A bank account is something that we like to take for granted, especially those of us used to banking in Europe or the United States. However, banks around the world do not all operate in the same manner, with the same efficiency and costs, so opening an account in South Africa may or may not be a foreign experience.

Having said this, opening a bank account in South Africa can be done as easily as in many developed countries as long as you follow the advice below on opening a bank account in South Africa.

How does a foreigner open a bank account in South Africa

If you are a foreigner, opening a bank account in South Africa should not be a problem, as long as you are in possession of a valid work or residency permit. By law, South African banks are required to ask you for proof of identity, (you must be at least 18 years of age) and your residential address. So, you will have to provide your passport and proof of address (a utility bill usually suffices) for the bank’s scrutiny. You may also have to make an opening deposit of a significant amount.

The type of bank account that you will be able to open in South Africa depends on the type of permit that you have been issued with. Should you have a work permit, you will be able to open a normal resident account with no restrictions. Should your entry visa not permit you to earn an income in South Africa, a non-resident account will be opened. This account is subject to some restrictions, for instance not permitting South African currency to be deposited i.e. can only be funded by foreign currency

To open a bank account as a foreigner in South Africa, you will require the following documentation:

  • Valid passport with entry visa
  • Letter of introduction from your foreign bank
  • 3 months bank statements from your current bank
  • Proof of residential address

Some exceptions may nonetheless be made. A resident’s account may only be opened by a person holding a valid residents permit.

Opening a bank account in South Africa – Choosing a bank

Before you choose a bank, you should do some research and compare the fees charged for international money transfers and other services, which can be higher than what you are used to. Most bank websites usually have details of charges, but we suggest using a website called bank monitor to research the bank that suits your needs best.

Opening a bank account in South Africa – Business banking

Opening an account for your business in South Africa should not be a problem, as your company will more than likely be registered in South Africa and will be seen as its own legal entity. Make sure that you are able to provide the bank with the founding documents of the company, as well as proof of the company’s operating address. However, these documents should be on hand after obtaining your business permit.

In accordance with South African law, a bank account may not be opened via the internet or over the phone: you will need to visit the bank in person and provide the correct documentation.

Banking in South Africa – Credit Cards

Credit and charge cards commonly accepted in South Africa include Diners, Mastercard, Standard Bank Card, Visa and American Express. Cash can be drawn from most ATMs, with withdrawal fees varying from bank to bank (your own bank will be cheaper). Traveller’s cheques are also a fairly common form of accepted payment or exchange, also incurring variable commission fees.

Banking in South Africa – The South African Reserve Bank

The South African Reserve Bank is the country’s central bank while ABSA, Standard Bank, Nedbank and First National Bank are the country’s four major financial institutions. All major credit cards are accepted and South Africa possesses both a nationwide network of Automatic Teller Machines (ATM) and a robust, rapidly growing online banking system.

Banking in South Africa – Withdrawal limit on ATMs & Cash Dispensers

Daily withdrawal limits for ATM cards are usually capped at R2 000(€218) with each withdrawal incurring a fee (unless your monthly service fee covers this cost). This fee varies widely, depending on size of withdrawal and bank type – and it pays to be aware of these charges as South African banks are well-known for making them very high!

Banking in South Africa – Opening hours

Most banks are open Mon-Fri 0900-1530 and Sat 0900-1100. Auto banks are found in most towns and operate on a 24-hour basis.

The biggest banking institutions, offering a vast array of financial services in South Africa are:

  • Standard Bank
  • Nedbank
  • First National Bank
  • Absa also offers “Islamic Banking” for its Muslim customers.

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

Where can I draw money after hours?

If you need to do banking after-hours in South Africa, you can do so by using a credit or debit card. ATMs are available at all hours for cash withdrawals, and are usually found in shopping centres, at petrol stations, as well as outside bank offices.

Can I use my bank card from overseas?

You do not need a locally issued card in order to draw cash. As long as your card is supported by VISA, Mastercard, American Express, Diners, VISA-Electron or Maestro, you should be able to withdraw cash from local ATMs or directly from a local bank. A maximum withdrawal amount of R2000 – R3000 per day applies, but money can be withdrawn on different cash dispensers.

Remember that transaction fees will vary from bank to bank, and fluctuate with the currency exchange rate.

Should you have any questions with regard to opening a bank account in South Africa please feel free to contact one of our experienced immigration consultants.