Importing & Exporting Money

How to receive and transfer money

South African bank notes in excess of R5,000 (€516) per person aren’t allowed into the country unless you have the necessary permit from the South African Reserve Bank, 370, Church Street, Pretoria 0002 (write to PO Box 427, Pretoria 0001, Tel. 12-313 3911, www.reservebank.co.za).

International Bank Transfers

When transferring or sending money to (or from) South Africa, you should be aware of the alternatives, which include the following:

  •  Bank Draft – A bank draft should be sent by registered post. However, in the (unlikely) event that it’s lost or stolen, it’s impossible to stop payment and you must wait six months before a new draft can be issued.
  •  Bank Transfer – A normal bank transfer should take three to seven days but can take much longer, and an international bank transfer between non-affiliated banks can take weeks! It isn’t unusual for transfers to get ‘stuck’ in the pipeline (which allows the bank to use your money for a period interest free!).
  •  SWIFT Transfer – One of the safest and fastest methods of transferring money is via the Society of Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications (SWIFT) system. A SWIFT transfer should be completed in a few hours, funds being available within 24 hours, although even SWIFT transfers can take five working days, especially from small branches that are unused to dealing with foreign transfers. Australian and UK members of the SWIFT system are listed on the Society’s website (www.swift.com ). The cost of transfers varies considerably – not only commission and exchange rates, but also transfer charges – but is usually between around R200 (€20.60) and R300 (€31).
  •  Currency Dealer – It may be quicker to use a specialist currency dealer to carry out a transfer for you, and you may get a better exchange rate than from a bank. There are many companies specialising in foreign exchange, particularly large sums of money, including the following: 1st Contact (Tel. UK 0808-141 2335, www.1stcontactforex.com ); Currencies Direct (Tel. +27 (0) 21 418 0105, www.currenciesdirect.co.za ); Currencies For Less (Tel. UK, 020-7594 0584, www.currencies4less.com ); Halewood (Tel. UK 01753-859159, www.hifx.co.uk ); Moneycorp (Tel. UK 020-7823 7500, www.moneycorp.com ).

If you routinely transfer large sums of money between currencies, you should investigate Fidelity Money Funds (www.fidelity.com ), which operate free of conversion charges and at wholesale rates of exchange.

Always check charges and exchange rates in advance and agree them with your bank (you may be able to negotiate a lower charge or a better exchange rate). Shop around a number of banks and compare fees. Banks are often willing to negotiate on fees and exchange rates when you’re transferring a large amount of money. Some foreign banks levy a flat-fee for electronic transfers, irrespective of the amount.

SURVIVAL TIP If you plan to send a large amount of money to South Africa or abroad for a business transaction such as buying property, you should ensure that you receive the commercial rate of exchange rather than the tourist rate.

When you have money transferred to a bank in South Africa, make sure that you give the account holder’s name, the account number, the branch number and the bank code. If money is ‘lost’ while being transferred to or from a South African bank account, it can take weeks to locate it.

Further reading

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