Foreign currency jingling in your pocket? What you need to know about exchanging Forex in SA.

2018-11-06 13:39 - Selene Brophy
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Travelling on the South African Rand has many a downfall, the unstable exchange rate when it comes to pounds, euros and dollars being the biggest for sure.

More often than not, it's easier to use your credit card to make oversees purchases. It comes a with a semblance of protection against fraud but the card fees can be killer. Major banking outlets maintain cash is often king when visiting a foreign destination, which is why you should not rule out taking at least some hard currency with you, even if you plan on keeping the bulk of your transaction electronic. 

But what to do when you return home and need to get rid of that currency?

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Whether you're purchasing or exchanging Forex, you will need the following information: 

  • Proof of ID and passport
  • Proof of travel, where applicable
  • Proof of residence, no older than three months
  • You don't have a to have a banking account with a particular banking institution to exchange Forex in-branch. (Doing it with your bank of choice would however allow you access to certain conveniences, such as ordering Forex via email. Get in touch with your preferred bank to find out more).

The time-frames you need to know about:

Forex can be ordered up to 60-days before departure.

But did you know that you are legally bound to exchange foreign currency within in 30 days of returning. If you don't, you will be subject to penalties from the Reserve Bank. A few banking institutions will still exchange your money but you will need to write a letter explaining why. Don't think you can fool them on this rule though, the stamps in your passport will be cross-checked. 

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Niche requirements, commission and admin fees:

Exchange rates vary - so you should do some cross-checking before purchasing or returning your Forex. Certain coins are also not accepted over the counter. For instance 1-pound coins are accepted, anything lower should be relegated to the moneybox. 

Bidvest, with outlets usually located at SA international airport terminals, requires you to register with them when exchanging currency. This registration will remain valid for 12 months. They charge 3% commission as well as a hefty R99 admin fee + Vat. If you're a foreigner, you are entitled to claim back this 15% Vat. This was the most expensive of the institutions I cross-checked. 

As an alternative, they also offer a World Currency card that enables you to load up 17 currencies, all at once. 

Capitec similarly offers a Global One Card, to manage your travel expenses but proof of travel is required to activate it. Their Forex section is info heavy, however any payable commission fee is not immediately apparent - get in touch directly to confirm. 

At Standard Bank you will be able to exchange Forex, subject to a R71 admin fee and a 2.12% Commission (with a minimum R96). As a banking client there is the added benefit of UCount Rewards, earning 50 tiering points for buying R 7 500 worth of foreign notes in a 12-month period.  

First National Bank, also lets you apply for your Forex within in 60 days of your departure. There is no admin fee, but you will pay a 2.1% commission.  

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