How To Exchange Currency In South Africa

By | October 28, 2021

What you need to know about exchanging Forex in South Africa.

it’s easier to use your credit card to make purchases in South Africa but the card fees can be killer.

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

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 need 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.

The must-know currency laws In South Africa

It’s illegal to keep your euros and other forex for 30 days when back in SA – here are the other must-know currency laws.

With international travels on many a South African agenda these Christmas holidays, making sure that you have enough of the local currency on hand has become a top priority.

However a number of confusing laws surrounding age and amounts means it is not always clear how much you are allowed to take with you on your trips.

With this in mind, Cliffe Dekker Hofmey’s Louis Botha laid out what you need to know before heading out this December.

General rules regarding the granting of travel allowances

All South African persons who are 18 years or older, are entitled to make use of the single discretionary allowance (SDA).

The SDA comprises an amount of R1 million per calendar year, which any South African resident (18 years or older) may use for any legal purpose abroad, without obtaining a tax clearance certificate. South African residents who are under the age of 18 years, may be granted a maximum annual travel allowance of R200,000 per calendar year.

“From a practical perspective, this means that if, for example, persons have used R100,000 of their SDA during any calendar year before going on their December holiday, they may in principle apply to take foreign currency up the value of R900,000 abroad,” said Botha.

“It is important for South African residents to keep track of the amount of their SDA that they have used in a calendar year, as exceeding their SDA will constitute a contravention of the regulations,” he said.

“In terms of the Currency and Exchanges Manual for Authorised Dealers (AD Manual), which must be read with the Exchange Control Regulations, 1961 (Regulations), persons may take foreign currency up to the limit of their SDA, ie R1 million, abroad in the form of travel allowances.”

Travel allowances may be taken abroad in the form of foreign currency banknotes, travellers cheques or may be transferred to the traveller’s own bank account or to the traveller’s spouse’s account, but not to a third party’s bank account. Minors’ travel allowances may also be transferred to their parents’ bank accounts abroad.

Furthermore, travellers may also use their credit or debit cards to pay for travel expenses abroad, within their annual SDA limit, he said.

Documentation and provision of foreign currency prior to travel

Botha noted that there are separate regulations for purchasing currency outside the Common Monetary Area (CMA) – which consists of Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland, they must produce their passenger tickets.

“In such instances, they may not be furnished with foreign currency more than 60 days prior to the date of departure, unless the funds are to be used for business travel or land arrangements,” he said.

“Land arrangements refer to expenses related to tours, hotel accommodation and vehicle rental, which are made at the request of South African resident travel agents or tour operators.”

When making use of their SDA to apply for a travel allowance, prospective travellers must provide the authorised dealer with a written undertaking that they will:

  • travel within 60 days from the date of the request for foreign currency;
  • not purchase foreign currency from an AD in excess of the applicable limits;
  • will offer for resale all foreign currency that they received in the event of the trip being cancelled, to an AD or an ADLA (authorised dealer in foreign exchange with limited authority, such as Bureaux de Change); and
  • will offer for resale to an AD or ADLA any unused foreign currency within 30 days of returning to South Africa.

Permissible use of travel allowances

Although it might not be common knowledge, South African residents should be aware that any amounts taken or transferred abroad for purposes of travel may not be used for any other purpose, in terms of Regulation 2(4), said Botha.

Once a person has returned to South Africa from overseas travel, they must resell any remaining foreign currency to an AD or ADLA within 30 days, in terms of Regulation 2(5) read with Regulation 6(1).

“From a practical perspective, this means that if a person travels abroad with his family and has a foreign bank account, he may not deposit any unused portion of his travel allowance or any of his family members’ travel allowances into his foreign bank account and use it for investment purposes,” Botha said.

“Where any portion of an amount granted as a travel allowance is used for investment purposes in this manner, the funds and the growth on such funds, will constitute an unauthorised asset held in contravention of South Africa’s exchange control laws. A South African resident may have to pay a fine on such assets, or worse, forfeit the unauthorised asset and face criminal prosecution.”

“With regards to Regulations 2(5) and 6(1) referred to above, business travellers who go on a business trip within 90 days of returning to South Africa from a previous business trip, may retain such foreign currency to use during the next business trip.”

“Where persons have returned to South Africa from travelling abroad and have resold the unused portion of their travel allowance to an AD or ADLA, as required, they may use such amount at a later stage during the calendar year, as part of their SDA,” he said.

Related Foreign Exchange Questions

Is it better to exchange money in South Africa?

Figure out if rates are better in South Africa or your home country. In some African countries, you may get better rates by exchanging money in your home country before you leave for South Africa. Withdrawing cash from a South African bank ATM is always a good way to obtain ZAR at a fair exchange rate.

Which bank is best for foreign exchange in South Africa?

FNB has been globally recognized as the Best Foreign Exchange Provider in South Africa for the fourth year running in the annual World’s Best FX Provider awards hosted by Global Finance Magazine.

How much cash should I take to South Africa?

There are limits on the amount of currency you can bring into South Africa. For cash in South African Rand (ZAR), the limit is 25,000ZAR. For combinations of cash in other currencies, the limit is US$10,000 (or equivalent). You should declare any amount higher than this on entry to South Africa.