Finder is committed to editorial independence. While we receive compensation when you click links to partners, they do not influence our content.
Using a credit card in South Africa
Avoid foreign transaction fees of 2.5% with the right credit card.
South Africa is a popular tourist destination that widely accepts credit cards, especially Mastercard and Visa. While paying with plastic is a convenient option, you’ll need to be careful of credit card fraud which is very common in this African nation. Aside from exercising caution when paying with your card, you’ll want to have at least some cash on you at all times as not every merchant will accept plastic.
Compare credit cards for use in South Africa
What credit cards can I use in South Africa?
While some merchants may accept American Express cards, Visa and Mastercard are by far the most widely accepted cards. Although you shouldn’t withdraw cash using your credit card, Amex cardholders can withdraw cash from Nedbank ATMs, as well as from smaller banks’ ATMs. Visa and Mastercard withdrawals usually work from most ATM brands.
Potential credit card fees in South Africa
You should always keep an eye on credit card fees, especially when travelling overseas.
- Foreign transaction fees. Most credit cards issued in Canada charge a foreign transaction fee of 2.5%. You’ll need to pay this fee every time you use your credit card outside of Canada. Fortunately, there are a few credit cards that charge no foreign transaction fees in Canada.
- Currency conversion fees. If someone gives you the choice of paying in Canadian dollars or South African rand with your credit card, always choose the local currency of rand. Paying in Canadian dollars with your card will subject you to a dynamic currency conversion (DCC) that can lead to poor exchange rates and currency conversion fees. Pay in the local currency and let your bank do the currency conversion.
- Cash advance fees. If you use your credit card to withdraw money from an ATM, you’ll face a cash advance fee as well as the cash advance interest rate, which is usually charged from the day you withdraw the funds. To avoid the high APR, use your debit card to withdraw funds from an ATM.
- ATM fees. Even using your debit card to withdraw funds from an ATM will likely have you facing an ATM fee. To avoid this fee, you can use a debit card issued by a bank that belongs to an international ATM alliance, such as Scotiabank.
Can I avoid all of these fees?
Yes, here’s how:
- Apply for a no foreign transaction fee credit card to avoid this fee.
- Avoid conversion fees by always paying in the local currency.
- Avoid the high cash advance APR by using your debit card – instead of your credit card – to withdraw cash from an ATM.
- To skirt around ATM fees, you’ll need to use a debit card from a bank that belongs to an international ATM alliance – plus you’ll need to stick to ATMs that belong to that network.
ATMs in South Africa
Since both debit and credit cards are widely accepted, you can easily find ATMs on the street, in shopping malls, within banks and many other locations. Since credit card fraud is rampant in South Africa, you’ll need to be extra careful when selecting which ATMs to use. Your best bet is to use an ATM located within a bank in order to avoid becoming the victim of pickpocketing or skimming.
Carry at least some cash on you at all times to pay for small purchases like public transportation, coffees and other little expenses.
Should I use my credit card to get cash?
No, avoid using your credit card to get cash from an ATM at all costs. You’ll end up paying a cash advance fee as well as interest, which will start adding up from the day of the transaction. If you need to withdraw cash from an ATM, use your debit card.
Do taxis in South Africa accept credit cards?
Some taxis do, but not all. If you prefer paying with a credit card, consider a ridesharing app such as Uber or Taxify and pay with your card through the app.
Is it safe to use my credit card in South Africa?
South Africa is known for credit card fraud. Follow these tips to improve your safety:
- Protect your PIN. One of the most popular scams is someone offering you assistance to use an ATM while they steal your card and information. Don’t write your PIN down anywhere and never accept assistance from anyone other than a bank representative – even then, cover the screen while you enter your PIN . When entering your PIN, use the other hand to hide it from hidden cameras and onlookers.
- Select ATMs carefully. Use ATMs found within banks, shopping centres and otherwise busy areas. Avoid ones in isolated areas or unsafe districts.
- Keep an eye out for skimmers. If you feel that the card slot is not as smooth as it should be or if you think there’s a problem with the keypad, cancel your transaction and use a different ATM. Someone might have installed a card skimmer on the machine.
- Keep your card physically safe. Instances of pickpocketing and theft are common. Take extra care when venturing out after dark and always keep a close eye on your wallet or purse when on the streets or on public transportation in larger cities.
How to prepare before travelling to South Africa
- Carry at least two credit cards. Ideally, take at least two credit cards with you, with at least one being a Visa or Mastercard. That way, you can avoid being left without money if your primary credit card is lost or stolen or if a merchant doesn’t accept Amex.
- Think about foreign transaction fees. Paying foreign transaction fees does not make sense when you can find cards that come with no foreign transaction fees. For each transaction, you’ll save yourself 2.5%.
- Inform your bank. Banks monitor accounts to minimize fraudulent transactions. If your bank sees an unexpected purchase made in South Africa, it will have an excellent reason to temporarily block your card. Let your bank know of your travel plans in advance.
- Carry emergency numbers. If your card ends up lost or stolen, you should know which number to call. Write down your credit card providers phone number and carry it on you at all times.
- Know how you’ll get cash. You should carry some cash on you at all times. Use your debit card to withdraw cash in order to avoid the cash advance interest rate that comes with using a credit card. You can also exchange Canadian dollars for rand or make use of travellers’ cheques.
You can avoid unexpected problems by asking yourself these simple questions before you leave for South Africa:
- Which cards should I take? Carry at least one Mastercard or Visa card and have at least two credit cards with you.
- Did I inform my bank? Unless you want to deal with the possibility of a blocked card, inform your bank before you go to South Africa.
- Will I pay extra fees? Check if your current credit card charges foreign transaction fees. If it does, consider applying for a card that charges no foreign transaction fees.
- Where will I get money from? Use your debit card to withdraw cash from an ATM – avoid using your credit card unless it’s an emergency. You can also consider converting Canadian dollars to rand or cash in travellers’ cheques.
Using a credit card in …
Frequently asked questions
More guides on Finder
How to earn Bitcoin on everyday purchases
SPONSORED: Earning cashback and points on credit cards has been popular with Canadians for years, but there’s a new card reward emerging: Bitcoin cashback.
RBC Bank U.S. Mortgages Review
Get the support you need to navigate purchasing a home south of the border with this reputable US mortgage provider.
FlexMoney installment loan review
FlexMoney provides installment loans for as little as $500 up to $15,000. Get funding within 24 hours.
These high-profile funds offer sizable returns, but are riskier than most other types of investments. Here’s what you should know before investing in a hedge fund.
Binance vs Coinbase: Which is best for you?
Binance and Coinbase are two titans of cryptocurrency – let’s see how the two stack up and find out which suits your needs.
Blackbull Markets Review
Trade forex and contracts for difference for less when you sign up with this reputable online broker.
Easy Financial creditplus loan review
If you have bad credit or no credit history at all, Easy Financial’s creditplus loan helps you improve your credit score so you can secure a loan within months.
Quebec travel restrictions: Where you can go in June 2021
Keen to know what’s open again? Here’s our guide to Quebec’s travel restrictions.
What you should know about travelling to South Africa from Canada during COVID-19
Here’s what you need to know about travelling to South Africa from Canada.
Ask an Expert
You must be logged in to post a comment.