Travel Money Guide to South Africa - Travel Cards | finder.com.au

Travel money guide: South Africa

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How to manage your travel money when traveling to South Africa

South Africa has something for every kind of traveler, from wineries, hiking trails to surfing. One thing is certain — you’ll never be bored in South Africa. You’ll find that you’ll get a lot of South African rand for your dollar for any adventure you’re looking for.

We’ll help you decide on the right credit cards and the best ways to save on exchange rates and currency conversion fees.If you’re planning a trip to South Africa, decide the best way for you to exchange your USD for South African rand. Let us help you find the right credit card to save on exchange rates and currency fees to save you stress — and money.

Compare travel cards for South Africa

Rates last updated June 21st, 2018
Name Product Foreign Currency Conversion Fee Overseas ATM Withdrawal Fee Overseas Cash Advance Fee Annual fee Product Description
Luxury Card Mastercard® Titanium Card™
0% of transaction value
$195
Enjoy unique excursions, privileged access to exclusive events and insider opportunities.
Luxury Card Mastercard® Black Card™
0% of transaction value
$495
Mastercard Black Card members receive an annual $100 air travel credit toward flight-related purchases including airline tickets, baggage fees, upgrades and more.
Luxury Card Mastercard® Gold Card™
0% of transaction value
$995
Earn points every time you spend. Luxury Card enhances your purchasing power by providing you with one (1) point for every one dollar ($1) you spend. Every purchase gets you closer to the rewards you want.
Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card
0% of transaction value
$0
20,000 online bonus points offer. Ditch the restrictions of typical airline rewards cards. Any airline, any hotel, anytime. No blackout dates.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® credit card
0% of transaction value
$0 annual fee for the first year ($95 thereafter)
Earn 50000 points when you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of your account opening, and an additional 30,000 points when you spend a total of $30,000 on purchases within the first year of your account opening.
Venture® from Capital One®
0% of transaction value
$0 annual fee for the first year ($95 thereafter)
Earn 50000 bonus miles once after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening.
HSBC Cash Rewards Mastercard® credit card
$0 per transaction
$0
Earn unlimited 1.5% cash rewards on all purchases. See Rates and Fees
Bank of America® Premium Rewards® Credit Card
$0 per transaction
$95
Earn unlimited 2 points for every $1 spent on travel and dining purchases and 1.5 points for every $1 spent on all other purchases.
Uber Visa Card
0% of transaction value
$0
Get 4% points back on dining, 3% on travel, 2% on Uber rides and online shopping and 1% on other purchases, and redeem points for Uber credits, gift cards or cash back.
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
0% of transaction value
$450
Earn 50000 BONUS POINTS after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening* — that's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
The Platinum Card® from American Express
0% of transaction value
$550
Get 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel and 5X points on eligible hotels booked on amextravel.com.
United℠ Explorer Card
0% of transaction value
$0 annual fee for the first year ($95 thereafter)
40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.* Plus a $100 statement credit after your first purchase.

Compare up to 4 providers

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Travelex Money Card

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Load GBP, EUR, CAD, AUD, JPY or MXN onto this prepaid travel money card and use it at millions of locations worldwide.

  • Not linked to your bank account for safety.
  • Convert currency with a 5.50% foreign exchange fee
  • Contactless payments
  • Reload, withdraw, or replace your card for free.

    What are the options for South African travel money?

    It’s fairly easy to find ATMs throughout the cities in South Africa, and credit cards are widely accepted. However, if you plan to leave the city for the rainforests or go on a hike, plan to bring cash.

    Bank of America customers can look for ABSA banks, one of the larger banks in South Africa and a member of the Global ATM Alliance. This means you won’t pay an international ATM fee each time you withdraw money.

    • Tip: Make sure you tell your card issuer about your travel plans. Credit card fraud is common in South Africa and your bank may block your card if you make a payment or withdrawal in South Africa.

    What should you budget for your trip to South Africa?

    Once to get to South Africa, you’ll find you can get by on less than $40 a day if you budget your money right. Save money by pitching a tent outside the hostel or cook your own food. For those interested in a little less rugged experience, plan to spend between $100–$250 a day.

    Cape CityBudgetMidrangeLuxury
    sleepBudget rooms or hostels
    $20–$40

    2 star hotel

    $45–$90

    5 star hotel

    $100–$500

    food

    Fast food

    $10–$15

    Dinner at a midrange restaurant

    $20 per person

    5 star restaurant

    $80 per person

    skydive

    Boat trip

    $10 per person

    Cape Peninsula full day tour
    $76

    Full day Safari

    $220

    *Prices are approximate and are subject to change.

    Exchange rate history

    Historically, the US dollar has been stronger against the rand. And over the past decade, the dollar has increased in strength — in 2007, the annual average exchange rate was 7.05 rand to the dollar.

    Travel money options in South Africa

    Back to top
    Travel money optionProsCons
    Debit cards
    • Use at stores and hotels, online and ATMs
    • Protected by PIN & chip
    • Spending your own money means avoiding interest charges
    • International ATM and currency conversion fees
    • No access to cash advances
    Prepaid travel money cards
    • Lock in exchange rates
    • Protected by PIN & chip
    • Emergency card replacement and backup cards.
    • Reloadable online
     

    • Come with lots of fees for loading and reloading, inactivity and ATM withdrawals.
    • Businesses won’t accept prepaid cards
    Credit cards
    • Use for big ticket purchases
    • Protected by PIN & chip
    • Accepted worldwide
    • May come with benefits like travel insurance
    • Interest-free days when you pay your account in full
    • Emergency card replacement
    • Fees and interest for cash withdrawal
    Traveler’s checks
    • Security
    • Cash at any bank
    • Fees for purchasing and cashing checks
    • Not accepted by many merchants
    • Currency exchange rate varies over time
    Cash
    • Payment flexibility
    • Convenience
    • More difficult to manage expenses
    • High risk of theft

    This table is a general summary of the travel money products on the market. Features and benefits can vary between cards.

    How the different travel money products work in South Africa

    Using prepaid travel cards

    Travel cards can lock in conversion rates once you load USD. Use it for purchases without worrying about rates each time you spend — debit and credit cards often charge 3% for each transaction.

    Where you save in the conversion rates you may pay in fees. You’ll pay fees each time you load the card, ATM withdrawals and sometimes even an inactivity fee.

    • Tip: Banks that provide travel cards make money by applying a higher margin to the exchange rate. You can get a better rate using a debit card or credit card.

    Using credit cards

    Credit cards give you the most purchasing power on expensive items like hotels and flights. Find yourself a credit card that waives foreign transaction fees. Carrying a credit card gives you the added benefit of travel insurance and discounts, depending on your provider. For added savings, take advantage of the interest-free period by paying your balance in full each month.

    Cards that offer travel perks and waive fees often charge an annual fee, so make sure the fee is worth it before you bring it along on your travels. If you’re ever in a jam, credit cards also offer cash advances, though we don’t recommend it. You’ll pay high fees and interest rates apply the moment you get your money.

    Using debit cards

    A debit card could be a good travel money choice to take to South Africa. Most ATMs and EFTPOS machines in South Africa accept Mastercard and Visa debit cards and don’t charge a local ATM fee. You’ll have access to cash each time you come across an ATM, without carrying lots of cash on you all at once. And because you’re spending your own money, you avoid interest charges.

    • Tip: A debit card can be used to shop over the counter, online and for ATM withdrawals in South Africa.

    Using traveler’s checks

    Security is the main advantage of using traveler’s checks. Each check has a unique serial number and can only be cashed with photo identification. Fees are the main disadvantage. You need to visit a South African bank to cash traveler’s checks — and pay a commission. You’re better off using a debit or travel card which lets you make cheap or free ATM withdrawals to get South African rand.

    • Tip: Traveler’s checks are good for locking in a good exchange rate. So if you watch the forex market, get them while the getting’s good.
    Back to top

    The South African rand

    South African banknotes have a portrait of Nelson Mandela on the front and come in denominations of 10, 20, 50, 100, 200. You can easily tell these notes apart by their bright colors.

    south-africa-10south-africa-20
    south-africa-50south-africa-100
    south-africa-30

    The main banks in South Africa are:

    • ABSA
    • Nedbank
    • FNB
    • Standard Bank
    • Bidvest
    • Capitec

    What you need to know about getting cash in South Africa

    Unlike banks in the US, South African banks do not charge you to use their ATMs. So you can save on ATM withdrawal fees altogether by choosing a card that doesn’t charge for international ATM withdrawals.

    • Global ATM Alliances with South African banks
      Bank of America has a partnership with South African bank ABSA, one of South Africa’s big four banks and are common around the region. IF you hold a Bank of America bank card, you won’t be charged an ATM fee.
    • ATM withdrawal limits
      The maximum amount you can withdraw from an ATM in South Africa is 3,000 rand or about $200 at a time. To get more money visit a bank branch and show an ID.
    • Getting your money changed in South Africa
      You may be approached to get your money changed by a street vendor in South Africa. Although the rates tend to be better than banks, this is dangerous and illegal. There’s a good chance you could be robbed or cheated. It’s best to exchange your currency at banks or ATMs or you can always send your money to South Africa ahead of time with a money transfer service and have it waiting to be picked up when you arrive.
    • Which product gives you the best rate?
      You won’t find a big difference in foreign exchange rates between credit, debit and travel cards. The real savings come by avoiding international and local ATM fees. Since South African banks don’t charge ATM fees, try to get a card that waives foreign exchange and international ATM fees to save money on your withdrawals.
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    Finding travel insurance for South Africa

    Travel insurance protects you when you travel abroad, and is offered by some credit cards when you purchase your airline tickets. But if you get sick or have to cut your travel short, you’ll find better coverage with a more comprehensive plan. Compare travel insurance before you book you leave the US.

    Travel insurance can cover you for:

    • Lost and stolen items such as cameras, luggage or jewelery
    • The cost of replacing lost or stolen travel documents
    • Overseas emergency medical expenses
    • Injury resulting from specific activities
    Details Features
    Seven Corners Trip Protection Insurance
    Seven Corners Trip Protection Insurance
    Travel with a smile - protect your trip cost, your medical expenses, & your belongings.
    • Emergency Accident & Sickness Medical Expenses up to $250,000
    • Trip Cancellation – 100% of Trip Cost
    • Trip Interruption – up to 150% of Trip Cost
    • Political Evacuation - $20,000
    • Lost, Stolen or Damaged Baggage – up to $2,500
    • Emergency Medical Evacuation – up to $1 million
    Go to site More info
    Travelex Travel Max
    Travelex Travel Max
    TravelEx's most comprehensive protection plan for the comprehensive traveler. Offers optional Cancel For Any Reason upgrade.
    • Trip Cancellation - 100% of Insured Trip Cost
    • Trip Interruption - 150% of Insured Trip Cost
    • Trip Delay - $1000
    • Medical Expense Benefits - $100,000
    Go to site More info
    RoamRight Travel Insurance Essential
    RoamRight Travel Insurance Essential
    RoamRight’s Essential travel insurance package can be broken down into three critical parts: Trip Cancellation insurance, tourist health insurance, and baggage insurance.
    • Cancellation Cover - 100% Cost of Trip
    • Emergency Medical Expenses - $15,000
    • Emergency Evacuation and Repatriation - $150,000
    • Baggage and Personal Effects Cover - $750
    Go to site More info
    STA Travel Standard International
    STA Travel Standard International
    Get affordable cover for the essentials of options with STA's mid-level cover policy. This option will still provide up to $1500 in luggage cover and up to $100,000 in medical cover.
    • Trip Cancellation Cover - 100% of trip cost insured up to $10,000
    • Emergency Medical Expenses Cover - Up to $100,000
    • Baggage and Personal Effects - Up to $1,500
    • Trip Delay - Up to $500
    Go to site More info
    RoamRight Travel Insurance Preferred
    RoamRight Travel Insurance Preferred
    As the name implies, the Preferred package provides coverage for most trips and vacations.
    • Cancellation Cover - 100% Cost of Trip
    • Emergency Accident & Medical Expenses - $50,000
    • Emergency Evacuation and Repatriation - $500,000
    • Accidental Death and Dismemberment - $10,000
    Go to site More info
    Travelex Cancel for Any Reason
    Travelex Cancel for Any Reason
    Cancel For Any reason upgrade available with the Travel Max plan. Cancel for any reason - no questions asked.
    • Reimburses up to 75% of the insured trip cost
    • 100% cover if delayed to departure and loose at least 30%
    Go to site More info
    Atlas Travel
    Atlas Travel
    Provides customizable coverage for specific losses. Cover can be tailored to provide a balance between the basic essentials and premium cover.
    • Illness and Injury Cover - Up to $1 million
    • Emergency Medical Evacuation - Up to $1 million
    • Lost Checked Luggage - Up to $500
    • Travel Delay - $100/day up to 2 days
    Go to site More info
    Atlas Premium
    Atlas Premium
    Provides quality cover for a range of benefits with higher cover limits. Premium plan is perfect for travellers with health concerns looking for total protective cover.
    • Illness and Injury Cover - Up to $2 million
    • Emergency Medical Evacuation - Up to $1 million
    • Lost Checked Luggage - Up to $1,000
    • Travel Delay - $200/day up to 2 days
    Go to site More info
    Travelex Flight Insure Plus
    Travelex Flight Insure Plus
    Provides option to choose between different levels of flight insurance protection.
    • Flight Accident AD&D - Up to $1 Million
    • Baggage - $2,000
    • Medical Expense Benefits - $2,500
    • Medical Evacuation / Repatriation - $25,000
    Go to site More info
    STA Travel Explorer Plus
    STA Travel Explorer Plus
    Get premiere cover for a whole range of options with STA's premium policy. This option will still provide up to $100,000 in medical expense cover and up to $3,000 in cancellation cover.
    • Trip Cancellation Cover - $3,000
    • Emergency Medical Expenses Cover - Up to $100,000
    • Baggage and Personal Effects - Up to $2,500
    • Trip Delay - Up to $1,000
    Go to site More info
    Allianz Domestic Travel Insurance
    Allianz Domestic Travel Insurance
    Allianz Domestic Travel Insurance makes sure you are covered incase your planned trip unexpectedly goes awry.
    • Trip coverage - Depends on plan
    • Baggage coverage - Up to $1,000
    • 24-hour hotline assistance
    • Existing medical coverage - Up to $500,000
    Go to site More info
    Allianz International Travel Insurance
    Allianz International Travel Insurance
    If you frequently travel abroad and want extra coverage in case you get sick, injured, or need to cancel your trip, Allianz International Travel Insurance is the perfect solution.
    • Trip coverage - Depends on plan
    • Baggage coverage - Up to $1,000
    • 24-hour hotline assistance
    • Existing medical coverage - Up to $1,000,000
    Go to site More info

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