Going to South Africa? Using a credit card in South Africa | finder.com
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Using a credit card in South Africa

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Avoid foreign transaction fees with the right travel card.

South Africa is a popular tourist destination that widely accepts credit cards, especially Mastercard and Visa.

You could also use Discover or American Express in some places. That said, beware of credit card fraud and be sure to also carry some cash for smaller purchases and incidentals.

Our pick for use in South Africa

U.S. Bank FlexPerks® Travel Rewards® Visa Signature® Card

  • Earn 25,000 enrollment FlexPoints worth $375 on airfare, hotel stays, car rentals and more. Just spend $2,000 in eligible net purchases on your card within the first four months of account opening.
  • 2x FlexPoints at gas stations, grocery stores or airlines – whichever you spend the most on each monthly billing cycle, and at most cell phone service providers.
  • 2x FlexPoints for your charitable donations
  • No foreign transaction fees*
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Compare cards for use in South Africa

All credit cards in the table below have no foreign transaction fees. Using them will help you avoid paying extra fees on purchases made abroad.

Name Product Foreign Transaction Fee Annual Fee Purchase APR Filter values
None
$0
17.99% to 26.99% variable
Earn 75,000 Hilton Honors™ Bonus Points after you spend $1,000 in purchases on the card within your first 3 months of card membership. Rates & fees
None
$0
15.24% to 26.24% variable
Build your credit with no fees: Apply if you're new to credit or have a fair to good score.
None
$0
0% intro for the first 12 months (then 15.24%, 19.24% or 25.24% variable)
Earn 3% cash back on up to $10,000 in the first 12 months, then 1.5% on all purchases. See Rates and Fees.
None
$550
N/A
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. Rates & fees
None
$250
See Rates & Fees
35,000 bonus Membership Rewards® Points when you spend $2,000 in the first 3 months. Rates & fees

Compare up to 4 providers

Potential credit card fees in South Africa

There are two main types of fees you could incur using a credit card abroad:

  • Foreign transaction fees. If your card comes with foreign transaction fees, you could pay a fee of up to 3% on every purchase made abroad.
  • Currency conversion fees. Instead of paying in local currency, a merchant could let you pay in US dollars. This is known as a Dynamic Currency Conversion and it comes with additional fees and poor exchange rate.

Can I incur both fees?

Yes. Avoid this by paying in local currency and get a credit card without foreign transaction fees.

Which credit card issuers are accepted in South Africa?

While some merchants accept American Express or Discover cards, Visa and Mastercard are accepted more commonly.

For cash withdrawals, look for Standard Bank ATMs for Discover cards. Amex cardholders can choose from ATMs of Nedbank and from smaller banks’ ATMs.

Merchant acceptance
ATM acceptance
Visa
check mark iconHigh
check mark iconHigh
Mastercard
check mark iconHigh
check mark iconHigh
American Express
exclamation point iconMedium
check mark iconHigh
Discover
exclamation point iconMedium
cross mark iconLow

Should I use my credit card to get cash in South Africa?

Most hotels, restaurants and shops in Cape Town, Johannesburg or any other major city in South Africa, accept credit cards. That said, it’s always a good idea to also carry cash for smaller establishments.

If you use a credit card to make a cash withdrawal, there will be additional cash advance fees or an APR. Use a debit card to avoid these fees.

Travel money guide: South Africa

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.

Chip and PIN credit cards

South Africa has adopted the chip and PIN technology in the past few years. This means you’ll need a PIN for an ATM cash withdrawal. Ask your bank to assign one to your card before leaving the US.

Is it safe to use my credit card in South Africa?

South Africa is known for credit card fraud. One of the popular frauds is someone offering you assistance to use an ATM while they steal your card and information. Follow these tips to improve your safety:

  • Select ATMs with care. Stick to ATMs attached to banks. These are less likely to be tampered with and you can easily retrieve your card if the machine eats it.
  • Take two cards. Having a backup can ensure you have coverage if something happens to your primary card.
  • Keep your card in sight. Avoid card cloning or misuse by watching your card every time you pay.

How to prepare before traveling to South Africa

  1. Get a credit card without foreign transaction fees.This will save you up to 3% of the amount of every transaction you make. That’s $150 for every $5,000 spent abroad.
  2. Visa and Mastercard are universally accepted. Discover and American Express are also widely accepted, but also carry cash just in case.
  3. Notify your bank before you travel. Otherwise, your bank could interpret charges abroad as fraudulent and block your card.
  4. Get your bank’s phone number. Simply call to resolve issues with your card.
  5. Get a backup card. Make sure you keep it safe. Sometimes, it can be your only access to funds.
  6. Get some cash. Use it for incidentals and for smaller shops where credit cards aren’t accepted.

Bottom line

South Africa is known for credit card fraud, but you can still use your card safely if you exercise caution. Consider making a cash withdrawal for places that don’t accept credit cards.

Consider using a debit card for cash withdrawals to avoid cash advance fees and an APR. For all other purchases, make sure you use a credit card without foreign transaction fees.
See more guides on using a credit card in other countries.

Frequently asked questions

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Disclaimer

Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.

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