Using a credit card in South Africa

Avoid foreign transaction fees with the right travel card.

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South Africa is one of the most popular countries for tourism throughout the whole of Africa. Millions of people from overseas arrive every year to enjoy the national parks, beaches and picturesque rural landscapes, as well as major cities such as Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg.

The booming tourism industry means that credit cards are widely accepted across the nation.

Mastercard and Visa are widely accepted credit cards in South Africa. American Express cardholders may find less businesses accept their cards.

Our pick for use in South Africa

Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card

  • Earn 1.25x miles on all purchases
  • Earn 20,000 bonus miles once you spend $1,000 within your first 3 months when you open your account
  • Get 0% intro APR on purchases for your first 12 months, a variable APR of 14.49% – 24.49% applies thereafter
  • No annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fee
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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
Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®
None
$0 intro annual fee for the first year ($99 thereafter)
17.49% to 26.49% variable
Earn 50,000 AAdvantage® bonus miles after you spend $2,500 in the first 3 months.
Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card
None
$0
0% intro for the first 12 months (then 14.49%, 20.49% or 24.49% variable)
Earn 20,000 bonus miles once you spend $1,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening.
Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card
None
$0 intro annual fee for the first year ($99 thereafter)
17.24% to 26.24% variable
Earn 60,000 miles after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months, plus 10,000 miles after your first anniversary. Rates & fees
CardMatch™ from creditcards.com
See terms
See issuer's website
Can't decide on a card? Get personalized credit card offers with CardMatch™.
Hilton Honors American Express Card
None
$0
17.24% to 26.24% 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

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 travel 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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