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Review: Absa international money transfers

Send money all around the world and take advantage of multiple transfer options.

  • Good for mobile app transfers in over 25 foreign currencies, plus cash transfers.
  • Not so great for high fees on larger transactions.

Absa exchange rates and fees

There are a couple of factors you need to consider when you send an international money transfer:

  • The exchange rate. An exchange rate markup applies, so compare the rate you’re quoted with the current mid-market rate to determine the size of the margin Absa applies.
  • The transaction fee. You’ll also pay a transfer fee every time you send money overseas. This fee varies depending on the transfer method you select and how much money you’re sending. The fee on SWIFT transfers is calculated as a percentage of your transaction amount, but there are minimum and maximum limits to this fee.

Available currencies

Absa supports international money transfers in a wide range of currencies, including:

  • AUD Australian dollar
  • BWP Botswanan pula
  • GBP British pound
  • EUR Euro
  • INR Indian rupee
  • KES Kenyan shilling
  • UGX Ugandan shilling
  • USD US dollar

What types of transfers can you make with Absa?

Absa offers the following types of transfers:

  • Electronic transfer. You can send an electronic transfer via the SWIFT network by logging in to your Absa online banking account.
  • Mobile transfer. You can also send a SWIFT transfer from your smartphone using the NovoFX foreign exchange app. Transfers are available in more than 25 currencies.
  • Western Union transfers. Absa customers can also send transfers via the Western Union network through online or mobile banking, or in selected Absa branches. The money you send can be collected from over 500,000 Western Union locations in more than 200 countries and territories.
  • Bank drafts. You also have the option of sending a bank draft to your beneficiary overseas. However, this option is much slower than electronic transfer methods.

How long does a transfer with Absa take?

Transfer processing times vary depending on the transfer method you select and where you send your funds.

However, SWIFT transfers generally take 2-5 business days, while transfers sent via the Western Union network are available for collection within minutes.

What payment methods does Absa accept?

If sending a SWIFT transfer, you’ll need to fund the transaction from your bank account. However, cash is accepted as payment for Western Union transfers.

Transfers typically takeClock icon for transfer speed

1 day

Is Absa safe to use?

  • Security and regulation: Government regulated.
  • Established: 1991.
  • International presence: 12 countries.
*According to Absa on 20 February 2020.

Absa is one of South Africa’s largest banks and was established in 1991. It has a presence in 12 countries throughout Africa and complies with the Financial Intelligence Centre Act. As a result, you’ll need to provide proof of ID and verify your address before you can open an account.

How does Absa make money?

Absa makes money on international transfers in two ways:

  • Exchange rate markups. The exchange rate you get for your transfer is different to the mid-market rate. Also known as the interbank rate, the mid-market rate is the “true” exchange rate at which banks buy and sell currency to and from one another.
  • Transaction fees. You’ll also need to pay a transaction fee whenever you send an overseas transfer with Absa.

How to register an account

You’ll need to open an account with Absa if you want to send an international transfer. You can do this by completing the following steps.

How do I make an international money transfer with Absa?

If you’re sending a transfer online, you’ll need to:

  1. Log in to your Absa online banking account.
  2. Provide your recipient’s bank account details, name and address.
  3. Enter the amount you’d like to transfer.
  4. Provide a reason for your payment.
  5. Review the full details of your transaction and then finalise the transfer.

If you’ve downloaded the NovoFX app and signed up for an account, you can send the transfer from your smartphone by following similar steps to the ones outlined above.

What is Absa?

Absa was established in 1991 following the merger of several banks and financial services providers. The bank offers a full suite of financial products and services to customers throughout South Africa, and has a presence in a total of 12 African countries.

Absa’s head office is located in Johannesburg, and the bank’s largest shareholder is Barclays Bank.

In a nutshell


  • Multiple transfer options. ABSA lets you send online, mobile and in-branch transfers from your bank account, as well as send cash transfers with Western Union.
  • Fast transfers. Transfers sent via Western Union can be available to collect within minutes, while the NovoFX app makes it quick and easy to send SWIFT transfers.
  • Send over 25 currencies. You can transfer funds in 28 currencies straight from the NovoFX app.


  • High fees. The larger your transfer amount, the more you can expect to pay in fees (NB: there is a maximum fee limit on SWIFT transfers).

How does Absa compare to other services?

Type your transaction details into the table below to find out how Absa’s exchange rates and fees compare to those offered by other money transfer services.

Min. Transfer Amount Transfer Speed Online Transfer Fee Rate Amount Received Description CTA Details
USD 60 1 day ZAR 0.00 0.068 USD
Skrill offers easy transfers to many popular destinations, but keep an eye out for added fees. Go to site Show details
AUD 2,000 2 days ZAR 0.00 0.067 USD
CurrenciesDirect makes transferring money abroad simple with bank-beating exchange rates. Go to site Show details
USD 1 Within an hour ZAR 250.00 0.068 USD
Use promo code FREE to send your first transfer with no fee. T&Cs apply.
WorldRemit sends money to 110+ countries for bank-to-bank deposits, cash pick-ups or mobile top-ups.
Go to site Show details
EUR 8 3 - 5 days EUR 3.00 0.068 USD
Special offer: Zero fees on your first 10 transfers.
CurrencyFair has bank-beating exchange rates and fast transfer times on 15+ popular currencies.
Go to site Show details
USD 2,000 1 day ZAR 0.00 0.068 USD
TorFX guarantees to match any competitor's exchange rate. Conditions apply.
TorFX sends money overseas in 30+ currencies, with competitive rates for transfer amounts over $2,000.
Go to site Show details

Compare up to 4 providers

Disclaimer: Exchange rates change often. Confirm the total cost with the provider before transferring money.

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