Exchanging dollars in Cape Town

Jul 5th, 2006, 05:48 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 90
Exchanging dollars in Cape Town

Less than a week until departure.....and soooo excited!! What is the recommendation on exchanging money within S. Africa in terms of minimizing bank fees and maximizing exchange rates? We will arrive for a brief night in Johannesburg before going to Livingstone; we then head to Cape Town, and that is specifically where we will end up needing more cash. My credit card charges 2.5-3% per transaction, which could add up quickly for things like the shark adventure. My bank will charge a minimal fee ($1.50) per ATM withdrawal, but that doesn't include any charges that the specific ATM bank charges. In your experience, is it best to take Am Express travelers cheques or to use ATM's?
trvlcrzy is offline  
Jul 5th, 2006, 07:42 AM
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 246
I use the ATMs in South Africa. My bank doesn't charge a transaction fee (or if they do, it's hidden), and I feel I get a good exchange rate. Besides, ATMs are everywhere so the cash is readily accessible and it is easy to withdraw. Cashing travelers' checks sometimes entails long waits at a bank, so for the convenience alone, it is worth using the ATMs.
safarilover is offline  
Jul 5th, 2006, 08:25 AM
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We used ATMs everywhere in South Africa... very easy. Although my bank doesn't charge foreign ATM withdrawal fees, I don't believe there was a fee from the SA bank ATM (unless it was hidden)... and exchange rate was excellent.

If you don't wish to use your credit card for purchases, i.e., shark cage diving, then withdraw sufficient SA rand to pay this direct to the provider.

And while VAT refunds are available against credit card purchases - souvenirs - items you are removing from SA - the cage diving, meals or hotel rooms ,won't be eligible for such refund.

As to your bank's fee 2.5-3% for foreign transactions (most cc charge these nowadays), the exchange rate for using credit cards is just about as good or the same as using an ATM, that in the scheme of things (total cost of your trip), if you don't use your cc for anything else, a small price to pay for the convenience of not having to carry that many Rand in your pocket/wallet.

When using the ATM, in SA or elsewhere , take out what you need for a few days, rather than small amounts every day - you save on the ATM fees.

Suggestion - when you arrive home, find a bank that doesn't charge foreign ATM fees. They're out there.

Jul 6th, 2006, 12:33 PM
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 2,619
I received a VAT refund on any purchases being removed from SA as long as I had a tax invoice. It didn't matter whether I used a credit card, or not.
ShayTay is offline  
Jul 7th, 2006, 03:21 AM
Join Date: Dec 2005
Posts: 189
We used our ATM all around South Africa - the only place that you can't use credit cards are to pay for petrol - for some reason no one will accept them - had no trouble with ATM's no fees. Have a great time.
Karen246 is offline  
Jul 7th, 2006, 07:50 AM
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 686
The reason for no credit cards at petrol (gas) stations is a throwback to the sanctions era. It was one of several measures to restrict consumption. (Two others were opening hours - closed at night and over weekends as I recall - and painfully lower speed limits on national roads.)

And although that need is no longer relevant, and its repeal has been discussed at length, the Law remains. Locals use special "garage" or "petrol" debit cards, issued by the major banks.
ArthurSA is offline  
Jul 9th, 2006, 02:40 AM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 1,097

I advise all who travel with me to use ATMS. Besides the fact that they are everywhere to be found they are convenient, quick and easy to use. No matter what other mechanism of money exchange that you use there will ALWAYS be a delay in doing so due to backward and forward checking that will take place before you obtain your cash. A couple of pointers in this regard:

1. ATM's, for security purposes, only allow one to draw the equivalent of ZAR2000/day from an overseas account. Some machines allow ZAR3000/day. This does not apply to the individual drawing the monies, it applies to the individual card.

2. Do not draw money in an isolated area and never draw monies while on your own.

3. Only draw monies at ATM's that are situated inside banks as they have security guards overseeing the area and furthermore if you are involved in a card chomping scam where the ATM supposedly swallows your card you will be able to retrieve the card from the bank immediately.

4. Please bear in mind that to retrieve the above card from the bank you will have to carry ID on you however this ID could be a laminated copy of your original ID.

5.DO NOT CARRY YOUR ORIGINAL ID ON YOU AT ANY TIME. A laminated copy of your original will do fine. Strictly speaking you do need to carry an original copy of your drivers license when driving however if you make a good enough color copy of this document no SA police authority will be able to identify if this is an original or not in that they have no idea as to what an original drivers license looks like from another country. Overall the only time that you will ever need an original form of ID is when you cash traveler cheques in a bank and if you are using ATM's this wont be needed anyway. With that said always lock your ID away in safekeeping at your place of stay.

6. NEVER NEVER NEVER take any advice or let anybody that you do not know help you at an ATM. TRUST NOBODY when doing a withdrawal.

7. Dont show you cash when doing the withdrawal. Hide it on yourself at the ATM in a private manner.

8. Most important is the fact that you will probably need very little cash on you at all times as you can generally buy everything per credit card. It is for this reason that I suggest that you try to minimize the amount of hard cash that you will have with you. You wont need it and it only represents a risk. I would say bring 90% of my monies on credit card, 5% in travelers cheques (Just for security backup) and the rest in foreign cash. (Also only for backup because and also because cashing foreign bank notes is a very expensive event in SA)

9. It is always handy to bring a couple of US$1 notes with you as this could prove to be handy when tipping or purchasing small articles when travelling in other parts of South Africa or possibly Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia.

10. Last handy tip (or should I say footy tip ) Always put a $100 bill in your shoe wherever you travel so that you have instant cash available at all times in case of an emergency.

Btw I would adopt all of the above safety rules anywhere in the world and not only in SA when travelling.

Hope the above all helps.

Very proudly part of the wonderful nation of South Africa
Selwyn_Davidowitz is offline  
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