Frequently Asked Questions
Question: What is South Africa’s currency?
Answer: South Africa’s currency is the South African rand (abbreviation ZAR, or simply R). One rand consists of 100 cents.
Question: How much money can I bring into South Africa?
Answer: There is no limit on the amount of money that you can bring into South Africa. Also, the money can be brought into the country in a number of forms, such as an investment, a new business, or simply as personal funds.
Question: How much money can I take out of South Africa?
Answer: This depends on two things – 1) how the money entered the country, and 2) what you want to use it for outside of South Africa. If you followed due procedure in bringing the money into South Africa, you should be able to get it out of the country (what happens if you did not is discussed in the next question below). There are exchange regulations governing the movement of funds out of the country by permanent residents and citizens, so if you are emigrating or travelling abroad you will need to comply with those regulations, and there is a cap on how much money you can take with you.
Question: What happens if I did not follow due procedure in bringing money into South Africa?
Answer: You won’t get a spanking, but you may be charged an exit levy. In some extreme cases, you may not even be able to move the money out of the country at all. This is why it is so important to ensure that the relevant authorities in South Africa are aware of what you are doing at all times, including the tax authorities.
Question: How much money can I move out of the country?
Answer: The exchange control regulations allow for the movement of ZAR4 million per year per adult over 18 years of age.
Question: Why does the South African government have a problem with me moving money out of the country?
Answer: In order to understand why there exchange controls in South Africa, one has to understand their history. Exchange controls were introduced almost a century ago to protect the pound sterling currency which South Africa, as a member state of the British empire, was using at that time. Since then, the regulations have been aimed at ensuring that the South African economy is not harmed by massive outflows of money.
Question: Will the situation ever change?
Answer: The situation is changing all the time. The South African government has a stated intention of easing exchange controls.
Question: What is an “authorised dealer” and why are they so important?
Answer: The South African Reserve Bank (SARB) has been tasked with overseeing exchange transactions in South Africa. The SARB has the right to delegate some authority and tasks to the commercial banks in this regard. These banks are then known as “authorised dealers” because they are allowed to conduct exchange transactions for their customers. If you want to change money in South Africa, you have to do so at an authorised dealer.
Question: Then how do currency companies exchange money?
Currency companies also work through an authorised dealer. However, a currency company can give their customers a better exchange rate through a bulk exchange transaction, and also usually do not charge any administrative fees, which banks do. A currency company will actually wait until the exchange rate is close to or on your desired level before putting your transaction through, whereas a bank will typically tell you that they cannot predict the rate of exchange, and leave it at that.
Question: Is it true that American dollars are acceptable as currency in South Africa?
Answer: No. With the exception of accommodation and entertainment (tourist) establishments, you won’t be able to get away with paying in US dollars or even British pounds. Generally speaking in South Africa you won’t be able to pay in USD, or in any other currency besides the local South African rands. The situation may vary in other African countries.
Question: How can I predict the exchange rate?
Answer: You can’t. The exchange rate changes all the time, and it is the job of professional economists to try to make forecasts, but even they cannot tell with any certainty what the exchange rate is going to be. However, if you are intending to exchange money, in order to stay informed on the exchange rate you should watch media reports and consult with professional advisors. Or, you can make use of a currency company, who will contact you if and when the rate reaches your desired level.