How to Open a Bank Account in South Africa

If you want to receive funds and make transactions while in South Africa you need to have a South African bank account which will also enable you to set up debit orders to pay for your taxes, utility bills, and other accounts you may have. Although opening your own bank account may seem like a tedious process, it is definitely worth the effort it you want to enjoy some degree of financial freedom while in the country. As long as you follow a few basic guidelines and aren’t afraid to ask pertinent question, opening a South African bank account will be a lot easier than imagined.

Requirements to open a bank account

The type of bank account you open in South Africa will depend on the visa you’ve been issued with. If you only have a tourist visa, you’ll need to open a non-resident bank account in South Africa. If you have either a temporary or permanent residency visa, however, you can open a resident bank account.

In order to open a resident’s bank account you will need to be in possession of a valid passport, a study or work permit, a proof of your South African address, and bank statements from your home country.

Applications for a non-resident bank account has to be accompanied by a passport or birth certificate, proof of address, and at least three month’s bank statements from your bank in your home country.

If you already bank with an international bank you may be able to use the account you opened in your home country to transact in South Africa. Although there are generally higher fees associated with these types of accounts it can limit the inconvenience associated with opening a new account while also making it easier to obtain credit as you already have an established history with the institution.

Choosing a bank

At present there are 5 big banking operators in South Africa to choose from: ABSA, Capitec, First National Bank, Nedbank, and Standard Bank. Before blindly signing up with the first bank you come across, there are a number of important things to consider. One of the first things you need to check is what banking options are available to you. Draw up a checklist of everything that is important to you and do not settle on anything that is not going to fully meet your needs. The following questions should be asked when deciding which bank to open an account with:

  • What monthly/annual fees are charged?
  • Are you allowed to withdraw cash whenever it is needed and what limitations are there to your withdrawals?
  • Where can you withdraw money from? Can you only use ATMs or can you withdraw at a till-point as well?
  • Will you earn any interest on your money?
  • Does the bank offer internet and mobile banking solutions?

In addition to the above, it is also important to inquire about things such as security & protection against fraud, financial advising, and other available client services. Going into a branch is without a doubt the best way to obtain the information necessary although all banks do have comprehensive websites that contains most of the info you are after. Do not apply for an account at any institution unless you are 100% satisfied with the services they offer.

What about business accounts?

Although opening a business account is slightly more complex than opening one in your personal capacity, a number of options exist to satisfy your every need. Whether you are looking to make basic day-to-day transactions or are looking for something that offers accountancy software and merchant devices, you are bound to find an account that works for you. If you are looking to open account for your small business it may even be possible to upgrade your existing personal account in such a manner that it allows for business transactions. The documentation needed to open a business account includes everything you would have had to submit when opening a personal account as well as specific documentation pertaining to the registration of your business.