- Need to do an international transfer money to South Africa?
- Discover cheaper ways to do currency transfers USD to ZAR (South African Rand) than most US banks.
- Learn what to look for when choosing the a money transfer platform.
Do you need to send money to South Africa for friends, family, or business purposes? You have several options available, each with different terms and conditions. This article explains the basics of what you need to know about sending money to South Africa from the United States.
In this guide
- Common reasons people transfer money overseas to South Africa
- Why you shouldn't send money overseas using your bank
- Is it safe to use a money transfer company?
- USD / ZAR exchange rates
- What are the fees?
- Minimum and maximum transfer amounts
- Alternative ways to send money to South Africa
- Business vs. personal considerations
Common reasons people transfer money overseas to South Africa
For the past several years, over $700 million in remittances is sent to South Africa annually, according to the World Bank. Reasons people transfer money include:
- Settling supplier accounts with e-commerce companies.
- Sending your friends or family in South Africa money.
- Paying for goods or services rendered in South Africa.
- Subsidizing your kid's tuition at college or university.
- Paying emigration costs.
- Contributing to a marriage ceremony or engagement.
- Sending money to a charity foundation.
Why you shouldn't send money overseas using your bank
Using your bank to complete a money transfer is the most expensive option, with margin rates and fees up to 20% higher than retail money exchanges like MoneyGram. Banks are also slower than retail options, taking two to three days longer to process transfers through the SWIFT system.
Transferring via a bank requires you to have an account with the bank, and the recipient also needs a bank account to receive the money. With retail exchanges, your recipient can collect cash from a local retail partner without the need for a bank account.
On the other hand, banks are the most secure option and they maintain all your KYC information on file. The bank wire is also the preferred option for business-to-business transactions.
Is it safe to use a money transfer company?
If you're using one of the many recommended retail exchanges listed by Finty, you're getting a reliable and effective service. Typically, a retail exchange offers lower commissions and transaction fees than a bank, while providing the same secure network.
USD / ZAR exchange rates
When sending money to South Africa from the US, you'll need to use a bank or a retail money transfer service like Western Union or OFX.
Both the banks and retail establishments charge you a commission for converting US dollars to South African Rand. Commissions with retailers are lower than banks, but you'll still pay a margin rate over the spot price for the currency pair.
As an example, assume you look online and see 1USD converts to 14ZAR. In actuality, that is an interbank rate which would not be available to you. When you transact, the rate you receive may be closer to 1USD = 13.5ZAR. The 0.50 ZAR is the commission the bank takes on the conversion.
Retail money exchange and transfer services have lower margin rates, though they range in pricing and transaction times. Before you commit to a service, shop around for the best rates, especially if you're sending amounts larger than $1,000.
What are the fees?
When sending money from the US to South Africa, you'll have to pay exchange fees (the margin rate) as well as transaction costs for processing the service. Here's what you can expect to pay with your bank and retail partners.
What is a typical fee?
If you're using the bank to transfer money, the sender pays around 5% of the total transaction cost as a fee, on top of the margin rate for the currency exchange.
Depending on the amount sent, the sender could pay anywhere from $25 to $65. The recipient may also need to pay between $15 to $30 for the bank to process the transaction.
Retail money senders charge around 3% of the transaction value, while e-wallets cost you between 1% to 3%, depending on the service.
Can fees be avoided?
You can circumvent the high transaction costs charged by the banks using vehicles like e-wallets, cryptocurrency, and payment cards. These options may charge anywhere from 1% to 3% in fees for processing the transaction, though these channels may be less familiar to many recipients.
Minimum and maximum transfer amounts
If you're sending money to South Africa using a bank, you can send any amount you want. Typically, you'll need to be an account holder with the bank, and the bank has all your company's KYC information on hand to legally process the transaction.
Private individuals collecting cash from retail money exchanges typically have a $7,000 to $10,000 limit on transactions. However, they have lower minimum limits than the banks, starting around $100.
Alternative ways to send money to South Africa
If you're sending money to South Africa, consider using e-wallets or cryptocurrency for the transaction. E-wallets like PayPal are popular in South Africa for their fast transaction times and relatively lower fees than banks or retail money exchange transfer services.
Using cryptocurrency is also a viable option, provided the recipient knows how to sell the crypto on an exchange. If the recipient cashes out the crypto for ZAR, they may have to comply with KYC protocols to withdraw into local currency.
Business vs. personal considerations
Business transactions are safest when using bank transfers. The bank tracks all parties involved, and there's no need to present your ID or passport; the money is a direct deposit into the nominated bank account.
However, private persons receiving funds from a retail transfer exchange like Wise will need to produce a local ID card or passport when collecting the cash. These requirements satisfy KYC protocols designed to prevent money laundering through the financial system.
How can I fund my money transfer?
You can fund USD transfer by using cash, credit card, debit card, or a wire transfer. The exchange, bank, e-wallet, or crypto service will convert the currency into ZAR on the recipient's end.
How fast can my money transfer be sent to South Africa?
In most cases, bank transfers take around three to five working days to reflect in the recipient's account. If you're using a retail exchange, you'll have your cash in one to three days. E-wallets and crypto payments can reflect in anything from a few minutes to a few hours.
What are the money collection options?
Your recipient can collect the money from any partner outlet of the retail money transfer exchange. Companies like Western Union and Wise have hundreds of branches across South Africa where your recipient can collect their cash.
Are there any tax considerations?
Yes, in 2021 the IRS allows individuals to send $15,000 per annum as a "gift." Married couples or partners can send up to $30,000 per year per household. Speak to a licensed CPA about the tax implications involving sending large amounts from the US to South Africa.