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How To Access Your Money While Travelling In Africa

If you are reading this article, it could be because you want to familiarize yourself with how to receive or withdraw money from your account while travelling in an African country, or you want to know the available options to receive money without incurring high remittance fees, or maybe you simply want to ensure that you have enough money on you for your travel expenses. I will do my best to address all these questions in this blog post.

The various ways that you can access the money in your bank account while traveling in Africa includes;

  • Using your Debit card, whether Mastercard or Visa card.
  • Money wires through Moneygram or Western Union
  • International Prepaid Card for travellers
  • Credit cards
  • Travellers Cheques
  • Financial services such as Sendwave
  • Financial services such as WorldRemit
  • Travelling with enough cash (in your country’s currency and exchanging it for local currency)
  • Financial services such as Transferwise

For a fact, there are a wide range of options available when it comes to withdrawing your funds or accessing your money while on the go. 

Technology and innovation have made things easier. There are a handful of fin-tech companies, like Paypal, Cash apps, Transferwise, Venmo, and even African owned fin-tech apps like Paga, Wallets.africa, Paystack among others that have made the transfer and movement of money and financial transactions in general happen faster and smoother.  

The options are available, it is only a matter of what suits you and what works best for you given the circumstances, your preference based on value received, customer experience, and service charges.

DO THIS FIRST  BEFORE YOU TRAVEL

One Important thing thing you should do before travelling, is to let your bank know beforehand that you would be travelling abroad. This way, you can get any requirement for international withdrawal (if any) sorted out. You might even get advice on better options for international withdrawals from your bank.

Why is telling your bank about your travel intentions Important?

  1. They’ll issue you a debit card suitable for travelling. The good thing about a travel debit card is that it is travel friendly. Because you will be needing to withdraw money when you are abroad you are charged way less in foreign transaction fees and you will be saving a lot of dollars or pounds as the case may be.
  1. Another benefit of informing your banks before you travel is to avoid getting your bank account blocked. When your bank is in the know of how long you will be gone for they put your account on travel notice. This is especially important if you will be away for a long time.
  1. For security purposes. When your bank is informed, they can unlock your account for travel purposes so that you can take money out of it without making your bank think that there is some criminal activity going on . Note that your bank is constantly trying to ensure that your account is secure and there is no strange withdrawal from a different country. So you need to open your account for foreign transactions.

When your Bank is aware of your intention to travel you don’t have to worry about getting your money when you need it.

PRO TIP: It is advisable to have more than one Debit card when travelling. This way, if you have issues with a card, it gets lost, or for whatever reason. You have a back up and you are not stranded.

WHAT ARE THE OPTIONS FOR ACCESSING FUNDS FROM YOUR ACCOUNT IN A FOREIGN COUNTRY?

As earlier established, you can receive or withdraw money while travelling abroad using any of the following methods;

  • Using your Debit card, whether Mastercard or Visa card.
  • Money wires through Moneygram or Western Union
  • International Prepaid Card for travellers
  • Credit cards
  • Travellers Cheques
  • Financial services such as Sendwave
  • Financial services such as WorldRemit
  • Travelling with enough cash (in you country’s currency and exchanging it for local currency)
  • Financial services such as Transferwise

ATM CARDS FOR CASH WITHDRAWALS

To access your funds from local banks, you can use the ATM/Debit cards. Automated teller machines are simply the best and straightforward way to access your money anywhere you go. As long as you have activated your card for travel use and for financial transactions abroad. 

All you need to do is to let your own banks know you need a travel ATM card which will definitely be a Debit card. Most Places in Africa do not recognize or use Credit Cards so to be safe, have a debit ATM card for withdrawals and POS transactions.

Usually, you can use any Mastercard, or Visa card you use in America. They can definitely be used in most ATMs in Africa. This also means that the American Express card will not be useful in Africa. Anything outside a Visa card or Mastercard will not be accepted. 

The downside of using your ATM abroad is that the services fee can be very high for foreign transactions. They charge anywhere from 2-5% per transaction and the accumulated cost can go high pretty quickly.

PRO TIP: When withdrawing from the ATM in the country you are visiting, usually the money you collect is in the local currency, unless the ATM has options for withdrawing in dollars or any other currency. Your bank charges you for exchange rates and services fees. 

CREDIT CARD FOR TRAVEL

Credit cards for travellers are chip enabled Visa cards or Mastercards. They come ready to use for any of your financial needs while on the go. They can also be used in most parts of the world.

There are cool Credit Cards for Travel options that travellers can use while on the go. Most Travel Credit Cards  enable you to travel affordably, charge zero foreign exchange transaction fees and even earn you points while you travel. 

Some options for Travel friendly Credit Cards

Platinum Card Preferred® from American Express

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Citi Premier® Card

Capital One Venture One Rewards Credit Cards

Bank of America® Card

Chase Link Business Cash Credit® Card

British Airways Visa Signature® Card

You can learn more about credit cards for international travel by reading these articles beautifully written by Moneyunder30 and  Johnnyjet. They have very detailed information you need to know about travelling globally using credit cards.

PRO TIP: Credit cards can be used for booking your flights, sorting out accommodations and other online related services. For use in African countries, that might be difficult. To be safe, have a Debit card.

INTERNATIONAL MONEY WIRES

Money wires using Moneygram or Western union are one of the early and common means of sending and receiving money across the globe especially in Africa. 

Although it is still an effective  way to send or receive money in Africa there are more options available now through Fin tech. Financial institutions like Transferwise, World remit, Venmoney, Paypal, Cashapp and some African financial services companies like Paystack, Wave, Azimo and a host of others, have made sending and receiving so much quicker and easier.

How to Send and Receive Money in an African Country Using MoneyGram

Moneygram is available in over 50 African countries. So it’s quite popular in Africa. You usually can get money sent to you via Moneygram in the country you are in. Just walk into any Moneygram office in the city and send or receive money.

Steps to Send Money via MoneyGram (Sender)

  • Visit any Moneygram agent or bank affiliated with Moneygram, you need to have your ID with you.
  • Complete the sender form given to you.
  • Take along the amount you want to send plus service fees.
  • Provide your recipients full name and home address as written on the recipients ID.
  • You will be given a reference number. This reference number is very important as it will be used by the recipient to collect the money.
  • Share the reference number as well as any relevant information with the recipient.

PRO TIP: You can have someone send you money to a Bank Account or Money wallet account. For either one you need to put in the recipient’s Bank name, Bank account details, or Money wallet details as the case may be. Or you can have them send the money as Cash pickup.

Steps to Receive Money via MoneyGram (Receiver)

  • Visit any Moneygram agent office or affiliated banks. You will be required to give them the reference number.
  • Provide your first and last name as written on your ID. It should also be the same way it was written by the sender.
  • Provide a recognised ID, and an accurate home address, street, and the city you are currently residing in.
  • Provide your phone number.
  • Your signature will also be required. 
  • After filling the required form for receiving the money, you have the option of having the money sent to a local bank account if you have one. Or you can receive the money in cash.

How can Moneygram be relevant to travellers in Africa?

First note that Moneygram  is just one option of getting money while travelling in Africa. It might just come in handy if all else fails and you need money urgently.

To use Moneygram while in Africa you might need someone in your home country to send you the money from their location. You can get the money in a few hours. Usually it should be between 1-2 business days.

Moneygram has payout flexibility and senders can decide how best they would like you to receive money. Whether it is direct bank transfers, cash pickup or delivery, mobile wallet transfer (available in countries like Zimbabwe, Kenya, and  Tanzania), or prepaid cards reload. The senders can pick any that will be convenient for you to receive the money sent.

I found this article on Moneygram reviews in 2021 written by Moneytransfers. It has real reviews by people who have used Moneygram and their experience with it. You can check it out to learn more.

PREPAID CARD FOR TRAVELLERS

The International prepaid card is actually similar to your regular debit cards. They can be used to make withdrawals or pay for things with a POS. The prepaid card is geared towards travellers. So it is travel friendly, cost effective and convenient.

You need to be sure that the prepaid card you use is an international prepaid debit card that can be used anywhere a Mastercard is used. For instance, there are prepaid cards that cannot be used outside the US.

Typically, you load up your prepaid card with the money you plan to use during your trip before you travel and use it on the go. No credit required therefore there is no spending on borrowed money. 

Prepaid travel cards are a good option because you can load up money in your prepaid card ahead of time and if you are travelling to different countries, it also allows you to withdraw in different currencies. And the service fee is usually not as high as that of a regular mastercard. It is very travel friendly.

Example of prepaid Card for travellers.

There are several options for International Prepaid cards. Before you use any prepaid card services consider the service fee, compare between several prepaid card services to find a cost effective one. 

Also, use a prepaid card that is popular and that people have successfully used without any issue. You can find out about popular prepaid cards used by tourists in African countries on Tip Advisor or Reddit.

International Prepaid Card options

  • Netspend
  • Travelex Money Card 
  • Western Union Netspend
  • Visa prepaid
  • N26
  • Wise Multi currency Mastercard Debit Card
  • Paypal Prepaid
  • Others

FIN-TECH SERVICE OPTIONS

SENDWAVE

Sendwave is an American owned Fin-tech software that was born out of the need to send money to Africa without high service fees.  It works in countries across Africa, Europe and Asia. 

Sendwave has similar features to Moneygram, however it’s more flexible as it’s a software app, and has awesome features. It also has awesomely low transaction fees. It is an effective Fin-tech software for sending and receiving money across the globe. 

You can send money to yourself from your foreign (US or UK) bank account and pick up your cash at any affiliated bank in the country you are visiting. Just download the app on IOS or Android, sign up with them and you are good to go.

How Sendwave works

Senders 

  • Download the Sendwave App on your phone and sign up. 

PRO TIP: It is preferable to sign up with Send Wave while you are in your home country. Certain services are not available in African countries. You might not be able to log into your US or UK account in Africa unless you use a VPN.

  • Fill in the receiver’s details i.e. Name (as written in the receiver’s official ID), Phone number
  • Select “Cash Pick-up” as mode of payment, this way they can take the money in cash from any affiliated banks in the country.
  • Put in the amount you want to send to yourself or the receiver.
  • Confirm your transaction
  • Notify your receiver on the amount sent. Tell them to expect two SMS that will be sent to their phone. They will need it to pick up cash. They do not need to have an account to access the funds sent.

Receivers

  • You should receive 2 SMS from Sendwave; a voucher code and a 1 time password.
  • Visit any Bank affiliated with Sendwave 
  • Submit the two SMS codes you received along with your ID
  • Collect your funds

TRANSFERWISE

Transferwise now known as wise is an effective way to send and receive money across the world. I listed Wise as a method of moving your money around because it is also a very convenient and affordable way to move money around. 

Similar to Sendwave, you can transfer money to yourself from your foreign account to a local bank account or do cash pickup. The service fee is cheaper, it is suitable for travellers and you get money exchanged at the actual rate of exchange. Transfers typically take 1 business day to be sent.

To create an account with Wise, download the App on apple store and android and sign up. It usually takes 1-3 business days to get your account verified. 

Visit Wise site to learn more about Wise.

PRO TIP: You can only receive or send money in the same currency as that  which you created your Transferwise account with. So if your selected currency is in dollars you will only receive money as sent in dollars. However you can convert the money in your account balance to other currencies.

How to withdraw money from your Wise account?

  1. You have the option of applying for a Wise MasterCard. You can then use the card to withdraw money anywhere ATM cards are accepted. The money will be deducted from your Wise account.
  2. Move the money from your Wise wallet to a local domiciliary bank in the country you are currently visiting. And then visit a local bank to collect the money over the counter.

You can visit the Wise website to learn more.

WORLDREMIT

WorldRemit however is a more recent, faster and affordable way to receive money in Africa from overseas. 

With world remit you can make a transfer to send yourself money in Africa from your US/ UK account. 

The process of signing up with WorldRemit involves downloading the app and signing up to have an account. Then you wait to get verified before actively using the service.
With WorldRemit you can transfer to anyone from across the globe and there are several options for receiving funds sent via WorldRemit. You can get your money sent quickly and the service charges are little.

EXCHANGE MONEY IN THE LOCAL FOREIGN EXCHANGE MARKET

You can travel with enough cash and then exchange your foreign currency with the local Banks or financial Institutions in the country you are visiting. 

This way you reduce financial service charges. The downside is the risk involved with carrying lots of cash around.

There are people in the country  who exchange foreign currency for local currency. You will find them in certain areas of the country in the streets. You can exchange your money with these local exchangers. 

Even though it is not encouraged it is an option and people usually exchange with local exchangers because the price is usually more favourable than the Bureau De Change. And there are no charges. 

I advise that if you want to exchange in the street you go with a local or better still exchange your money with the Banks.

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SUMMARY

The types of withdrawal options available to travellers will vary depending on  the African country you are visiting and the way the banking system operates in the country.

 If you travel a lot you will find this to be true. However, with time you will figure out what options work best for you. 

All you need to do to make your withdrawal process easy; inform your bank about your intentions to travel and have them set up a preferred method for withdrawing cash while travelling. 

Some things that you should consider besides getting your bank to set up a debit card for travelling expenses are transaction charges for card maintenance, charges for foreign withdrawals and of course actual money in your bank for use.

Have you travelled to Africa before?

How did you withdraw your funds in the country you visited? How easy was it to use and what was the fee for using the services? I would love to know.

DISCLAIMER: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this information. The African Traveller cannot be held responsible for any errors or omissions. All views on this site are my own and based upon personal findings. They do not represent the opinions of any entity whatsoever with which I have been, am now or will be affiliated. Learn more about our Disclaimer.

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