What is the cheapest way to buy dollars in SA?

Buying foreign currency for your trip is something many travellers forget about until the last minute. Factoring buying foreign currency into your travel planning will not only save you valuable time but will also help your travel rands go as far as possible. We chatted to Travelex, the world’s largest foreign exchange retailer, who shared eight tips for buying your foreign currency…

Your Sure Travel consultant can offer useful advice and order your foreign exchange for you. Find your nearest Sure Travel agency

Do your research

When planning your trip, be sure to include foreign exchange in your budget and planning process. Each country has specific requirements on how much money you need to have available during your trip, and you may be required to show these funds (whether in bank statements and/or proof of foreign exchange purchased) for any visa applications too.

When planning, also calculate how much you’ll need for anything extra that won’t be prepaid – such as activities, meals, sightseeing, transport, souvenirs and those important gifts to take back home. Be realistic when working out a daily budget and add on 20% or so to be safe.  Then calculate how much foreign exchange you need and buy it all in one transaction. Research can save you from buying too little or too much currency, both of which will cost you extra transaction fees.

Did you know? You can’t legally keep any unused foreign exchange after your trip. According to the Reserve Bank rules, all foreign exchange needs to be re-purchased, through an authorised dealer, within a month of returning to South Africa.

Avoid using credit cards

We’d definitely recommend taking your credit card along in case of emergencies, but try not use it unless you really have to. Your credit card is subject to whatever the exchange rate is at the time of you swiping for the transaction (the last thing you’ll want to do given the current economic climate is to be at the mercy of the exchange rate), and this plus the commission charged, means you’ll likely end up paying more. You don’t want to carry wads of cash on you so what to do…

Go for prepaid plastic

Gone are the days of traveller cheques… prepaid currency cards are safe, convenient and so easy to use. Use them to withdraw money from ATMs (with a minimal transaction fee) or use them like a credit card to pay for items directly. You’ll be able to avoid any unexpected surprises as exchange fees are locked in on the day of purchase and there are no point-of-sale transaction fees.

For example, the Travelex Cash Passport prepaid MasterCard allows you to load more than one currency and is not linked to your bank account. The Cash Passport card is chip and pin protected, is valid for up to five years and can be reloaded.

Travelex regional manager, Jacqueline Nosworthy, agrees that prepaid currency cards are the best bet for helping travellers stick to budgets. That being said however, the old adage is true: don’t put all your eggs in one basket so…

Mix prepaid and cash

A mix of cash and a prepaid currency card is a sensible and safe option. You can buy both at a rate cheaper than what you’d get charged using a credit card and the pricing and commission charges are often more transparent – so you know exactly what you’re getting and paying for.

Sure Travel Tip: Try to get cash in as low denominations as possible so you can use it everywhere (getting change for big bills at small places can be tricky) and it’s handy to have small bills on landing when you’re desperate for a quick snack or refreshment. 


Have the correct documents

To buy or collect your foreign exchange (as a South African passport holder), you’ll need to bring the below documents:

  • Valid proof of address – less than 3 months old
  • Green bar-coded ID and valid passport
  • e-Ticket print out – Departure beginning in South Africa and returning to South Africa

Buy before you depart

Foreign exchange can be bought 60 days prior to departure. Buy before you depart for your trip so you don’t need to stress about changing money at the airport where you could encounter long queues, exorbitant commissions and language barriers. Rather pre-order and have it delivered to your business address or collect from your travel consultant, Travelex store or airport outlet.

There are over 36 Travelex branches in South Africa where you can pick up your pre-ordered products, including OR Tambo Airport. Travelex is also the only foreign exchange provider at Heathrow Airport.

Your Sure Travel consultant can advise and book your foreign exchange for you. Ask them about ordering your foreign exchange for you online: 18 foreign currencies are available and online orders (for major currencies) can be collected the next day at a Travelex store.

Stay vigilant

Don’t lose all your street smarts when you’re travelling abroad! Stay vigilant, don’t flash large sums of money or your wallet around and be alert when drawing money from an ATM.

Sure Travel Marketing Manager, Geraldine Boshoff, advises travellers of the importance of never leaving your belongings unattended, specifically at the airport, hotel reception areas and on the plane. “There have been cases where passengers have left documents and wallets in the seat pouch of the plane, just for a few minutes, only to arrive at their destination with no passport and no money.”

Have an emergency plan

Always be prepared should the unforeseen happen. Have important numbers and contacts saved on your phone, written down AND elsewhere (eg: saved online on the cloud) so that should your card get stolen, you know exactly who to call to cancel it. Register with the nearest South African embassy and have their contact details. Your travel consultant, travel insurance contacts and hotel addresses and numbers are other important contacts you must have on you at all times.

Do you have any foreign exchange tips to share? Comment below.

Save time and money – order your Travelex foreign exchange with your Sure Travel consultant.

This post was sponsored by Travelex. The above guidelines do not replace the advice of a professional travel and foreign exchange consultant. Check terms and conditions of specific products when purchasing. 

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