You will soon become an expert at international banking transactions…
Before you leave the US contact your bank and/or credit card company to let them know that you will be studying abroad – where and for how long.
If your ATM card is linked to the Plus or Cirrus systems, your card will work in hundreds of cash machines throughout the country. The advantage to using your American ATM card is that you will be assessed the wholesale exchange rate that applies to large foreign currency transactions. That said, have other sources of money in case your ATM card does not work.
You can use most credit cards in South Africa but they must be in your name, as it appears on your passport. Visa and MasterCard are more widely accepted than American. Credit card cash advances are considered loans, so interest is charged from the day the advance is made. Before you depart, check with your card company for more information on what services you’ll have where, what fees are involved and what to do if you lose your card.
You will have the ability to open a bank account in South Africa. Many of the major South African banks, like Standard Bank, offer student accounts, and all that is needed to set up an account is around 100 Rand and your passport.
When the program is in session, our Resident Director in South Africa can make emergency loans to students. Students must sign a promissory note and repay the loan as soon as they receive money from home. If you find yourself in dire financial straits while traveling, the State Department can help your family transfer money to you (provided you are a U.S. citizen).