Apps mean buying foreign currency has never been easier
The days of arming yourself with a sheaf of documents, standing in queues inside a bank branch and filling in forms to buy foreign currency for your next overseas holiday or business trip are over.Many of the big banks now offer mobile forex apps that put your currency of choice in your pocket at the click of a few buttons.None of the big four banks require you to visit a branch to activate or register on their forex apps. You simply download the app from Google Play or the Apple App Store.Forex apps allow you to keep an eye on the rand exchange rate so that you can buy forex when the rates are in your favour. Most of the apps also allow you to set up beneficiaries and to make payments in foreign currency to overseas organisations and individuals.Banks with standalone forex apps include Absa with its NovoFX app, and Standard Bank with its Shyft app. First National Bank and Nedbank provide forex services on their general banking apps. Absa's NovoFX app lets you buy foreign exchange and make cross-border payments in more than 28 currencies, says Omar Baig, head of transactional banking at Absa Group.You can use NovoFX to do cross-border bank-to-bank (SWIFT) transactions in various currencies with real-time exchange rates. You can make same-day payments, including monetary gifts, and pay international travel expenses with the app.As an Absa customer, you can also access the Western Union international cash send and payment features via the Absa banking app for person-to-person payments.Arno van Helden, head forex solutions at Standard Bank, says the bank's Shyft app enables you to buy, store and send foreign currency directly from your phone. To obtain foreign currency you transfer rands from your general banking app to Shyft. You can then purchase any of four foreign currencies - US dollars, Australian dollars, euros or British sterling - with the currency being held in wallets.If you need to pay someone who has a foreign bank account in, for example, the US, you can load them as a beneficiary and transfer the required amount in dollars from your dollar wallet. Settlements to Europe, the US, UK and Australia take on average one working day.As an optional extra, at R120 per card, you can order and link up to three Shyft Mastercard debit cards to your app profile, which you can use to shop while travelling abroad. If you enjoy shopping on international websites or book hotels in foreign currencies, you can create up to three virtual Shyft cards per currency on the app. Anthony Grant, FNB's CEO of foreign exchange, says the foreign exchange functionality on the FNB app allows you make real-time transactions without the need to pre-fund wallets on a separate platform.You can make and receive international payments, send money offshore and receive funds from abroad on the FNB app. To buy or sell foreign currency you transfer money between your rand account and FNB Global Accounts on the app. You can open up to nine FNB Global Accounts, one for each of the currencies on offer, he says.You can set up an offshore beneficiary and view forex rates for payments to an overseas bank account.If you want a physical card in a foreign currency for purchases while travelling overseas you can order a linked debit card in either US dollars, sterling or euros to be delivered to you. Stelios Vakis, digital executive, Nedbank Retail and Business Banking, says the bank's forex services are provided within the Nedbank Money App in conjunction with a separate travel card you can have delivered or get at a Nedbank forex branch.You can load up to eight different currencies in separate pockets on the card and transfer money from a Nedbank account to the card to buy and sell forex, he says.