Sending Money to South Africa

conroe_joe(9a)December 21, 2003


I'm writing because 2 other lists have recently discussed problems in sending funds to South Africa, and after reading about such problems IÂve concluded that I am wise to avoid using the South African postal service to send checks (or anything of value) into South Africa. The horror stories concerning lost mail were far to numerous to ignore, especially because it seems that registered mail goes missing as easily as anything else. Interestingly, it seems that mail coming out of South Africa doesnÂt go missing too often, but that when it does vendors are responsible and quite willing to help.

The alternatives to mail include wiring money directly to a bank account of a vendor, using a credit card, or using something like PayPal.

In the past I have gotten phone calls from my credit card company when IÂve purchased from Silverhill Seeds. They called twice for security reasons and asked if I was aware that my card is being used to make a purchase in South Africa, and did I know that theft of credit card numbers is a problem in some parts of Africa. They mention (politely) that ID theft is harder to track down or repair if the perpetrator is overseas. I appreciate their calls and have asked them to please call again if something that causes their computer to notice non-typical activity on my account.

Wiring money is expensive. I recently ordered $38.00 worth of seeds from a company, but found that the fee to do the wire transfer is $45.00. I checked the online form for FedEx and found that the cheapest rate was about $55.00 to send a check to Capetown, South Africa.

I think IÂm going to stick with PayPal for orders to South Africa, it is a shame but I donÂt want ID theft or check theft. Probably the occurrence of such events is rare; nonetheless an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Please let me know your thoughts.


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Sowth Efrikan

Have you actually paid for something from SA using Paypal? I always thought Paypal wasn't available to transfer funds back home.

A lot of people just get an extra ATM card linked to their US banking accounts and send it by courier to their SA families, the US pin numbers work on ATMs there also.

Also, you are talking South Africa, remember. The world's crime capital, especially violent crime. As for white collar crime/fraud, even bank employees cheerfully help themselves to customer funds without consequences. I am not surprised your account was double and triple checked.

As for postal horror stories, a few years before I left the postman decided to dump the mail down a storm water drain instead of delivering it. He did this for some weeks before being found out.

In addition, the petty theft within the post office was so bad the post office actually instituted it's very own police force. As a general rule, South Africans use PostNet, a private company. Costs the same and stuff actually gets to where it's going. Privatise, privatise always.

Let us know about Paypal. I checked their site and SA isn't listed. I hope you are right, though.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2003 at 2:07PM
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SowthEfrikan, thanks for the note and query. I see from your GardenWeb Info that we are both Texans. Though it cannot compare to South Africa, Texas has many wonderful plants that I enjoy growing.

I don't know if they perfer PayPay or not, but I have used it successfully with SilverHill Seeds. I asked if I could use PayPal and they aquiesced. I'm pretty sure that I used it to pay Eurica at her Aloe seed place (can't quite remember). I will take the initiative to write to her and see if she accepts PayPal. Both are in South Africa.

I have written to Penroc Seeds about the matter of sending funds, and they have agreed to look into PayPay. There are obviously fees and matters that I may not know about, and such will be of concern to any business.

However, from the buyer's point of view PayPal seems secure and ever-so-easy to use. There may be other fund transfer services that are similar.


Here is a link that might be useful: Aloe seeds from Eurica

    Bookmark   December 21, 2003 at 2:44PM
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Sowth Efrikan

Got to Texas as fast as I could, but I ain't no Texan :-D

Paypal is divine, I use it frequently esp for my ebay purchases. I'm really curious about SA accepting it - they may just have banking accounts abroad ie the funds are transferred to an account not based in SA. I'd lurv to know :)

CJ I shall never get used to this climate - the extremes really annoy me, but the wildflowers delight.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2003 at 4:26PM
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FYI. Southern Sky Botanicals in Ghana. takes Paypal. I have not tried it yet. Waiting for reply to see if they have what I want. Cat

    Bookmark   December 21, 2003 at 10:44PM
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Another method of payment in South Africa is an international money order. It does take more time to complete a transaction, (lots more) but I think there is less risk. I have sent things through the mail into several countries, including South Africa and had it arrive with no problems. I did send an order to a company there that was lost however and I had to resend it. It did include a credit card number, which I ended up closing out after it happened. I was never contacted that it had been used, though, so I'm really not sure what happened to it. I just went through buying a house so I had all of the credit check stuff done, and nothing showed up there either. Paypal is international if you look into it, but there are charges involved. The looks to be less than say a bank wire transfer, but I can't remember the exact charges. Good luck. Don't forget too, that you might need a phytosanitary certificate. Some countries won't ship without them.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2003 at 9:17AM
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Sowth Efrikan

Paypal does charge but only the seller, never the buyer, so all you should pay is the cost of the purchase.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2003 at 9:53AM
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I contacted some folks and think I have it figured out. Frenchgirl is correct, PayPal is international, but it does not work with banks in every country. PayPal doesn't deal with South African banks.

SowthEfrikan was right on when he mentioned that out-of-country banks are the way to use PayPal from South Africa. For instance, a vendor in South Africa can use PayPal because PayPal sends money to email addresses and related accounts. However, a South African resident must get the funds transferred to a bank in an approved country (USA, UK, etc.) and cannot get the funds directly.

This means that if a vendor in South Africa accepts your money via PayPal they have to do some acrobatics to get the money into their hands. They may have business partners in the UK, or may have other means to deal with banks overseas. But, as we all know, money transfers from country to country can be expensive; thus, I assume that vendors that use PayPal are taking a "hit" in terms of money transfer fees and other fees that are charged to the seller.

So, I want to give my hurray to to those vendors that I know of in South Africa that use PayPal. They save me headaches and time. They don't charge me an "extra" fee and so I presume they are taking a bit of a loss in order to make the transaction easy for me (and thus lure me to be a frequent return customer).

Silverhill Seeds accepts PayPal

From Seeds To Aloes For The Garden accepts PayPal (Aloe seeds)

I'm sure the list will grow, in fact Cactusfreak mentioned that Sky Botanicals accepts PayPal (Ghana).


Here is a link that might be useful: Aloe Seeds, From Seeds To Aloes For The Garden

    Bookmark   December 22, 2003 at 6:08PM
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Sowth Efrikan

Thank you CJ, now I know. It's a pity Paypal has excluded SA but, oh well.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2003 at 5:49PM
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Garrickza(South Africa)

We have branches of Western Union all over South Africa. I believe it is an American company and they are good at international money transfers. Never used them myself but maybe they would be the answer. Garrick

    Bookmark   December 29, 2003 at 5:26PM
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These are the best options I can think of if you don't want to use registered mail but want to keep costs in that price range (8-10 dollars).

Option 1: Western Union (I think it costs about 10% of the amount sent)

Option 2: iKobo (I think it costs 4% of the amount sent)
iKobo is a new to me. Apparently they work just about like PayPal except that when someone opens an account they get sent an ATM card. iKobo doesn't work with bank accounts. Instead, when you send money to someone they can pick it up at any ATM, just about anywhere in the world.

Article on iKobo

iKobo Web Site

    Bookmark   December 29, 2003 at 8:25PM
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I think is it just a matter of finding what is most cost effective. Also, special types of delivery isn't available throughout all countries. Maybe larger cities will have it, but not in rural provinces/districts. Some folks I've dealt with don't mind waiting for a money order payment to arrive because they have a small, inhome seed business and will just drop your order in the post when payment arrives. I've never used it for a company like SilverHill, though. They also might or might not be amenable to phytosanitary certificates that are supposedly "required" now. I keep waiting to see what is going to happen with stuff coming in without them, which is drive up the price of obtaining seeds from overseas a bit. THIS cost could be more of a pain than which money transfer method is cheapest.

    Bookmark   December 30, 2003 at 10:07AM
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I really want to join Kirstenbosch Gardens. They have the most wonderful seeds. Is anybody else here a member? And now, I'm wondering how to get payment to them, after reading all your posts. I'm in Canada so don't need a phyto for seeds. (YET)
Ginny in Libau Manitoba

    Bookmark   December 30, 2003 at 12:02PM
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I just ran across another scary newspaper article about sending funds to Africa. A lady send a check to a girl in Africa to help her with school expenses, but somewhere along the line someone got ahold of the bank account number and was able to copy the signature on the check.

Then, the bank in England got a forged letter asking that funds be transferred to another acount in Japan.

Identity theft doesn't have to be complete (i.e., all your information) in order to cause you harm. It is amazing how the world works, and I'm sure the problem is not restricted to Africa. No doubt scams happen in every country.

One time I bid on some software on Ebay, I didn't win. But I did get more than a dozen follow-up emails telling me where I could purchase the software inexpensively; you just give a credit card number and download software, sometimes for 2-3% of the regular retail price.

After looking into the matter more closely I was able to discern that one of the Web sites offering low-cost software was indeed selling bootlegged copies. But, more imporantly for the buyer, they were really in the business of stealing credit card numbers and overall identity theft. The software was just a gimmick to get credit card numbers. They were working out of Eastern Europe.

So, if you send funds be sure you trust the vendor, and be sure to use an international money order; don't use a personal check for dealings overseas. I think the chances of identity theft are small (1 in a hundred or perhaps much less), but the overall damage to your finances can be very large.

Here is a link that might be useful: Article: Bank Acount Fraud and Sending Personal Checks Overseas

    Bookmark   December 30, 2003 at 2:25PM
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safariofthemind(z7b NC)

Thanks for posting this info friends. I've been using a credit card to deal with Silverhill. Had the same experience with the Bank calling to verify several times. Silverhill has a US site to ship from so it makes things easier. Your posts are real eye openers though. Don't want to learn the hard way!

BTW, Conroe Joe, did you place the order with Penroc? How did it go? RJ


    Bookmark   January 8, 2004 at 7:26PM
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Western Union is not available as an international service to send money to South Africa in some countries...
Of the 5 orders I made to SA, 3 payments were never acknowledged. A pity, they are loosing a lot of customers.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2004 at 2:47AM
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I've known the Silverhill crowd for 30 years.....I've bought many, many seeds from them & will continue 2.....My favorite person there is Darkie...Thad

    Bookmark   January 21, 2004 at 9:17PM
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Garrickza(South Africa)

I really cannot agree with the comments regarding South African banks being especially prone to fraud. We have 4 major banking groups plus a fifth medium sized one. Dealing with any one of these is as safe as any major Western bank. Yes , there are occassional cases of fraud by banking staff , (just like anywhere else) but all of these banks have reputations to protect and will make good any losses incurred by their clients due to fraud perpetrated by their staff. Of course they even are legally obliged to do so. If one is at all dissatisfied with any S.A. bank there is the Banking Ombudsman to lodge a complaint with. Merely mentioning to the correct authorities in any S.A. bank that you intend complaining to the Ombudsman is bound to ensure prompt attention to your problem as banks are charged quite a substantial fee for every complaint lodged against them , whether valid or not. This is done to encourage banks to solve their client`s problems internally without customers having to complain to the Ombudsman. Using any of the major S.A. banks is no more of a risk than anywhere else in the Western world. Embittered expats advice is not always impartial. Garrick

    Bookmark   January 25, 2004 at 5:05PM
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Thanks for the various notes. I have to agree that I have no worry about South African banks. I presume they have scrupulous policies and impeccable standards. The advice I have received cautioned me against sending money or a check through the postal service. Apparently, theft if mail is a problem (even registered mail), perhaps not commonly but enough to raise a concern.

RJ, I did not order from Penrock Seeds. I was sorely tempted because they have so many nice offerings. I could just try registered mail, and an international money order. The deciding factor for me was that I'd also need a phytosanitary certificate. Penrock is not set up the same as Silverhill.

Perhaps a group of us should get together for a single Penrock order. Then, we'd defray costs for the certificate and for mailing. How about it RJ, are you interested in coordinating? Do you think we'd even save money? I suppose the coordinator will have to unpack and remail everything, thus adding another cost.


Here is a link that might be useful: Penrock Seeds (excellent seed list)

    Bookmark   January 25, 2004 at 9:20PM
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Sowth Efrikan

"Embittered expats advice is not always impartial". LOL. Classic.

It's well known South Africa owes it's rotten reputation abroad strictly to "embittered expats" :)

If you send anything through the South African postal system you are taking a chance. Courier it. If there is a paypal account you can use, so much the better.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2004 at 4:56PM
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Hi Joe,
I just noticed this thread again about sending money through the mail to South Africa or other countries and I remembered something. I recently was given something called a a SimonGift card, which is a visa card that is prepaid for whatever amount you'd like and it's accepted anywhere Visa is.(supposedly) I got one for $25 and have been experimenting by ordering different stuff from different places on line) You can get them at malls and stuff and because they are prepaid you don't need to worry about your personal info at least. If it is compromised in the mail.. well, I guess they can just as easily spend your money. LOL. Just a thought for something different. So far I haven't used it for any overseas purchases but I'm saving to buy clivia seeds this summer from some new sights that came on the web this fall or at Kristenboch. (I think that is how it's spelled) Just a thought. I'll let you know how I make out with one when I finally do it. Sebrina

    Bookmark   March 24, 2004 at 8:30PM
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flora(USDA z7)

Has it ever occurred to anyone just to use the telephone? Send the seed purchase list by email or fax, and follow up at an agreed upon time to a particular person with your credit card number. Kirstenbosch can also be reached by email, to be followed up by a call. It's certainly cheaper than the high fees of Western Union et al. especially if you buy a phone card.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2004 at 1:20AM
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Flora, overseas phone calls are an option, however, I'll be damned if I can figure out how to actually do the dialing right on the first try. LOL And if you use a pre purchased card like I do to keep costs down, there is lots of dialing involved. LOL. I have occassionally made some calls to New Zealand, Australia, and England, and I just hate the cost. I know there are some economical phone plans out there but to have to pay a monthly fee when I call maybe three or four times a year, it isn't worth it. The other thing, not everyone I've dealt with speaks english, so.... it's better to do business with the old computer that interprets for you and use the credit card, hence a pre paid credit card. As it is, I always use my office address anyway. My personal info stays personal. However, if you read the posts, you'd see that not everyone is comfortable with putting credit card info with your personal info on the net. Kind of gives me an upleasant feeling anyway...identity theft and all. Not ALL those site are so secure you know. Finding the most cost effect way to do it is key.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2004 at 8:15PM
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Another possible option is using the services at I have used them before, and will use them in the future anytime I have to send someone money. I had a good experience with them. The i-Kard they send you after someone send you money arrived in about 5 days and then that person was able to withdraw the money from any visa ATM. Also there aren't any account set-up charges. I suggest you give them a try.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2004 at 1:37PM
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Has anyone here done business with Southern Sky Botanicals in Ghana?

    Bookmark   December 26, 2004 at 10:22PM
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Just wanted to let others know that Southern Sky Botanicals is risky to do business with. I ordered some seeds from them. They only sent around 75% of the order, and when asked to wire the extra money back they have fallen silent, refusing to answer e-mails. Beware of Southern Sky Botanicals in South Africa. You may loose money dealing with them like I have.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2005 at 11:58PM
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    Bookmark   March 9, 2005 at 3:31PM
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To those who hate the phyto charges,
i just got my order from Silver Hills, and my share of the phyto was two dollars. : )

    Bookmark   March 11, 2005 at 2:39PM
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Since I have a bank account in South Africa I have no experience in paying from the States, where I'm living. But to add to the defence of my land, in the face of "SowthEfrikan"'s tirade about crime and corruption: I have never personally been the victim of any crime in South Africa, violent or petty, nor has my family (all of whom live there), with the exception of having a car stolen about 15 years ago. The Cape is one of the most beautiful areas in the world and has been, for those of my acquaintance, a wonderful place to live and raise families. Sure, there is crime, and it can be very violent. But that's just one side of the story.

As for SA having a terrible reputation abroad..Hm. My brother owns one of the most prominent Safrican export companies specialising in fresh produce. His bottom line is not reflecting a market that views South Africa in a negative light. He's doing quite nicely, thank you.

I shall now step off my soap box. Vrystaat!

    Bookmark   March 17, 2005 at 12:48PM
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MarcR(z 8 OR)

An international phone call is a whole lot cheaper than wire transfers, couriers or anything of the sort. I call a vendor I know to be reliable and give my credit card numbers by phone, and ask them to keep the info on file. Then I simply order by E-mail and the rest is automatic.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2005 at 6:46AM
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CathyJ(USDA-8 West WA)

Why not just purchase a credit card pre-loaded with the amount of your purchase and use that to pay? That way you don't have the hassle of someone confirming your purchase as they would (hopefully) do with the use of your usual credit card and you would also limit your liability to only the amount loaded on the card.

(Gee, I just realized the original post is over five years old. Oh well, perhaps it is still pertinent and useful.)

    Bookmark   April 27, 2009 at 8:18PM
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Sowth Efrikan

Ja, well, the SA weather is probably also the finest in the world and the wines are superb - but that doesn't change the cold, hard fact that white collar crime in SA is probably the highest in the world, nor that it's wise to research how best to pay in SA from abroad. Some good info in this thread, aside from the frogs in boiling water.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2011 at 6:46PM
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