Categories: Banking

How and why you should open a South African FNB Non-Resident Account

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The first thing you will learn as soon as you start to engage in a bid of cross-border trade, be it traditional importing and exporting or something as novel as foreign currency trading, is that being Zimbabwean sucks. On one hand, you have international fintech companies that want nothing to do with you and on the other hand, you have a Zimbabwean government that is only interested in liberating you of your foreign currency and nothing else.

A country of financial lepers

If you are a Zimbabwean business, especially a small business, that wants to sell goods and services to international buyers there is no easy way to receive payments. Most popular gateway such as PayPal and Stripe are not available at your disposal. To this day Zimbabwean PayPal accounts will only allow you to send and not receive money. No clear explanation has been given as to why this is the case.

Skrill which was a favoured alternative to PayPal especially amongst Zimbabwe’s thriving, foreign currency trading community will be shutting down Zimbabwean accounts this month. No explanation was given except the usual platitudes and apologies. They follow the footsteps of others including Netteller.

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For a while, Zimbabweans found refuge in bitcoin and they did well too. We had a thriving exchange in Golix and for a moment they looked like they were going to go places until one sultry morning the government woke up in a foul mood and put an end to it all by ordering banks to stop dealing with crypto-exchanges and everything just crumbled to dust.

FNB Non-resident account to the rescue

While it will not solve all the above problems, a South African Non-resident account, such as the ones offered by FNB can solve a number of them. The account does come with limitations but having an account domiciled in South Africa can open doors that would have otherwise been shut in your face had you tried to talk about Zimbabwean accounts.

Here are some things you can do with the FNB account:

  • You can open a South African based Skrill account and withdraw your Skrill earnings to your FNB account
  • You can receive Adsense earnings into that account
  • Receive wire/international transfers from companies such as Wise into that account
  • Make local payments and do online shopping in South Africa using their debit card
  • Send Ewallet payments
  • Do local transfers
  • Make international transfers and payments

A very important restriction to note is that you cannot receive Rand payments into your account unless you can prove that there is a legitimate reason why you need to receive Rand payments e.g. you have a South African house you are renting out and need the tenants to deposit your money into that account.

How to open a FNB Non-Resident Account?

First you need the following documents:

  • A Recent certified payslip or proof of income, you can use the bank account below instead
  • Certified copy of passport
  • Three months latest bank statements from your bank abroad.
  • Proof of physical address aboard, not older than 3 months

Once you have these you need to physically go to an FNB branch to begin proceedings. This is a trivial process but there could be a snag. Some FNB branches may not be aware of the process or even that the account exists so you need to visit a big branch. If your application is accepted, you will need to make the initial deposit in Rand. Remember this is a USD account.

Things to bear in mind

If you think the RBZ and ZIMRA are strict, you have never met the South African Reserve Bank and SARS. You should never try to break the conditions of your account and always make sure your money is coming from a clear source of funds. Do not attempt to use the account for nefarious purposes such as evading tax or externalisation.

The account cannot receive local transfers or deposits. You cannot deposit money at an ATM into that account. It has to be funded from international sources with some of the above-outlined exceptions. The account cannot receive Rand deposits unless you get prior permission for this to happen. It’s basically an account for you to receive foreign payments into. You can however make local payments yourself e.g. pay DSTV or some local account.

The account is not cheap. It comes with monthly account fees of about R200 i.e. US$14. As I said not cheap. But if you do a lot of international business and want a clearing account to handle your international transactions without worrying about being ambushed by our unpredictable authorities, this is an account to have.

Again here is a disclaimer, the above advice is meant to help you grow your business and not stash money in some foreign account and hide it for unlawful purposes. FNB will freeze your account. They have done so in the past to other Zimbabweans and demanded that those with money in those accounts explain themselves after noticing suspicious activities.


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  • Can one make withdrawals from the account?

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    • Yes you can make withdrawals from the account,however, most of the claims made by this article are from an uninformed perspective regarding how this account really operates.You are not encouraged to receive direct rand payments into the account for example,it only accepts forex wires which you still cant withdraw as forex.It will be converted from forex to rand transactional account first,then from rand account to forex again,you lose a lot through this seemingly unnecessary process,that's the law anyway.If someone makes a direct rand payment into your account,it will be frozen by the algorithms,it takes you doing a lot of formal justifications to access the funds.
      Lastly,you cant buy online or do international payments using this card as it is only limited to transact within South Africa.
      I found it inconvenient on some aspects of banking but it also served me well with my forex salary being wired directly into that account.I had to apply for a SAn work permit so that the account can be converted to a normal one,only then I started to enjoy all the convenience of banking and doing international transactions online.Unless the policy has changed recently,this is the position of non resy banking.

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      • Hi,

        Thank you for the contributions and clarifications. It's true, the account can only receive USD or Forex payments, a fact that I cleary state multiple times in the article. According to FNB, you can receive Rand payments if you justify the receipts. There is a misconception that this account is only meant for Zimbabweans and foreigners. It's also meant for South African expats e.g you leave SA and are in a foreign country where you have been living for a while but want to receive money locally. For example, get paid rent on your SA property. So you can receive Rands as long as there is a stated reason.

        You can buy online as long as you are buying locally e.g. Takealot or paying SA business such as webhosts, DSTV etc.

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  • Is it possible to open the account at any branches near the border like Limpopo province or Messina?

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    • Live in Zimbabwe want online ATM visa card $us garrygoddard@earth.co.zw
      RrğArds
      Gsrry Goddard
      263773703996

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    • Yes indeed, it's actually surprising that branches like messina know more about the account compared to other inland branches. They only need your passport which should be stamped to show that you used an authorised port of entry. And a minimum deposit of 20USD only. No need of other paperwork like proof of residence and bank statement. Just your passport and USD cash.

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  • Point of correction, you can send and receive money from PayPal Business account in Zimbabwe.

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    • I am aware that the Zimbabwean PayPal business account exists but it's an aberration, a bug that exists in PayPal rather than an actual feature. It's only available in certain instances for example when you choose to upgrade your personal account after following a link. I would not use it under any circumstances.

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    • I tried opening the business account but still cannot receive money from other PayPal users. Is there something I missed.

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Published by
Garikai Dzoma

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