South Africa’s “neobanks”

South Africans looking for an affordable banking solution without going through prominent physical and digital banks can look to the several “neobanks” available in the country.

These include companies like Bettr, Spot Money, and Be Mobile Africa.

A neobank is a direct bank operating exclusively online without traditional physical branch networks.

They offer several benefits over traditional banks as they don’t have to outlay funds for branches and infrastructure like ATMs.

These benefits include no or lower monthly fees, digital cards, QR-based payment facilities, and affordable immediate payments and transfers.

There are only a few domestically-headquartered neobanks like Bettr and Spot, hence the inclusion of international foreign exchange and money transfer providers.

While they don’t necessarily have offices in South Africa, all of the providers listed in this article are available in the country and support the South African rand.

Neobanks available to customers in South Africa are listed and briefly described below.


Bettr

Bettr is a digital banking platform aimed at creators in South Africa that charges no monthly fees nor requires any paperwork for registration.

Notable features the platform offers include a QR code-based payment facility, digital and physical Visa cards, and transaction and savings accounts.

Bettr relies on Visa and Access Bank to provide its services.


Spot Money

Spot Money is a South African virtual money platform that launched as Virgin Money South Africa in 2006.

It was acquired by a local private equity company and renamed Spot Money after Virgin Money elected to divest from the South African market.

It offers several products for South African consumers, including free and group accounts, virtual and physical cards, and airtime rewards. It is operated in association with Bidvest Bank.


Be Mobile Africa

Be Mobile is a Canadian-based neobank that launched in South Africa — as Be Mobile Africa — in September 2022.

It offers several benefits for South Africans, including no monthly account fees, no minimum balance requirement, and the ability to send, receive, hold, and save money in euros and US dollars.

Customers can open accounts by downloading and registering on the Be Mobile Africa iOS or Android app.


CurrencyFair

CurrencyFair is a peer-to-peer currency exchange marketplace headquartered in Ireland, with offices in the UK, Australia, Greece, Hong Kong, Poland, and Singapore.

The company says its exchange fees are as much as eight times lower than traditional banks, and transfers are immediate.

CurrencyFair is owned by Standard Chartered and relies on its own infrastructure to provide its services.


TransferGo

TransferGo is a neobank and peer-to-peer currency exchange platform headquartered in the United Kingdom.

All transactions can be managed via the TransferGo iPhone or Android application, or through its website.

It allows customers to send funds within 30 minutes, on the same day, or the next day, allowing users to pay less for non-immediate transfers.


Wise

Wise is a UK-based foreign exchange platform that has been in operation since January 2011.

The platform is supported in over 175 countries and works with 50 currencies. Wise says it is up to six times cheaper than traditional banks.

“Save up to 6x when you send, spend and withdraw 50 currencies, all in one account,” it says.


World Remit

World Remit says it facilitates fast and secure international money transfers from around the globe. It allows customers to use several payment methods to transfer funds, including bank deposits, debit cards, and credit cards.

The company says its transfers are 46% cheaper than traditional banks on average, and its currency converter gives real-time exchange rates. World Remit emphasises that all applicable fees are shown upfront.

It is licensed as an Authorised Dealer with Limited Authority by the South African Reserve Bank.


SOLmate

SOLmate is a digital payments platform operating in South Africa. Its operations are powered by MasterCard.

Customers have the option to have a standalone account for R10 a month, a SOLmate account and a virtual card for R15 monthly, or an account and a debit card for R25 per month.

The SOLmate banking app is supported on both Android and iOS devices.


Xhuma

Xhuma is a digital banking alternative founded by Schalk Burger, a 30-year-old former banker and chartered accountant.

It offers users transfers, QR payments, bill splitting, budgeting, stokvels, and everything in between, allowing users to get more from their money.

Simply put, the neo bank makes it easy to make and receive payments using an app linked to the user’s bank account.


Honourable mention: Shoprite Money Market account

Although not technically a neobank, Shoprite’s Money Market product is a non-traditional bank account with no monthly, debit order, or transaction fees.

According to Shoprite, the only fee it charges is R5 per cash withdrawal. “Everything else is free!” it says.

Shoprite offers both individual and business-specific Money Market accounts, and the platform is accessible on the Shoprite app, which is supported on Android and iOS devices.


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South Africa’s “neobanks”