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HOW TO Guide
How To change and bank
WELCOME TO GHANA !
FOREIGN EXCHANGE & BANKING
The new Ghana Cedi (GHS) is in circulation since July 2007 when the redenomination resulted in shaving four zeros off; a positive decision for Ghana. New Ghana Cedi notes are since in denominations of 50, 20, 10, 5, 2 and 1. Coins are in denominations of 1 Cedi and 50, 20, 10, 5 and 1 pesewas.
Many nationals have a hard time forgetting the old Cedi. You will commonly hear people counting like before 2007: using millions, like five million for GHS 500.00. The million was a commonly used unit and you will often hear amounts based on it, like 2.5, meaning 2.5 million or GHS 250.00. You will get used to it with time and there is anyway a bigger problem about dealing with money in Ghana: depreciation (see further) and lack of change.
Indeed, the problem of retailers of all kinds not having change is a hassle you will face on a daily basis, whether with taxis (try to have change), at bars and restaurants, in smaller shops, etc. Staff may even ask for change, saying they don’t have any when they in fact do, sometimes staring at your wallet where they believe they see small notes. This trouble is worsened by the frequent lack of good customer service in Ghana. It is advised to take this in account by taking money from banks or changers mainly in 5, 10 and 20 notes instead of 50’s and to pay by using notes in relation to the value of the purchase.
For up-to-date exchange rates, please refer to xe.com. Click on Add a currency on the top right of the table and add the Ghana Cedis. Your computer will memorize that setting and all you will have to do each time you need rates is type xe in your browser and enter.
FEB 2014 NEWS
2015 update: after months of “stability” since October 2014 at around 4 Cedis to a euro, the Ghana currency has been on a roller coaster since April. Within May and June, it went down to 5 to a euro, to gain back to 3.6 in July, to reverse to 5 again in August but gain again since to stand at 4.2 on this September 4th.
2016 update: Winter 2015/2016 was quite stable on the exchange front but as summer comes, the Cedi is starting to depreciate slightly at 3.9 per US$ and 4.35 per euro. This should amplifies as during each Presidential/General election year (2016 elections to take place in November)
See our live exchange table on the lower right side of every page of the website (except on the real estate and travel sections).
Foreign currency can be freely exchanged at any foreign exchange bureaus (Forex) in the country with a maximum of $10,000 or its equivalent per transaction. There are many bureaus in all major towns and cities and they tend to give better rates for large-denomination bills than banks normally do but overall, banks have become quite competitive. However, banks will change only for account holders. For purchase of foreign currency, your bank cash rates should be checked before any large transaction.
The US Dollar is the most widely used currency in Ghana (many prices are quoted in US$, although the Bank of Ghana has been fighting this for years), but the euro has gained good recognition. Other major currencies are accepted as well. Always bring large notes, 50’s and mostly 100’s being the best for the US$ and the euro.
For large amounts, you may prefer to transact in the confidentiality and security of you home or office. Should you not wish to change at a changer or at your bank, you may be met by a money changer. Indeed, there are Forex dealers who will meet you at the place of your choice after agreeing on an rate on the phone but we cannot list any here. Ask reliable suitable Ghana sources who may know one or more.
Although you will be rarely solicited, do not allow an individual on the street to exchange money for you, even if he quotes you good rates… there’s a strong likelihood the money is counterfeit.
Forex bureaus in Accra can be found at these locations
That is the area with most Forex bureaus and where branches of the main banks may be found. Here are four, within a 100 meters area as you enter Oxford Street from Danquah Circle (the runabout at the junction of Ring Road and Oxford Street):
§ Abdex Forex Bureau, on Ring Road, 50 meters east of Koala Supermarket, right after Macumba night club’s building,
§ Penta Forex Bureau, on the ground floor of the Penta Hotel building, across from Total petrol station,
§ Qwick Forex, on the first floor, across from the two-storey shopping complex where Barclays was before.
Further down the street:
§ Forbes Forex Bureau, on the right at the entrance of the street on the right of the new Oxford Street Mall
§ Mirabel Forex in the building behind Oxford Street Mall (where Shoprite is located)
§ Firstrock Forex Bureau, 20 meters south of Papayes Restaurant intersection, on the same sidewalk
Other locations south of the airport
Airport and north of the airport
In case of larger amounts, negotiating rates is advisable.
Surprisingly for a currency used in all countries surrounding Ghana (and more), it is one that is difficult to buy at many Forex bureaus as they are often out of it. Not a real issue as you will be able to buy CFA at all land borders or airports but make sure you have checked the exchange rate beforehand so you will not be taken advantage of.
Use caution at the land borders with numerous individuals propose to change money and check all and each bill carefully before handing out your money so no smaller bills are hidden in the pack. Although you might need CFA to pay for your Togo visa on arrival (10,000 - 15 euro equivalent - valid one week) and therefore will need to have that amount, it is advised to change on the Togo side, just after Immigration where the taxi-motos are waiting for customers.
All main banks have ATM’s you can use your card to get local currency. It used to be difficult to find banks in Ghana which accept credit cards other than VISA. Stanbic Bank, the winner at Ghana Club 100 2010 Awards for Financial Services, has the best ATM's, accepting VISA, Mastercard, Cirrus, Plus and Diners Club but they have few branches (the main one is at Stanbic brand new HQ in Icon House across SilverStar Tower on Liberation Road since late 2014 - another is on Ring Road Central, across from the Lufthansa office building, just west of Nima Junction). Now, Mastercard is also served by Ghana Commercial Bank and GT Bank.
Before you leave your home country, find out about charges for using your credit card at ATM’s abroad and your daily or weekly limits. If the charges are high, then find a balance between frequency of withdrawals and amount of cash in hand (your access to a safe place to store cash must be considered).
Withdraw cash for free in Ghana
The ATM Alliance is a global association of banks which let clients withdraw money at ATM’s of all members without commission. Should you card be issued by either Bank of America (United States), BNP Paribas (France), Deutsche Bank (Germany, Poland, Czech Republic, Spain, Portugal and Italy), Santander Serfin (Mexico), Scotiabank (Canada, Caribbean, Peru, Chile and Mexico), Westpac (Australia and South Pacific countries), BankSA (Australia), ABSA (South Africa), UkrSibbank (Ukraine) or China Construction Bank, you will benefit from commission-free cash withdrawals at Barclays’ ATM’s in Ghana.
Note for Bank of America card holders: the 1 to 3% International Transaction Fee/Foreign Currency Fee will still be charged.
Payment with credit cards
Ghana is yet to develop a “plastic culture” and still widely functions as a cash economy. Most shops only accept cash, other than a few supermarkets and a limited number of hotels and restaurants that accept credit cards.
Sad to say, credit card fraud abounds in Ghana. For example, airlines won't let you pay online if they detect that your IP address is from a computer located in Ghana: you will have to go to their bank or office to pay for your reservation. For security reasons, do not use your credit card except in a limited number of high-end establishments in Accra. Employ all precautions using you credit cards, such as not letting your card away from your sight and do not have a third party sent a fax for you which includes your credit card number.
Lost or Stolen Credit Cards
Get the number for you home country from the issuing bank, the documents that came with your card or the relevant website. Or call:
Visa: 410-581-9994 or 410-581-3836
American Express: 336-393-1111
Surprisingly, travelers’ cheques do not come handy in Ghana and can be changed in rare locations in Accra only. With your passport and purchase receipt, go to the Barclay’s branch in Osu. There might be a limit to how much you can cash per day (equivalent of 150 Pounds). We have heard that Standard Chartered Bank has stopped cashing T/C's. We advised to take travelers’ checks in US Dollars, Euros or Pounds Sterling.
Considering that travelers’ cheques are uneasy to cash in Ghana, give lower rates than cash and that security is good, we advice to reduce the amount you will bring in that form or avoid them all together.
Ghana’s formal banking sector is comprised of the Central Bank (the Bank of Ghana) and a quite large number of banks, including commercial banks, development banks, merchant banks and a plethora of rural banks. As the Central Bank, the Bank of Ghana has the responsibility of implementating monetary policies.
Till the end of last century, banking in Ghana was dominated by state-owned institutions and showed few signs of competition. Within the next decade, however, a few state-owned banks have been privatized under the government’s Divestiture Implementation Program and the commercial banking sector has attracted several national, African and international banks. Despites the fact that the Ghanaian economy runs strictly on cash with as little as 10% of Ghanaians owning bank accounts, the banking sector is now well developed.
Opening an account
One of the first things we advise to do on arrival is to put your cash in a bank after changing it. You will anyway probably need an account at some point during your posting. So don’t wait and enjoy right away the safety and the convenience of having your money in a safe place and being able to get cash as and when you need it with the ATM card the bank will give you. Easy, safe and convenient. Choose the most affordable ATM card unless you wish to pay with a local VISA cards for various expenses in Ghana.
The documents required for opening an account at any bank generally are your passport, another ID (an International Driving License is accepted) and proof of residence. Some banks will open an account before you have your residence or work permit if you provide a six-month statement from your bank at home. Ask your expat colleagues and your company's finance manager.
As far as fees, know what you will mainly use your account for and study fixed and transaction-based costs before choosing a bank and an account type. Should you maintain a certain balance, require no specific services and use ATM’s of the bank only, a personal account (sometimes called savings even so it is not) should be nearly free of charge. For information on corporate accounts, kindly write to email@example.com.
The top four banks in Ghana are, in alphabetical order, Fidelity Bank, Ecobank, Societe Generale Ghana (ex. SG-SSB) and Standard Chartered Bank. Others are Barclays, CAL Bank, Intercontinental Bank, Stanbic, United Bank for Africa and Zenith Bank.
For emergencies, Western Union services are available from the Ghana Post Office for immediate transfer of money to or out of Ghana. Many banks, like Standard Chartered Bank and GT Bank, do offer Western Union service as well, but not at all branches.
Commercial banks open from 8.30am to 4, 4.30 or 5pm (3pm on Fridays) on weekdays. The Prestige Centers of Barclays (Osu, High Street, Nkrumah Circle, Kumasi and Tamale) serve their customers till 6pm and on Saturday mornings. With this service, you will almost never wait in line at a bank anymore. The monthly fee is GHS 15.
The government charges a 15 percent Value-Added-Tax plus a 2.5 percent National Health Insurance Levy on most imports, all consumer purchases, services, accommodation in hotels and guest houses, food in restaurants, hotels and snack bars, as well as advertising, betting and entertainment. This 17.5% is included in retail prices. It was 15% untill 2014.
EDITOR'S NOTE ON TAKING MONEY OUT OF GHANA
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