In Namibia, private customers only have a very limited choice of banks. There are only four major commercial banks and three of these four are Namibian branches of South African banks: Bank Windhoek (the only Namibian bank) as well as Nedbank, Standard Bank and First National Bank.
The banks in Namibia are – not only in the opinion of the author – a service disaster! With their exorbitantly high fees and at the same time miserable service, they are a constant nuisance for the population. Since the four banks can divide their customers among themselves without great competitive pressure and as a resident one is dependent on a local bank account, the banks can afford to literally ‘cheat’ their customers with excessively excessive fees.
According to best-medical-schools, the banks in Namibia charge their customers the highest fees worldwide ! Separate fee items are calculated for each smallest service. Even with a private account with only a few bookings per month, fees of € 30 and more can easily be accumulated. With larger transfers from abroad or abroad, the various cost items (fees, exchange rate spread, exchange commission, etc.) can add up to a few hundred euros. Unfortunately, the bank customer does not even receive a reasonably good service for his excessive fees. And unfortunately it doesn’t help much to change banks, since all four banks are about the same price and the service is similarly miserable.
Current accounts (so-called ‘Check Accounts’) are usually managed on a credit basis. Even with the slightest overdraft it can happen that you are called and asked to settle the account by cash payment by the evening of the same day (!).
In summary, unfortunately, one has to say that the Namibian banks have redefined the terms ‘service desert’ and ‘rip-off’ and brought them down to a level that is hardly imaginable for Western European ideas. Opinions differ as to which of the four local banks an expatriate is most likely to open an account with. Bank Windhoek and First National Bank seem to have the – relatively speaking – still ‘best’ reputation at the moment.
All banks now also offer online banking, although the technology differs significantly from German online banking. At Bank Windhoek, for example, you only need a TAN to log in; this TAN is generated by the customer himself using a TAN generator. Once logged in, any number of transactions can be carried out without subsequently having to authorize each transaction separately with a TAN – as is usually the case in Germany. On the other hand, there is the option of setting your own account so that you receive an SMS on your cell phone from the bank as soon as someone accesses the account or an account is debited. In addition, daily limits can be set for transfers and direct debits, including the use of debit or credit cards at ATMs and for payments in shops.
ATMs (so-called ‘ATMs’, Automatic Telling Machines) are now in Namibia in all larger towns. However, you cannot withdraw money at every ATM with an EC or credit card from a German account. Some ATMs only pay out to customers of their own bank (with the corresponding bank card). ATMs at which you can withdraw money with an EC card or credit card are not all created equal. Sometimes the maximum amount (per day) is N $ 5,000, sometimes N $ 2,000 or just N $ 1,000. With a withdrawal of, for example, € 400, charges of around € 4 to € 5 are due with an EC card, and usually significantly more when using a credit card.
The DKB (Deutsche Kreditbank) is an ‘insider tip’ among EZ employees. With the DKB Visa card you can withdraw money from ATMs worldwide free of charge. If you are in Namibia for a longer period of time and regularly withdraw money from your German account, it is definitely worthwhile to get such a credit card. In the meantime, however, some other financial institutions also offer a similar service.
Note: The last day of the month is ‘Payday’. Then queues form regularly at the ATMs and many ATMs are empty by late morning. The ATM screen then shows the Afrikaans word “JAMMER” in large letters! Even on weekends and in small towns it happens that the ATMs are either empty or defective. When you are in the country, you should therefore always stock up on cash.
One should be very careful when using ATMs, as ATMs are tampered with in order to copy card data. It is therefore advisable to use ATMs that are installed directly in or outside of a bank branch. As a rule, these are constantly guarded so that manipulations at the ATM are hardly possible. When setting up accounts in Namibia, it is also advisable to agree a daily withdrawal limit for ATMs with the bank. In the event of misuse of the card or the data stored on it, the losses are then limited to the daily limit amount.
You should also be very careful and cautious about the other use of credit cards in Namibia and never let them out of your sight. In recent years there have been numerous cases of credit card skimming and many a tourist has found his credit card account empty after his return. This also and especially applies to the use of credit cards at the airport. There have been repeated incidents of this kind, especially at the car rental companies. If you are only in Namibia for a short period of time (e.g. as a tourist), you should use a separate credit card that is managed on a credit basis. In this way, any Skimmimg damage can at least be limited to the credit with which the credit card account was previously ‘charged’.
If you live and work in the country, the safest way to drive is to pay in cash if possible or with a card from a local account for which you have previously set up a daily limit. Larger bills can best be paid by so-called “EFT” (Electronic Fund Transfer using online banking). In the meantime, EFT has largely supplanted or replaced the use of checks that was still common until a few years ago.