A cautionary tale: I travelled overseas with a Capitec account and regret it. They’re a great bank, but not if you plan to use them from abroad

In my previous post I made reference to banking drama and mentioned I was going to share it. I’m not a whiner, but do feel my tale of woe could be useful as it involves sharing information I really, REALLY wish I’d known before take off. So here we go! I also don’t have pictures of me crying into the phone and racking up crazy Skype bills so I’m just peppering this post with good pics. Like delicious food, crazy clothes and super cute cats.

Starting with cats.

When I went overseas I was doing all my banking with Capitec. Their fees just can’t be beat and when the going is good, they’re great. But I can’t recommend them as a bank to travel with and this is why: While over there, I broke the screen of the phone on which I had Capitec’s app. No biggie, I thought. I’d just re-install the app on a new phone. Except I couldn’t. As it turns out, if you want to re-install your app you have to go into a branch. Not so easily done if you’re on the other side of the world. And before you tell me that I can also bank via their website, nope you can’t. It ‘verifies’ your entry via the app. So ja. You really need that app. Or that stupid, ancient token thing that nobody ever told me about. But even then, that’s not travel-proof either because if you lose it, guess how you resolve the issue? In a branch.

In all fairness to Capitec, they say there are ways they can help you re-install the app remotely. This involves escalations and Skype calls and while I initiated all these processes, they never delivered. (I’m now bracing for the moment someone from that side gets in touch with me to go ‘But Leigh! We did make moves! At one point we mailed you asking for more details to assist you – like proof of your identity and location, like a pic of a photo of your card lying next to a Thai till slip!’ And that’s true. They did. But only weeks later, five days before the end of my trip. And when I replied with the information they requested they never wrote back.)

Unimpressed cat shirt is unimpressed.

Fortunately, I could still draw from my account as I had my debit card with me. But I couldn’t make any transfers. Not great when you’ve just maxed out both your credit cards and they’re demanding payment. So, it was at this point that I asked my various employers to rather pay me via my super ancient ABSA account. I hadn’t used it in years, didn’t even have the debit card on me (because who knew you need a ‘back up’ bank?!) but it still existed as I’d always been too busy to close it.

This worked fine for a while. I could use ABSA’s internet banking to pay off my credit cards and pay back the friends and family who’d kindly made certain necessary EFTs on my behalf while I couldn’t transfer anything from Capitec and sat waiting for more employers to fill up my ABSA account.  I could also access cash by transferring what eventually came into ABSA to Capitec and then draw it an ATM. (Like I said, I had my Capitec card with me, not my ABSA one.)

So ja. Cool, cool, cool. Nice save. But then shit really hit the fan (fortunately right at the end of my trip) when several of my employers ‘forgot’ to pay me. I know it sounds crazy, but if you’re a freelancer, you’ll be nodding your head going ‘yup, yup, yup’ ‘cos, sadly, this is not a crazy, fluke. It happens all the time. This resulted in a bounce when ABSA tried to debit me for internet banking fees and my ‘punishment’ them locking my account. Eeek! Fortunately, ABSA has a better account recovery system than Capitec. They ask you a series of security questions over the phone. Alas, as my account was such a dinosaur, I couldn’t remember any of the answers. I’d changed addies a zillion times since I’d stopped using that account. I had no clue who my employer was at the time of opening it. So, just like that, my account was double slammed shut. I couldn’t draw from it (no card), I couldn’t transfer from it. I could do anything. The only way I could unlock it was to – you guessed it – go into a branch.


Time to eat my feelings, yo!

At this point, the thousands owed by the late payers had finally cleared in my ABSA account so the bounced banking fees could be paid. You’d think they’d then ‘open’ it. But nope. It remained locked. Unless I went into a branch.

It was now time to put plan C into action. Pull cash from my unit trusts, stick it in Capitec and draw it out using the card. This would require filling in a form and sending them proof of my bank account. Usually this is something you can do via the Capitec app but, as I could only re-install it a branch (OMFG!) I had to call them and ask them to send it to me. I made that call on the 6th of November and Capitec said ‘Sure thing! But it’ll take a couple of days.’ What?! And true to their word it did eventually arrive. But over a WEEK later which wasn’t cool.

Thus we get to plan D. Calling my dad. Plan D always works. I am very lucky to have plan D in my life. But having to use plan D when I’m almost 38 years old is embarrassing and hideous and terrible. But ja. Thank God for plan D. And yes, I realise I’m lucky to have it.

I was also lucky to not have access to enough cash to buy this hideous bag. ‘Cos I might’ve.

Anyway, like I said, this experience was kak and I’m telling you all this so you can learn from my mistakes because I’m not entirely blameless. Upon opening my Capitec account, I wasn’t told that the only way I could re-install their app, should I ever lose or damage my phone, would be to go into a branch. It wasn’t a question I thought I’d need to ask because, in 2018, it just seems so weird and backward. BUT, considering it was my life line while away, I should’ve made myself aware of their ‘worst case scenario’ contingency plans for travellers. If I’d realised how rubbish they were (oh hello there, week later proof of account!) I’d have got my ABSA account up to date and used that.

My next bit of advice is to travel with an easily accessible amount of ‘buffer cash’ and replace it the moment you blow it. I did this initially. I had an extra R20K sitting in my account and planned to never let my balance dip below it. But life happened and I had to pay for a series of expensive shit back in South Africa so that got used up fast. What I should’ve done then was replace it immediately using my unit trusts. But I didn’t. I left it, thinking there was no urgency. And when I really needed that cash I couldn’t access it fast thanks to Capitec’s inability to provide a timeous proof of account without the app.

Thank God, Thailand is cheap. If I remember correctly, this delish Massaman curry was less than R20.

Thus, my advise to you if you’re considering a long trip away, is to call your bank before you leave and find out EXACTLY how they deal with things like lock outs. Give them all your worst case scenarios and find out how they resolve them. If I’d given Capitec a ring and said ‘Hey! If my phone gets stolen or breaks, I can just re-install your app on another one, right?’ and they’d said ‘Nope. You have to come into a branch. We’re still living in 1998!’ I’d have immediately made another plan.

Going forward, do I hate Capitec? Am I closing my account with them? Do I want them to burn to the ground. Nope, nope, nope. Like I said, if you’re in South Africa and are able to go into a branch should they require it then life is great. Also, the young teller who helped me re-open my account when I got home was absolutely lovely and all the people I chatted to every time I called their call centre, despite not being able to help, where super nice. But next time I hit the road I’ll be using another bank.

Love, love


16 thoughts on “A cautionary tale: I travelled overseas with a Capitec account and regret it. They’re a great bank, but not if you plan to use them from abroad

  1. This is so weird! I changed phones recently and reinstalled the app no problem – granted, I wasn’t doing it while overseas, but I definitely did it without issues. So odd.

    However, still glad to know that my multiple bank accounts will come in handy should I ever have capitec issues while travelling!

    1. Yes! If you have a spare account, DEF keep it open and also keep it up to date. If I’d done this I’d have been hundreds. I just never thought I’d need a back up bank. The ideal, however, is to have just one that offers solutions that don’t involve coming into a branch.

    2. They have a new system. You must verify your email, then you can download the app anywhere in the world without going in to a branch. Hope this helps. 🙂

  2. de in he moved to Capitec this year.
    Banking wise in regards to their fees and such they’re a great bank.

    Unfortunately I was racially attacked and abused by one of their staff members when they failed to mention the absolute bloody insanity that insures when one is expecting an international payment and all the rings the paying client has to make sure they jump through so that I get my money.

    Two weeks later and some abuse and we finally got going. Thank goodness my client agreed to re send the funds but as a freelancer who often recieves international payments this doesn’t sit well with me.

    I’m busy waiting to see how the next one goes.
    I also happen to be sitting in the same situation with the banking app.

    I sold my old phone. Did a factory reset etc.
    And downloaded the app to my new phone. Can I use it? Nope I have to go into the bank to reload it and that I honestly can not understand. Like you say it’s almost 2019 what the actual f#$-!

    And yes being in the country helps and is much easier to visit a branch it isn’t ideal for me and still means I have to take working hours off to go sit in a bank, spend my money on transport and parking to the the mall for something that should really be simple to fix.

    It’s really backwards. Thanks for blogging about it all. I feel your frustration.

  3. This is scary! I’m in China and also changed phones and wasn’t initially able to load my app to my new phone. I bank with Fnb though and was able to resolve this with two phone calls. Initially the call center consultant indicated that it must be escalated and that it would take some time to process but thankfully it was resolved within 3 days.

  4. Sorry you had allll that to deal with! Im with Absa and recently had to reinstall the app because it wasn’t working anymore. Guess what.. “For security reasons please go into a branch to verify.” Cannot understand the logic. We’re millenials. We’d email our dishes to the sink if we could!

  5. Thanks for sharing, i was looking into getting the capitec as my 2nd option for my planned travels.
    I temporarily moved to canada and the sms with pin from ABSA never reached me…so we arranged for “secure”emails from them instead. Also, i assigned my mom as representative for me in SA, so she can make changes on my behalf ( ie go into the branch).
    Once in USA i used my mastercard ABSA and it was denied as the shop didnt accept the card (it worked in other places) so luckily my friend (canadian) swiped her card for me and i paid her back…but whatif?? so now i always have 2 cards different accounts and some cash on me…I arrange with the banks im travelling and get email sms thing active…
    Hope this can also help someone who will be travelling

  6. That’s sad, the best thing is to have back-up bank, Capitec is not good at all, when it comes to resolving customer issues quickly, more so international transactions. They are the best locally, but not out side the borders. More established banks are more fun outside of South Africa.

  7. Warren’
    everything worked fine overseas, until I lost my global one capitec card. Then the proverbial sh……….T hit the fan.
    Called the international call centre, asked my daughter, to whom I had given power of attorney, to see if she could get me a new card, all to no avail. I have to go in to the bank to get my card replaced. cannot draw any funds at all, Have the banking app, tried to transfer funds to someones account in the country I am in, no can do. I tried to arrange with the international call centre to make a skype video call, in order for them to identify me, via skype. for some reason they could not connect via skype, even though I called them on skype, and spoke with them. Long story short. No access to my funds at all, my daughter has to send me funds via, moneygram or western union with all the added costs ofcourse.

  8. Wow series of unfortunate events much…tnx for the advise tho…glad everything worked out for the beter in the end

  9. Same problem here. Jumped into a pool to save a kid – device BROKEN and UN-FIXABLE with water damage.
    Now overseas and tried to assess my account without any positive outcome.
    I have to manage a lot of support in South Africa and now thinking about opening another bank account.

  10. I serendipitously (ooh ooh it’s a huge word but SO damn perfect here, please let me keep it?) landed here on your awesomely lekker blog after Googling something totally different to do with Capitec yesterday and have since then travelled thru SEA with you…it’s 2020 now and the travel vibes are looking skraal…but nevermind…we can always arrow back to your previous posts for a fix 🙂
    I spent some time in Melbourne via Singapore wayyyy back in 2012 and while Australia is ok and I can understand why so many Saffas trek over there, the two little stops in Singapore’s airport were my real highlights…definitely planning to do the whole SEA thing one day…tho now I will have two extra peeps in the handsome forms of my young son and his dad! I enjoyed solo shlepping around parts foreign and look forward to sharing that feeling of tingly anticipation over what’s around the next corner…but in the meantime…you’ve got another follower (which came out way creepier than intended but I think that’s the proper term right? I am the total opposite of a “digital nomad” *insert obligatory sardonic snort here* so I’ll just pretend I know…stuff…) Am also a Cape Town girl so your refs to pricing and places all landed in the right spots…thank you for making me laugh, sigh and crave new foods and experiences! And learn some useful girl skillz re the beauty bits. Oh and that unicorn top…o nee girl!!!

    1. Tina! Apologies for the disgustingly slow reply. I’ve put my blog to bed so I don’t really check up on it that often but occasionally pop in to clean spam etc and found your comment. Thank you so much! It makes me feel good to know that even though Lipgloss is a ghost it can still help and entertain. While it’s become a relic, I’m still working and travelling my way around the globe so you can follow that via my social media. I spent most of lockdown in Singapore and it was amazing but now I’m in Istanbul and completely in love with the place. Amazing food and prices that allow us rand-earners to really live it up a little. Anyway, thank you again for stopping by. Hope you and the fam get to travel someplace awesome soon x x x

  11. Very similar situation happened to me. If you are traveling overseas do NOT use Capitec. I couldn’t access my account for 4 months 😦

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s