Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Withdrawing Money in Kigali from International Bank Accounts

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Many ATM’s around Kigali claim to accept Visa, but this is a big fat lie. Very few ATMs in town actually accept international cards and you’re stuck with a few choices or having to go into the bank with your passport, which is always a pain.

Your best options are as follows:

Bank of Kigali (In Town)

According to newly put-up posters from Bank of Kigali, their ATM’s are now available for international withdrawal, but they are highly unreliable, and I have yet to hear of someone successfully withdrawing money. However there are rumours that they have an amazing option of choosing which currency you want to withdraw: USD or RWF. I will believe it when I see it, though.

If the ATMs aren’t working you can head upstairs with a Visa or Mastercard with a PIN and your passport where you can withdraw money easily and without much of a wait. But you’ll need to pay a fee for the privilege.

Ecobank ATM (In Town)

This has long been the only ATM in town for international withdrawals and it’s reasonably reliable. At times the connection is bad, in which case the ATM will tell you that your financial institution is unavailable. Most of the time, though, it works like a charm.

Fina Bank ATM (In town past the Gorilla roundabout towards Serena Hotel)

As with Ecobank, the connection can fall out, but in general it works fine.

Access Bank (Inside UTC 2nd Floor)

To withdraw money from your debit or credit card, you have to go to the counter and show your passport.

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  1. Hi Kristy-
    I’ll be moving to Kigali soon and the topic of how to protect and access my money is at the top of my mind. I’d like to put in a request that you write this one!
    I’m really appreciating your sites, and hope to cross paths with you once I get there.

  2. I’ve successfully withdrawn cash using my UK visa debit card from the ATM’s at the Ecobank and the Bank of Kigali – and yes it does give you the option of RWF and USD. I have come across some people whose cards did not work so I suppose it may vary from UK bank to UK bank. I didn’t realise you could use the ATM at the Fina Bank, I’ll have to give it a go.
    There are horror stories of money going missing from your account but I’ve never had a problem.

  3. What are people’s takes on opening a local bank account – I am here for a year with my wife and we are pretty keen not to have to use International Withdrawl mainly because of the extortionate fees that UK banks usually charge. I have been told its pretty simple to open a local account, but then I wonder if anyone has experience of trying to transfer funds from a UK account to a local – I figured KCB, Access or Bank of Kigali would be the most likely?


    • hi James
      i have an account with Fina bank and regularly transfer money from England here. My English account is with First Direct which is an internet only account so it is all pretty easy, i just send a message and a few days later the money is here. Looking at the date of your post you have probably found this out already

  4. I tried the ATM at the Fina bank – it doesn’t accept international cards. I still regularly use the Econbank and so far (fingers crossed) no problems.

    James, a late reply I know and because of that you possibly already know the answer. I opened an account before Christmas and apart from an account number have heard nothing since. I recently heard of somebody waiting 7 months for their cards etc so I only have another two months to wait!!!

    The amount I get charged to withdraw cash depends on the bank account I use. One UK bank charges twice as much as the other, guess which one I use?

  5. I have successfully withdrawn RWF money from my US bank account using a Visa debit bank card, from the Ecobank in Remera and the Ecobank at the KBC shops by the Mama Rwanda roundabout. Good luck!

  6. Withdrew 400,000 Rwf last Saturday at the downtown Bank of Kigali. Used my US bank visa debit card. I didn’t notice a US dollar option.

  7. Hi there. I think I read somewhere that there was a limit on how much you can withdraw in one go (UK visa debit card, Natwest if that makes a difference). Obviously, with the charge from my bank I’d like to draw out as much as I anticipate needing for the rest of my trip after the money I’ve changed has run out, so was wondering whether anyone has found this to be the case, and what the limit is? Also, is it usually possible to change RFr back to GBP/Euros in one of the numerous forex places around in the centre of town?

    Thanks for your help!

  8. Following on from James’ request above, could you do an article about bank accounts in Rwanda please? It would be really useful to have some comparison on how much they charge for withdrawing dollars, and how much to make transfers abroad and also what the monthly charges are?

    I’ve opened a dollar account, but they charge to receive money from abroad and they charge to withdraw dollars…. it doesn’t quite seem worth it so I might close it soon. Does anyone have any experience of this?


    • Sure Hannah, we’ll get on it. Might take us awhile to get all the info though… not the most exciting article topic to write! 🙂

      If anyone has any information on banks – how to open an account, how much an account costs, international withdrawal fees etc… please let us know at [email protected].


  9. Anyone knows of an ATM that accepts Maestro (MasterCard) debit cards? Feel like I’ve tried all banks.

    Eventually got money from Access bank at the counter with my MasterCard, but the fee was quite steep.


  10. Has anyone opened a local bank account? Like the poster above we’ll be there for at least a year and earning income so putting it through an international bank all the time would be a bit of a pain.

    Thanks in advance!

  11. My wife and I have opened three accounts at Bank of Kigali in Butare with no problems. One each in RWF and a joint one in dollars. British Passport ID was all that was necessary. VisaCards took two months and then had to be activated at head office in Kigali which was a bit of a pain. Otherwise, I think the service is better than I get from Lloyds TSB in England. An alert is texted to me with a balance after every withdrawal and deposit.

  12. The Nakumatt at UTC has an ATM now. No idea if it works well though, because it was out of service last time I checked.

  13. I can confirm that as of May 2012, I was able to go into Access Bank at UTC and use my Canadian Mastercard credit card to take out a cash advance in RWF… Was charged 4% fee, pretty standard, and this meant I didn’t run out of money. Very grateful for that as it seems that almost everything here is Visa.

  14. Withdrew 600K Rwf today in 3 consecutive withdrawels of 200K at the Ecobank in Remera on my American Visa debit card! That’s a first- not having to drive all the way downtown.

    • I’m going to be here for 2 years, so went with the option of opening a bank account with Access Bank. Process took about 30 minutes and all I needed was my passport, passport photo, visa and copy of my contract. That’s for a savings account. If you want to open a current account you have to submit a supporting letter from somebody with a Rwandan bank account. Strange, but OK.

      Make sure you ask them for the necessary forms to fill in for a debit card though, as well as internet banking.

      I stupidly arrived with a mastercard myself, and the only place that will provide you with a cash advance is Access Bank. And personally I thought 4% quite reasonable.

      • I also can confirm, as of March 2014, Access Bank at UTC works just fine for Master Cards. They were super friendly, courteous and very speedy. In and out in 5 minutes! Make sure to have your passport with you and ask a customer service agent where you should wait (it’s a back room on the left as you walk in), as the tellers up front can’t provide this service. They charged me a very reasonable 3.4% commission. I’m banking this as a win. 🙂 See what I did there?

        I am leaving soon but coming back to Kigali in June. Even though this was fairly painless, you don’t want to have to go in town every time you need cash- so I’ll be coming back with a Visa.

  15. I tried MTN Mobile Money Online yesterday, it worked really well. I opened up a MTN Mobile Money account first at the MTN service centre and went to mtnmmo dot com to transfer money from my VISA credit card to my mobile money account. The money was delivered within seconds on my phone and I could withdraw the money from my phone at the little supermarket around the corner of my house. The charges were lower than withdrawing the money from the ATM with my VISA card and I did not have to drive all the way to town.

  16. I went to Access bank in UTC this afternoon and used my VISA debit card (Santander) to withdraw money and it was very easy and very speedy, I was only there for 5 minutes. I wasn’t able to withdraw money from Ecobank’s ATM or Access bank’s ATM.

  17. Hey there, I will potentially be moving to Rwanda soon for my job. Visiting this week and if all goes well, I’ll be moving there in the next couple of months. Is it worth it to open a local bank account? What are the options?

  18. We will be working/living in Kigali for 2 yrs. Have a U.S. Acct but will need a Rwandan acct as well. What are my options in arranging deposits into Rwandan acct? Is there a fee to convert U.S, dollars when I direct deposit. Any information would be appreciated on best bets.

  19. Of course you need a local bank account. You can’t pay for anything with plastic except in a few high-end hotels and restaurants. Rwanda is very much a cash-and-cheque economy.

    The banks here are all daylight robbers. They charge you for everything – including checking your account balance at the ATM or on the mobile. They charge you for administering your money, the charge you various fees, and they overcharge you on every transfer you receive and send.

    Get yourself a US$ account at one of the local banks – at minimum cost: negotiate with them how much they will charge you to receive your money from abroad. Do not allow them to manage your dollar account or to automatically change your dollars into Francs when you receive them: they’ll overcharge you and give you a bad rate. Just keep the dollar account and when you need Francs cash go change in one of the many public Forex shops – they’ll have a better rate than your bank. Good luck!

    • Killing Time
      —-You have been so incredibly kind in answering the questions I have posted on this forum. So many questions come to mind and logistics to figure out and you have been so helpful. Thanks so much for all your help. I know many more questions will come in the months to follow. God Bless!

  20. Good news for those with Mastercard debit cards: You can definitely withdraw money from at least two Equity Bank branches in Kigali. I’ve gotten cash from the ATM at the Nyarugenge Market building. And I know someone who’s withdrawn cash from the Equity ATM in Remera.

  21. Thanks for this fantastic thread! I am really pleased to hear that there is progress on the money-withdrawal problem in Rwanda – does anyone know if Maestro is also already accepted? (the last time I was there I was not aware of the problem, so I am coming better prepared this time!).
    Thanks for your help!

  22. If you are coming from the UK, get a Metro Bank account, they dont charge any fees for withdrawing money anywhere in the world, I have used them all over Africa and they seem to give a good mid-market exchange rate. The only downside is that they only do a mastercard not visa, so your ATM options are a little more limited as visa is more ubiquitous in Africa, but I have managed to get money from Equity Bank in Kigali with this debit card without any problems.

  23. Dear all,thank for your information.has anyone of you ever made a bank transfer of money of big amount like 5 million US dollars from abroad to rwandan banks ?if there is please inform me.

  24. I was in Kimironko last year, waiting for my housekeeper to do the shopping at the market there, so I went into BPR to check if the transfer I was waiting for from the UK had arrived. It was a business transaction, about 20K pounds. The lady at the bank looked at her screen and told me ‘your 20K have not arrived yet but yesterday you received 6 million dollars in your account’
    I was happy for a short time, then they informed me that it was a mistake and that the 6 million had already gone from my account.
    I went to the Head Office of BPR to berate the account manager there: I told her she should have called me immediately, and that if she did by now she would have had a Mercedes… the reply was ‘sorry about the mistake, you can still give me the car as a gift…’

  25. if you are thinking of opening a local bank account don’t ever think of BCR ,the customer service is poorest ,rude tellers and very slow service. The ledger fees are very high as well

  26. Just wondering,I am coming on vacation for just one month,anyone ever sent themselves money through western before travel and receive it after they get in rwanda?and is there any disadvantage on doing so?

  27. hello
    I have account in Qatar national bank of egypt my account have two side one for egypt Ian pounds another for euro but I hAve a visa card which I can use for withdrawing and I am not Inecessarily egypt to go to the branch someone who have an option can tell me

  28. Hello,
    I have heard about Payoneer Debit Master Card in Rwanda, if there is someone who is using this card please let me know how to obtain it and how it works especially for online shopping and money transfer. Thanks

    • Hi Simon! What have you heard about Payoneer Master Card in Rwanda? I have that card and use that card only. However it doesnt work in most ATMs. I could only find one bank in Uganda that supports it. I was concerned if I will find any bank in Rwanda at all. Can you kindly let me know what you heard about it in Rwanda? Thanks.


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