Time It Takes to Get a Bank Card

On the vibrant streets of Johannesburg, Durban, or Cape Town, as you navigate the diverse South African landscape, the common thread that ties together people of different cultures and economic backgrounds is the transition towards a digital economy. In this context, possessing a bank card isn’t solely a matter of convenience; it’s a means of active engagement. Being a part of this rapidly evolving global economy provides access to financial services and, most importantly, empowers individuals.

Key Points to Note

  • Banking Landscape: South Africa boasts a robust banking system, featuring a mix of traditional banks and innovative financial institutions. They offer a diverse range of bank card choices to cater to various financial needs.
  • Card Selection: The right bank card selection depends on an individual’s financial habits and objectives. Available options encompass debit cards for direct fund access, credit cards for borrowing and rewards, and prepaid cards for designated expenses.
  • Application Requirements: A successful card application generally necessitates proof of identity, address, and regular income. Ensuring that all documents are current and legible can expedite the application process.
  • Digital Convenience: Most South African banks offer the convenience of online card applications, enabling customers to apply for bank cards from the comfort of their own homes.

The Necessity of Owning a Bank Card

Let’s step back and visualize an ordinary day in the life of a South African. From the early morning rush to buy a cup of Rooibos tea or a quick breakfast on the go, to the midday shopping or bill payments, and the evening dine-outs or online shopping sprees, the common thread that weaves these activities together is monetary transactions. Gone are the days when carrying physical cash was the norm. Today, the simple swipe or tap of a bank card not only ensures safety but also provides a seamless experience. Think about the joy of not having to worry about exact change or the safety concern of carrying a wad of Rand notes after withdrawing from an ATM. With a bank card, everyday transactions become breezier. Besides, in our modern era, online shopping, subscription services, and digital platforms often require a bank card for access. Thus, having one is akin to holding a key to a vast world of possibilities, ensuring that you aren’t left out of the digital transformation wave.

Types of Bank Cards Available in South Africa

Delve deeper into the realm of financial tools, and you’ll uncover a spectrum of bank cards meticulously crafted to suit diverse needs. Each type of card is fashioned with distinct features, advantages, and a few considerations to bear in mind. Let’s unravel the mysteries of these cards and comprehend their significance in the South African financial landscape.

Debit Cards

Among bank cards, debit cards stand as the most fundamental and widely employed. They grant you immediate access to your bank account funds. With every swipe or insertion, the corresponding amount is deducted from your bank balance. Think of it as an electronic cheque – only speedier and more convenient.

For many South Africans, a debit card serves as their initial introduction to the realm of digital transactions. It’s uncomplicated: you spend what you have in your account. There are no complexities involving interest rates or due dates, making it a preferred choice for those aiming to keep a tight grip on their expenses.

Credit Cards

Now, step into the domain of credit cards – a tool that permits you to borrow funds up to a certain limit. It’s akin to having a miniature loan facility right in your pocket. The objective is to repay the borrowed amount by a specified due date, beyond which interest charges may apply.

For many individuals, a credit card represents more than a mere spending instrument. It serves as a means to establish a credit history, avail rewards or cashback benefits, and even manage finances during lean periods. Nevertheless, the power of a credit card carries the responsibility of punctual repayments. Keep in mind that a favorable credit history can unlock doors to superior financial products down the road.

Prepaid Cards

Picture prepaid cards as a middle ground between debit and credit cards. You load a predetermined amount onto the card, which then serves as your spending limit. Once the balance is exhausted, you have the option to reload it. This proves to be an excellent tool for budgeting, particularly for specific expenses like travel or shopping.

These cards have witnessed a surge in popularity, particularly among parents seeking to provide their children with a limited spending allowance or individuals cautious about sharing their primary bank account details online.

Business Cards

In the dynamic business landscape of South Africa, business cards are specifically tailored to enterprises, whether it’s a budding startup in Cape Town or a thriving conglomerate in Pretoria. Crafted to address business requirements, these cards often come with elevated credit limits, detailed expenditure reports, and perks that are advantageous for businesses, such as travel rewards or discounts on office supplies.

The General Application Process

Entering the financial realm and acquiring a bank card may appear daunting initially, but once you become familiar with the process, it unfolds as a well-defined journey, akin to following a clearly marked trail. Here’s a breakdown of the landscape.

Basic Requirements for South Africans

The foundation of any application process lies in the documentation. Before embarking on this journey, gather your essentials. Typically, banks will request the following:

  • Proof of Identity: Your South African ID card or a valid passport is generally sufficient.
  • Proof of Address: Documents such as utility bills, a lease agreement, or any official record bearing your name and address, dated within the past three months, fulfill this requirement.
  • Proof of Income: Salary slips from the last three months or bank statements demonstrating regular income. This becomes particularly vital when applying for a credit card, as it provides insight into your financial stability.

Once armed with these documents, you’ve surmounted the initial hurdle.

Online vs. In-branch Application

The digital revolution in South Africa ensures that you can initiate your bank card application from the comfort of your own home. Most banks offer an online application portal that guides you through the process, from inputting personal details to uploading necessary documents. It’s hassle-free, and the best part? No need to endure long queues!

However, if you prefer a more personal approach, visiting your nearest branch can be beneficial. Face-to-face discussions with a bank representative often help clarify any lingering doubts and provide guidance on the most suitable card option for you.

Role of Credit Scores in the Application

“Credit score” – three words that carry significant weight, especially when applying for a credit card. This numerical value reflects your financial history, punctuality in repaying loans, and overall financial behavior. A favorable credit score can not only streamline your application process but may also grant you access to cards with superior perks and higher credit limits.

However, if your credit score isn’t in optimal shape, don’t be disheartened. Some banks offer products tailored for individuals seeking to rebuild their credit. It’s all about finding the right match for your financial circumstances.

» Read more: about how credit card works in South Africa!

Processing and Delivery Times

As the gears of your application begin to turn, the anticipation naturally intensifies. You’re probably pondering the question: “How long until I can start swiping my new card?” Let’s shed light on this pressing matter.

Average Time for Application Review

Once you’ve submitted your application, banks typically take anywhere from 5 to 10 working days to complete the review process. This includes document verification, assessing your creditworthiness (in the case of credit cards), and conducting other internal checks. It’s a phase that requires patience, but rest assured, the banks are meticulous in ensuring that the card you receive aligns with your financial profile.

How Soon Can You Get Your Card After Approval?

The moment of triumph! Once your application receives the green light, it’s only a matter of days before the card arrives at your doorstep. Banks usually dispatch the card within 5 working days following approval. The delivery method can vary; some banks send it via postal mail, while others might request that you collect it from a branch.

Possible Delays and How to Avoid Them

While banks strive for efficiency, occasional hiccups can arise. The usual suspects? Incomplete documentation, discrepancies in the application form, or even a backlog within the bank’s processes. The silver lining is that most of these issues can be prevented. Double-checking your application, ensuring all documents are up-to-date and clearly legible, and keeping tabs on your application status can help iron out potential wrinkles in the process.

Factors Affecting the Time It Takes to Get a Card

In the intricate fabric of obtaining a bank card, numerous threads intertwine, and various factors influence the time it takes from the moment you decide to get a card to when you finally hold it in your hands.

Type of Card (debit, credit, etc.)

The type of card you’re applying for plays a pivotal role. Debit cards, as they are directly linked to your bank account balance, are typically quicker to acquire. Credit cards, due to the additional step of credit evaluation, might take a bit longer in the application process.

The Bank’s Internal Processes

Each bank operates with its unique set of procedures and internal rhythms. Some banks may pride themselves on swift processing and speedy deliveries, while others may take a more meticulous approach, ensuring that every detail is thoroughly checked and verified.

Public Holidays and Non-working Days

Let’s not overlook the impact of the calendar. Applications submitted around weekends or during public holidays may experience slight delays due to non-working days when the bank’s operations are paused.

Understanding these various elements can help manage expectations and provide a clearer picture of the timeline involved in obtaining your bank card.

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Activation and Safety Protocols

Once that shiny new bank card arrives in your hands, you’re just one step away from enjoying the convenience it offers. However, before you start using it, activation and ensuring its security are essential steps.

Activating Your Card

Regardless of how sleek your card looks, it remains inactive until properly activated. In South Africa, banks typically offer several activation methods:

  • Telephone Activation: Call the number provided with your card. It’s an automated process, ensuring your card becomes operational within minutes.
  • Online Activation: Many banks allow you to activate your card through their online banking portal or mobile app. It’s a user-friendly and swift option.
  • In-Branch Activation: If you prefer a more traditional approach or are new to the bank’s services, visiting the bank in person can be reassuring. Bank representatives will guide you through the activation process, ensuring you’re all set.

Setting Up a Personal Identification Number (PIN)

Your PIN serves as the key to your financial realm. After activation, you’ll be prompted to set up or change your PIN. This code is personal, ensuring that only you have access to your funds. A word of advice: choose a PIN that is unique and not easily guessable. While birthdays are memorable, they are not the most secure choice.

Safety Measures for Your New Card

In the digital age, ensuring the safety of your card goes beyond protecting it from physical theft. Here are some golden rules to follow:

Shield Your PIN: When entering your PIN, especially at ATMs or Point of Sale machines, ensure it is shielded from prying eyes.

Regularly Monitor Transactions: With digital banking, it’s easy to keep track of your account. Regularly check your transactions to ensure they align with your expenditures.

Report Lost or Stolen Cards Immediately: Time is of the essence. The sooner you report a lost or stolen card, the faster the bank can block it, safeguarding your funds.

By following these steps and safety measures, you can confidently make the most of your new bank card while ensuring the security of your financial assets.


Embarking on the journey to obtain a bank card in South Africa is not just about acquiring a financial instrument; it represents a move towards independence, adaptability, and contemporary living. As we’ve explored this territory—comprehending the various card options, navigating the complex banking system, and following the activation and security procedures—it’s clear that possessing a bank card embodies a combination of accountability and empowerment.


How do I decide which type of bank card is right for me in South Africa?

Assess your financial habits, needs, and goals. If you prefer spending within your means and want direct access to your account balance, a debit card is a suitable choice. If you aim to build credit or enjoy benefits like reward points, a credit card might be a better option. Additionally, consider consulting with your bank, as they can provide guidance tailored to your financial profile and requirements.

Is there a minimum age requirement to apply for a bank card in South Africa?

Yes, for most debit and credit cards, you must be at least 18 years old. However, some banks offer specialized products, such as teen or student accounts, which include cards designed for younger individuals.

Can I possess multiple credit cards from different banks in South Africa?

Certainly! There are no legal restrictions on the number of credit cards you can hold. However, it’s important to manage them wisely to avoid potential financial pitfalls. Keep in mind that each card may have its associated fees, and managing multiple cards requires diligent tracking of due dates and balances.

What should I do if I suspect fraudulent activity on my bank card?

Immediately contact your bank to report any suspicious transactions. They will guide you through the necessary steps, which often involve blocking the card to prevent further unauthorized activity. It’s also advisable to regularly monitor your statements to detect any anomalies early on.

Are there any fees associated with obtaining or maintaining a bank card in South Africa?

Yes, most banks charge an annual or monthly fee for card maintenance. Additionally, there may be extra charges for services such as international transactions or cash withdrawals. Always review the terms and conditions associated with your card, and if you have any doubts, seek clarification from your bank for a comprehensive breakdown of potential fees.

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