Tips on Banking (in Rwanda)

When you start a business, part of the inaugural activity always includes choosing the right bank. The Women’s Bakery had a plethora to choose from in Kigali. Our decision, I&M bank. Learning the ins and outs and developing first name relationships with branch managers took time. Countless hours of asking questions and waiting in queues has made us more familiar with the system. To start, opening an account can cost 50,000 Rwanda Francs (RWF) (approximately $80), making banking a challenge for small business owners. Below are some more tips for newbies thinking about opening an account in Rwanda.

Online Banking

You’re charged 3,000 RWF per month (Approximately $4) for this feature. You can see your online bank statements, pay taxes, make transfers, and bulk payments among other activities. This feature is well worth the monthly fee. When you open your account, be sure to fill out the specific form for online banking access. It’s not an automatic feature!

Activating ATM Cards

For I&M Bank, there is just one ATM in Kigali at the central bank in mu muji (down town) that can activate ATM cards (it’s the last one on the left side of the bank – and, by the way, that ATM occasionally changes). When you insert the ATM card be sure to press cancel when the machine asks you what transaction type. So, if you thought you could activate your ATM card from anywhere, you’re wrong.

Making Changes to Your Account

Any changes to your account need to come in the form of a hand written letter including your contact information, bank account information, and signature. Be sure to bring your identification cards. And, by the way, some branches only accept passports. Be sure to bring your own piece of paper and own copy of your identification, they simply might not have paper or power.

Rwanda Francs or U.S. Dollars?

A Rwanda Francs account can not accept deposits of USD and vice versa. Make sure there is an exchange bureau right next to your bank because I&M Kisementi branch doesn’t exchange money. If you’re paying employees in USD, it makes sense to open an account in that currency. FYI you can have USD and Rwanda Francs accounts connected to each other.

Withdrawing Money

Thought it was free to use your ATM card at your bank branch? Guess again. It costs 10,000 RWF (approximately $13) for the card itself and 236 RWF (approximately $.30) each time you withdraw money from the ATM. Withdraw from a teller? Nope. There are no withdrawal forms. You need a special form that the bank manager has to sign and bank staff are reluctant to use this process. The advice given to you at your local branch…write a check and cash it. And, just in case you thought that was free, each new checkbook is 4,000 RWF (approximately $5). The cheapest way to withdraw money… don’t withdraw at all.

These little pointers would have been helpful to us when we were opening our bank account. We hope you enjoy. Happy banking!