Sending money to Kenya

I have a relative who is Kenyan. I would like to be sending some assistance money to her, every now and then.

Is Western Union the best way to send? If you send $120, for example, the fee is $10.50.

The exchange rate last week, with Western Union, was $1.00 for 83.66 shillings.

Is this a good deal or is there a more cost-efficient way of sending money?

Alternatively, I've thought of opening a bank account in America and sending her its debit card so that she can withdraw from a Nairobi ATM, whenever I make a deposit here. I'm told that this method is being used by some people around the world. But I need a better understanding of Kenyan banks. Has anyone ever withdrawn money from a Kenyan ATM, if so do you have to pay a fee twice (from American and Kenyan bank)?

I have done a search on this site and could not find a discussion on this particular issue.

Any tips will be highly appreciated.

Western Union works well mainly because it is a trusted & secure means of money transfer. I'd pick this method any day.

As for the second option, I haven't heard of it.However, it sounds simple & practical. With a visa debit card, your relatives should not have a hard time withdrawing the remitted funds. They should not also pay additional charges other than banking/ATM withdrawal fees.

MoneyGram is also quite good..and I understand that their rates are lower than Western Union

western union is a good option,fast and reliable.

there is swift transfer with major banks in Kenya. the method is safe and fairly affordable. kcb bank has the system. all the best and ho to your dearly loved relative. cheers

western union is fast and reliable, but over all its a waste. when you consider transferring dollars then you need to consider at what rate they will give on the other end. For example, is 1$=85 then the other end will receive at 81 or 82, then they will also charge for per transaction. So over all it wastes lot of money. Try looking for other sources too.. What you said is the best idea, open a bank account in america and send Debit card to her, she can easily use it any time anywhere, go for VISA card. i did the same thing to send money from kenya to india. Earlier it cost me huge, but using VISA card its only matter of 1 or 2 $ per transaction.


Thank you for your feedback. However, I really want to try something other than Western Union. But thank you!


Thanks. I've tried MoneyGram in the past. My relative had problems withdrawing money so I've stayed away from it.


Like I said to Msomi, I really want to try something else. :)


My understanding with Kenyan banks is that you have to pay a transaction fee (in addition to what the American bank will charge), then you have to deal with whatever exchange rate the Kenyan bank uses.

There are some banks in America that do not charge a transaction or ATM fee. My bank, for instance, does not.

I do not mind paying the Kenyan bank's transaction fee since this seems to be around 300 Kenyan shillings.

But I need to find a Kenyan bank that is competitive in terms of exchange rate and is fairly efficient in general.

I now understand that a Visa card is the way to go.


Everything you've have said about Western Union is true! There has to be a better option.

What I don't understand is why the Visa card is preferred in Kenya.

What precisely are the advantages of a Visa as opposed to MasterCard?

I need to do more research to find out how I can really help my relative in Kenya.

But I am very encouraged to hear that you too have used the debit card option. I first heard of it from immigrants in America from other countries (not Kenya).

yeah of course you do your research, but for my experience VISA was the best coz most of the Banks support VISA. When we use some bank services we need to check the possibilities of access and withdraws from different banks...


I just wish that I knew of a good bank in Kenya. One that has a good exchange rate and good terms for withdrawing money from its ATMs.

Barclays says that they don't charge an ATM fee to withdraw money from their Nairobi branches. Can this be true?


Check with CBA they have introduced a dollar credit card but not sure if this would work for you in terms of withdrawing in Kenya.

Alternatively, you can use the Nation Hela card they accept visa, amex and mastercard

Good luck!

Welcome to
Problem with any other international banks like barclays, is they charge intermediary banks charges. And finally u landup getting very less conversion rate on $ to Ksh compare to available market rate.
So please check all these details before you finally open an account with any bank.


Hello, I use Worldremit, which I believe is available in the US.  The charges are lower than Western Union and the exchange rate is more competitive.  This service allows you to send money for cash pickup, to an Mpesa (mobile phone) account, or to a bank account.  The bank account payments are made locally and the fees are lower than with SWIFT.

I have had several SWIFT transactions fail, leading to lots of time on the phone and a failure of the bank in the UK to refund the £20 fee.

The use of a VISA or MasterCard ATM card works great in Kenya. I do it all the time. NO FEES from the banks here. Different banks issuing cards each have their own rules for fees. My Credit Union in the USA charges no fees for using the ATM card here. The exchange rate can't be beat! One can use most of the ATMs in Kenya (I prefer Barclays, Standard, and KCB) and one need not have an account with the bank.

No lines to queue in, use nearly any ATM machine, no fees, best exchange rate. This is far and away the best option.

I've read all of the previous posts.....
So am I to understand that the best way to get funds to Nairobi is to open a bank account here in America in my name, then send my friend a Visa ATM card? Would the ATM card have to be in his name? How do I put it in his name if he's not there to sign the account papers?
What is the best way to send the ATM card?

For any ATM withdraws, Do not need to be the owner, just anyone can get money. But if something happens like, card is blocked inside ATM Machine and you need to collect your card from the bank. Then owner of the card need to be available. For best way of charges and withdrawal limits, ask some Americans who are in Nairobi, how much you can withdraw from ATM and how much VISA Bank would charge per transaction. For my Experience Chinese union-pay charged me 1-2$ for 40,000Ksh withdrawal.

I had had my ATM card 'swallowed' by the machine, several times and for no particular reason.  The bank will retrieve it, but you have to prove it is yours.  I have also quite frequently experienced 'comms' problems beteen Kenya and my UK bank, leading to an inability to withdraw cash.  You would need a back-up plan for when this happens.

Sending an ATM card should involve a service such as DHL, it may well fail to arrive via normal mail.

You can use to her via M-pesa, Airtel money, bank deposit or cash pick at an agent's office.

No additional fees on her side and the money is delivered the same day.

Ithuku; did you notice that this thread is over 3 years old?

New topic

Questions and answers about the banking system

Ask your question
Looking for a good expat financial adviser
By Owl2
Mortgages and buying in Nairobi
By rebecca7
Banks in Kenya
By Tschaubella

Expatriate health insurance in Nairobi

Free advice and quotation service to choose an expat health insurance in Nairobi

Moving to Nairobi

Find tips from professionals about moving to Nairobi

Travel insurance in Nairobi

Enjoy a stress-free travel across Nairobi

Flights to Nairobi

Find the best prices for your flight tickets to Nairobi