Money in Egypt: Banks, ATMs, cards & currency exchange

TransferWise
15.06.18
6 minute read

Whether you’re just someone who appreciates great weather and beaches, or you’re a history buff looking to witness relics of some of the oldest civilizations on the planet, Egypt has a ton to offer anyone - local, expat or visitor.

But before you visit or make a move to Egypt, understanding the country’s currency is extremely important. In order to manage your finances in Egypt, you’ll need to know how to convert, spend, save and more. This guide should give you a good start on the way to understanding money in Egypt.

What’s the currency in Egypt?

Egypt’s currency is the Egyptian pound.

Characteristics of the Egyptian pound (EGP)¹⁺²

Names and Nicknames Egyptian pound, LE, L.E.
Symbols & abbreviations E£ or ج.م
1 EGP One Egyptian pound is divided into 100 piastre and 1000 milliemes.
EGP coins Coins are available in denominations of 5, 10, 25 and 50 piastres and 1 pound
EGP banknotes EGP banknotes are available for 5, 10, 25 and 50 piastres and 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 and 200 pounds

In Egypt, you should always keep some EGP on hand, as it’s generally the only currency accepted in shops and restaurants and for small purchases³. When making large purchases, you may be asked whether you want to pay in EGP or US dollars³.

What should I know about exchanging money in Egypt?

Exchanging money in Egypt is pretty straightforward. Here’s what you need to know.

Find an exchange service that offers your fair rates

Finding a fair exchange rate is one of the hardest parts of getting a local currency in a foreign country. There are several options when you want to exchange your money in Egypt:

  • A local ATM in Egypt
  • Your bank (either at home or, if your home bank has a local partner bank, in Egypt)
  • A provider like Travelex⁴
  • Currency exchange offices in the cities⁶

The problem though with many exchange services is that they make money by marking up the exchange rate on the currency they sell you, so the amount you receive is less than the amount you gave them after they take out their commission and the cost of the inflated exchange rate. When researching exchange services, use an online currency converter to compare their rates to the mid-market rate and see if you’re getting a good deal.

Figure out if rates are better in Egypt or your home country

If you’re coming from the US, UK or Australia, banks my not even have Egyptian pounds on hand to sell you, let alone offer you the best exchange rate. Also, keep in mind that exchange rates fluctuate daily, so the rates you see now may be different by the time you’re actually on the ground in Egypt.

Withdrawing EGP from a local ATM is always a good option to get local currency at a fair rate, but be aware that your bank may charge you foreign transaction fees for making a withdrawal in Egypt.

Ensure your banknotes are damage-free

If you decide to bring your home currency into Egypt to exchange into EGP, make sure your notes are damage-free. Many merchants and exchange services will turn away damaged bills, even if they have only small blemishes or tears.

If you know someone with a bank account there, transfer money ahead of time for even better savings

The best exchange rates by far are going to come from withdrawing money directly from a local bank account in Egypt. If you have a friend or relative there with a local account who’s willing to let your transfer some money ahead of your trip, you’re set.

Sending money with TransferWise means you’ll get to transfer money to an Egyptian bank account at the actual mid-market exchange rate. With TransferWise, there are never exchange rate markups, and there are no hidden or surprise fees. All you have to pay is a small, fair transfer fee that will be spelled out for you before you confirm your transfer. You can transfer money to Egypt and then have your local friend withdraw it for you in cash, waiting for your arrival.

TransferWise also offers borderless multi-currency accounts, which allow you to manage, send and receive money in dozens of global currencies all at once. This makes it even easier to manage your money as an expat or frequent traveler.

Can I use travellers cheques in Egypt?

Traveller’s cheques are still accepted by many banks and exchange services in Egypt, though your exchange rate is likely to be very poor⁵. Thus, traveller’s cheques probably aren’t your best option, especially as they become more and more outdated.

What should I know about using my debit and credit cards in Egypt?

Major credit and debit cards are pretty widely accepted in Egypt, though you’ll want to have some cash on hand for smaller purchases and places like local markets or restaurants⁵. Check with your bank before you go, though, to make sure that you won’t be charged a high fee for withdrawing money from an ATM. Some banks also partner with banks in a foreign country, which might mean that you don’t have to pay a withdrawal fee at all. Doing some research on this before you go, can potentially save you a lot of money.

Always choose to be charged in the local currency

When you use a debit or credit card abroad, you may be offered a seemingly helpful service: to have the charge converted into your home currency, rather than the local currency. In reality, dynamic currency conversion (DCC) is a way for the local bank to make a little extra money off you by charging you at a marked-up exchange rate for the transaction. If you choose to be charged in the local currency, you’ll get a better rate, even though you have to do the math of the conversion yourself.

Don’t forget to tell your home bank you’re going to be travelling

Make sure you let you home bank know where you’re going to be and then, so your card doesn’t get flagged for suspicious activity.

What are the best practices for using ATMs in Egypt?

ATMs are common and should be pretty easy to find in Egypt, particularly in larger cities. If you’re having trouble, these tools should help:

What are the major banks in Egypt?

Egypt is home to many local banks, as well as some international branches from other countries. It’s probably worth a call to your home bank to see if it operates in Egypt.

Most common retail banks in Egypt

If your home bank isn’t an option, these are some of Egypt’s most common local banks:

ABK Egypt

Formerly Alexandria Kuwait International Bank, ABK is one of Egypt’s longest-running private banks. It offers a variety of deposit accounts, as well as convenient online banking.

Banque du Caire

BDC has been operating in Egypt since 1952 and is one of the fastest-growing banks in the country even now.

International banks operating in Egypt

If you’re looking for an international bank, these options can be found in Egypt:

  • Commercial International Bank
  • Emirates NBD
  • HSBC

Whether you’re just planning a short trip or a longer stay in Egypt, knowing how to handle your money should be one of your first steps before you land. Good luck, and safe travels in Egypt!

Sources:

¹https://www.xe.com/currency/egp-egyptian-pound (June 8, 2018)

²https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Egyptian_pound (June 8, 2018)

³https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g294200-i9124-k8343275-Currency_used_in_Egypt-Egypt.html (June 8, 2018)

⁴https://bestexchangerates.com/guides/egypt (June 8, 2018)

⁵https://www.frommers.com/destinations/egypt/money (June 8, 2018)

⁶https://www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree/forums/africa/egypt/taxis-and-currency-exchange-in-cairo (June 15, 2018)

This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from TransferWise Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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