How to Open a Bank Account in Kenya

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In case you are thinking of settling in Kenya, it is crucial that you open a bank account. Thankfully, in Kenya we have many banks to choose from, both local and international banks. Here you’ll find an overview about Kenyan banks and a short guide on the requirements for opening a bank account in Kenya.

Documents Needed When Opening a Bank Account in Kenya

  • Kenyan National ID card or passport and a photo ID
  • KRA PIN to prove that you pay taxes
  • Proof of your home address or a Kenyan mobile phone number
  • Reference from someone with an account at the bank or a reference from your employer

Some banks may ask for more than one photo. Sometimes they have digital cameras which you can use to take a photo ID. Non-resident bank accounts are also possible. You can apply for a Kenya Revenue Authority PINif you meet their requirements.

Open a Bank Account Online in Kenya

Can I open a bank account online without going to the bank in Kenya? Yes, you can. Some banks in Kenya allow potential customers to open a bank account online in Kenya.

For example, Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) allows people to open bank account using M-Pesa through their mobile phones. After opening, they can make a deposit and confirm with M-Pesa PIN.

However, not all banks in Kenya enable people to open bank accounts online. You should contact a bank of your choice and ask how to open a bank account online in Kenya.

Can a Foreigners Open a Bank Account in Kenya?

As a foreigner, it is also possible to open an account. Kenyan banks have different financial products that allow you to open a non resident bank account.

Generally, to open a bank account as a foreigner in Kenya this means you will need a residence or work permit. Some banks may need a reference from one of their clients (introducer). In 2020, Barclays Bank of Kenya officially changed its name to Absa Bank Kenya PLC.

Non Resident Bank Accounts Kenya

Difficulties in Opening a Bank Account in Kenya

The majority of Kenyans do not have bank accounts. Even those who have bank accounts, less than ten percent have over one million shillings in their accounts. One of the major setbacks is that many banks are located in town centers. Therefore, they fail to serve the communities in rural areas.

With the introduction of mobile banking in Kenya such as M-Pesa, the majority of Kenyans living in rural areas have adopted M-Pesa banking. Among the advantages of M-Pesa include, many people in rural areas have mobile phones; hence, they can deposit and withdraw funds easily.

Also, they can access M-Pesa loans easily. M-Pesa does not have maintenance fees apart from money transfer and withdrawal charges. Therefore, bank accounts have been replaced significantly by M-Pesa.

Opening a Bank Account in Kenya From Abroad (Diaspora Bank Account)

You can open a Diaspora bank account in Kenya. However in many cases, opening a bank account in Kenya from abroad, you will need to present yourself to the bank to open a bank account, unless you are opening a mobile/digital bank account such as Equity Diaspora Account or KCB M-Benki.

If you are unable to open your Diaspora account online, you’ll have to visit your bank of choice in person with the required documents. Some banks allow you to start the application process online and then present your documents in person later.

Banking Fees

Banks charge different fees for various services. Among the common banking charges involved include maintenance fees, ATM fees such as withdrawal charges using ATMs, and also normal charges such as over the counter withdrawal charges.

Note that withdrawing from an ATM belonging to a different bank attracts a higher fee. Using your own bank’s ATM for withdrawal usually attracts the fee of between ksh35 to 50.

Some banks deduct a fixed monthly fee while others have fees for each transaction such as over the counter withdrawal standing order and maintenance fees. It is crucial that you check with the respective bank for its charges.

International Money Transfers

Making international money transfers can either be hectic or easy depending on the option you choose. Sending money to a bank account in Kenya can be done fast and cheaply following our guide.

You can opt to transfer money using banks which is expensive or use cheaper services such as WISE. Banks use mid-market rates when transferring funds across themselves to maximize profits.

WISE

If you wish to transfer funds across the border, you can get a cheaper alternative by using WISE. It offers an efficient and safe way of transferring funds from one account to another. The WISE Multicurrency account is available in Kenya.

WISE uses the mid-market rate, which is cheaper compared to other means. Other methods that we recommend using include WorldRemit and wire transfer. You can exchange US Dollars for Kenyan Shilling but not vice versa.

It is also possible, for example, to send money to Kenya using Bitcoin.

Best Bank to Open an Account in Kenya

Kenya has both local and international banks. Some of the foreign banks include Standard Chartered Bank and Barclays Bank. Some of the best banks in Kenya to open an account with include the following:

open international bank account
Kenya also has the cooperative bank.

Equity Bank

Equity Bank has 173 branches with 38 of them located in the capital city, Nairobi. They provide several types of bank account, loans and Visa, MasterCard and Amex credit and debit cards.

Standard Chartered Bank

Standard Chartered Bank is a subsidiary of the Standard Chartered Bank in London. They provide savings accounts for foreign currencies and it offers overdraft facilities to some current accounts. Besides, it gives credit and debit cards to its customers.

Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB)

KCB has the largest ATM network in Kenya. It has over 250 branches and operates almost everywhere in the country. Over seven million people have opened a bank account with KCB.

Absa Bank

Absa Bank has a vast network of branches and ATM networks across the country. Some of the bank transactions can be done through the post office.

Cooperative Bank

Coopertive Bank is among the oldest banks in Kenya. It has a wide network of branches and ATMs located in major towns.

Cooperative Bank Kenya accounts come with a number of products such as the common current accounts and savings accounts. There is also Cooperative Bank Kenya mobile banking option as well as the provision of different types of loans.

International Banks in Kenya

There are many international in Kenya. Apart from the well known international banks in Kenya such as Absa and Standard Chartered, others include:

Islamic Banks in Kenya

If you are interested in a bank that complies with Sharia (Islamic law) and Hadith, the recorded sayings, and actions of the Prophet Muhammad, these are Islamic banks in Kenya: First Community Bank of Kenya, Dubai Islamic Bank, Gulf Bank and Sharjah Islamic Bank.

Banks Codes in Kenya PDF

All banks in Kenya have got their own unique codes. Each branch of a bank has its code as well. Find all bank codes in Kenya here.

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Vincent is a writer and researcher with an interest in finance, banking, startups, and remittance. He holds a Bachelors degree in Applied Statistics with computing. He founded Nexin Startups, an online platform offering startup advice to investors and entrepreneurs. Read more about us and our authors.