How to send money from or to Kenya

May 17, 2024Money transferKimboCare
2024-05-17T13:38:00.000Z2024-05-17T13:38:00.000Z

What are the different ways to send and receive money in Kenya?

Kenya is not only one of the most dynamic countries in East Africa but also a key player in the field of international money transfers.

The country has been a pioneer in developing mobile payment solutions, with the renowned service M-Pesa, which has revolutionized the way Kenyans send and receive money.

M-Pesa is a mobile money transfer and microfinancing service launched in 2007 by Safaricom and Vodafone.

Originating in Kenya, this system allows users to make deposits, withdrawals, money transfers, payments, and even access credit and insurance products using only a SIM card and a phone that does not need to be connected to the Internet.

Today, it serves over 30 million users in the country, facilitating a large portion of daily transactions.

Its ease of use, not requiring a traditional bank account, has transformed the face of the Kenyan economy, particularly in rural and underserved areas.

In Kenya, M-Pesa is used by more than 90% of adults (nearly 32 million people), making this service the preferred method for daily financial transactions, including bill payments, purchasing goods and services, and transferring funds.

M-Pesa has also had a significant impact on financial inclusion, allowing millions of people without access to traditional banking services to participate in the economy and manage their finances with greater flexibility and security.

However, it is not without its limits, which we will explore in the continuation of this article.

1 - Traditional banks

Traditional banking services are among the reliable and secure options for sending and receiving money in Kenya.

Advantages:

  • Security and trust: Banks are regulated by financial oversight agencies, offering a high level of security and protection for your funds.
  • Additional services: In addition to money transfers, banks offer a range of financial services, such as investment advice, loans, and credit facilities.
  • Direct international transfers: You can send money directly from your bank account to an account in Kenya, simplifying the process without the need for intermediaries.

Disadvantages:

  • High costs: Transfer fees and exchange rates applied can be particularly high, especially in Kenya, where exchanging dollars for Kenyan Shillings is challenging. Additional costs can accumulate, particularly for frequent or large transfers.
  • Slower process: The processing of international transfers can take several business days, which is not ideal for urgent needs such as healthcare.
  • Complexity and documentary requirements: Sending funds abroad via banks may require extensive documentation and administrative formalities, making the process sometimes cumbersome.
  • Requirement of a bank account: This requirement can be a major barrier, especially in Kenya where a significant portion of the population does not have access to traditional banking services. This financial barrier limits access to money transfers for those who may need it most.

2 - Online services and apps

Online services such as M-Pesa, Airtel Money, T-Kash, Wise (formerly TransferWise), WorldRemit, PayPal, Venmo, and Cash App have revolutionized the way we send and receive money around the world, especially in Kenya.

They offer a convenient and often more economical alternative to traditional money transfer methods, suited to our digital age.

Further in this article, you will discover our ranking of the fastest and least expensive ways to send or receive money in Kenya.

Advantages:

  • Speed and ease of use: These platforms enable fast, often instant, money transfers with a simple online operation or through a mobile app. Their intuitive user interface makes the process accessible to everyone.
  • Cost-effective: The fees charged by these services are generally lower than those of traditional banks, especially for international transactions. They also offer competitive exchange rates, which can result in significant savings.

Disadvantages:

  • Restrictions on withdrawals or transfers: It's important to consider that some money transfer methods have limits, whether in withdrawal mode, the total balance of the online wallet, or even in the transfers themselves by blocking the possibility of sending from a certain amount.
  • Lack of customization for specific needs: These services are not specifically designed for needs such as healthcare access. They do not provide the same assurance that every cent transferred will be used for medical purposes or to improve the well-being of loved ones.
  • Lack of transparency and tracking: Although these platforms offer some transparency about fees and the transfer process, they do not provide a detailed mechanism to track how funds are specifically used once received. This is crucial for donors who wish to ensure that their financial support is directly allocated to specific needs, such as healthcare for their loved ones.
  • Geographical limitation: Often, these apps are designed to primarily function in one country or a specific region, which poses a problem for immigrants wishing to financially support their loved ones in Kenya. For example, M-Pesa is a platform mainly intended for local transfers, meaning that for transmitting funds, you would need to turn to their partners like PayPal and Western Union.
  • Data security: While these apps take measures to protect users' financial information, concerns about the security of personal data remain.

Moreover, this last point is more relevant than ever. According to a recent study, "Nearly half of the country that uses the ubiquitous mobile money service has been a victim of fraud."

In January 2022, the story of Peter Mwanzo, a police officer from Nairobi, made headlines after he became the target of a sophisticated mobile payment scam (1) .

Fraudsters managed to clone his SIM card without his phone even leaving his pocket, and drained his mobile wallet of 597,100 Kenyan shillings, approximately 4,018 euros.

https://restofworld.org/2023/mpesa-sim-swap-fraud/

They not only stole this money but also took out heavy loans in his name, adding to the scale of the fraud. This lack of security can have severe consequences for families in need, but also for loved ones working hard to send funds.

3 - The Online Health Credit Solution

If you want to support your loved ones in Kenya, especially in the healthcare sector, health credits offer a solution that combines speed, security, and a positive impact.

KimboCare was born from the experiences of two African immigrants who faced the challenges of supporting the health of their family members back in Africa while navigating their own lives in the United States and Europe, a story similar to that of Joseph which we mentioned in the introduction.

This story is not unique, but our response to this challenge is entirely so.

KimboCare was created to transform the way we care for our families from afar, whether in Kenya or other developing countries.

Now, you can purchase digital health credits so your loved ones can access preventive and curative healthcare services without needing a bank account or a digital currency platform.

This process is simple, straightforward, and can be executed from anywhere, at any time. These credits will be immediately usable by patients who will be welcomed in medical facilities that are always verified and monitored by KimboCare.

Rather than simply sending money, often without guarantees that it will be used for necessary healthcare or without being able to ensure the quality of care received, health credits offer a transparent and secure solution.

You thus obtain real-time tracking of medical services purchased with health credits, ensuring that every cent contributes truly to the health and well-being of the recipient.

The commitment lies in empowering vulnerable populations, especially women and children, to access quality healthcare, thereby contributing to a longer and healthier life.

The utility of health credits lies in protecting your data with advanced encryption protocols, providing you with additional peace of mind as you contribute to the health of your loved ones.

The adoption of digital currency has offered significant benefits in terms of security, reducing the risk for families of exposing their loved ones to dangers by carrying large sums of money from banks.

The fastest ways to send or receive money in Kenya

To send or receive money in Kenya quickly, several options are available, each with its own specifics, advantages, and limitations.

It is crucial to choose the method that best suits your needs, while considering speed, costs, and specific requirements.

Health Credits

By purchasing health credits, you can ensure that your financial support is used directly for quality healthcare services.

For urgent healthcare needs, prioritize services offering instant or same-day transfers. Some platforms like KimboCare directly inform the patient via SMS or a call.

Not only does this allow for an efficient and fast transfer of funds, but it also ensures that your money contributes to a vital cause: the health of your loved ones.

Purchasing health credits frees you from the uncertainties and delays often associated with traditional money transfers.

When you buy health credits for a loved one in Kenya, the recipient can access necessary care without waiting, thanks to a network of reliable and verified medical partners.

Moreover, you benefit from complete transparency and real-time tracking of the medical services provided, which is not always the case with other money transfer methods.

Online Services and Mobile Apps

Online services and mobile apps are often the fastest for money transfers.

Platforms like M-Pesa, Airtel Money, T-Kash, PayPal, Western Union, World Remit, and TransferWise (now Wise) enable almost instantaneous transfers.

However, it is important to note that these speeds can vary depending on the amount sent and the necessary security checks.

Some platforms limit the amount you can send over a given period without additional verification.

For instance, the M-Pesa platform prevents transactions over 300,000 Kshs per day (approximately $2,264) and more than 150,000 Kshs at a time (approximately $1,132) (2) .

Here, no additional verification is required; transfers are simply blocked beyond a certain amount. These are elements that can pose a problem in case of an emergency and significant financial need, such as for medical care.

It is also important to note that the highest account balance a Kenyan can maintain on M-Pesa is 300,000 Kshs.

Other services may require detailed information about the recipient for compliance reasons.

International banks

International bank transfers can also be quick, especially if both parties use the same bank or banks with cooperative agreements.

However, interbank transfers can be subject to delays due to stricter verification processes and the need to go through clearing systems.

Amount limits and specific requirements vary greatly from one bank to another. This is particularly important in Kenya, where most households face limitations on their withdrawals.

Least expensive ways to send or receive money in Kenya

Sending or receiving money from a loved one involves adopting a strategic approach to minimize costs while ensuring the safety and efficiency of transactions.

Online services and mobile apps often offer more favorable rates and exchange rates than traditional banks, thanks to their reduced cost structures.

Indeed, the exchange rate is a determining factor in the total cost of an international money transfer.

In Kenya, the foreign exchange market is relatively stable, but it remains important to choose services that offer exchange rates close to those of the interbank market without hidden fees.

At M-Pesa, for amounts ranging from 1 Ksh to 49 Ksh, fees can be as low as free, as indicated by the summary table of different charge impositions.

However, beyond this rate, the imposed charges increase according to the amount transferred in Kenyan shillings.

Similarly, for ATM withdrawals, charges are added to the amount. A Kenyan wishing to withdraw 13,000 Ksh (approximately 100 dollars) will incur fees of 1.53 dollars.

This measure can be seen as a significant advantage for solutions such as KimboCare, which does not transfer money directly but allows people to support their loved ones through vouchers or health credits.

In Kenya, traditional methods such as transfers via mobile money operators (32%), money transfer companies (31%), or bank transfers (22%) largely dominate financial transactions.

Still, a small portion of people personally carry the money (6%) or send it through friends or relatives (4%).

Regarding the preferred mode of transfer, it appears that M-PESA/Safaricom is the main choice for 20% of Kenyans, making it the most popular service.

It is closely followed by traditional banks (16%), WorldRemit (14%), Wave (9%), Sendwave (8%), and Western Union (8%), which are also frequently used for money transfers (3) .

Before choosing a service, compare transaction fees, applied exchange rates, and look for reviews to ensure reliability and security.

Opting for platforms that offer a transparent exchange rate as close as possible to the market rate without hidden fees can greatly reduce the costs of transferring money to Kenya.

Is It possible to transfer money for free?

Platforms like WorldRemit, TransferWise (now Wise), and Remitly are renowned for their competitive costs and transparency.

Although the offer of fee-free money transfers may seem attractive, it can often be misleading.

Money transfer companies need to generate revenue to operate, and if they do not impose explicit transfer fees, they may recover these costs in other ways.

This can include applying less favorable exchange rates, meaning your money loses value along the way, or the introduction of additional fees once you engage in the transfer process.

M-Pesa, although primarily a platform for local transfers, also offers options for international transactions through partnerships with services like PayPal and Western Union.

However, this involves having to go through multiple platforms to send a sum of money to Kenya on M-Pesa, which can include high service fees and margins on exchange rates.

In emergencies, the procedure may therefore be longer and more costly when multiple fund transfers are necessary.

It is therefore important to be vigilant about hidden fees, which can appear as additional service charges or indirect costs.

Reading the service terms carefully can save you from unpleasant surprises.

When the purpose of your money transfer is specifically related to supporting the health needs of your loved ones in Kenya, purchasing health credit emerges as an innovative solution offering affordable costs.

This guarantees that your loved ones receive the necessary best health care while avoiding unnecessary fees or fluctuations in exchange rates.

You know exactly what care has been provided, when, and at what cost, ensuring that your contribution has the desired impact.

Moreover, no money transfer is necessary, so you minimize the risks of hidden fees.

Transferring funds to Kenya based on different needs

Sending money to Kenya goes far beyond a simple transaction; it's an expression of support, love, and investment in the future of your loved ones.

Whether it's promoting access to education or ensuring family health, every Kenyan Shilling sent carries a potential for change and empowerment, enabling your loved ones to pursue their dreams and build a better future for themselves and their communities.

Education and Employment

Investing in education is a priority for many families.

Money transfers intended to cover tuition fees, books, equipment, and supplies can be made through banks or online transfer services that offer direct delivery options to educational institutions or specific bank accounts.

This direct approach minimizes intermediaries and ensures that the funds reach their intended purpose.

Moreover, Kenya faces a high unemployment rate of 5.6% post-crisis, prompting many individuals to seek employment or pursue higher education abroad.

Take the case of James, who, like many young Kenyans, faced a saturated job market in a tense economic environment marked by high unemployment rates.

Without a steady job, he relies on money transfers sent by his elder sister, Esther, who works as a financial analyst in New York.

Esther, fully aware of the difficulties her brother and their family face in Nairobi, commits to regularly sending money to support her family's needs.

Each month, she transfers about 400 dollars to her family.

While modest in her new country of residence, this sum represents more than what James could hope to earn in Kenya.

Thanks to these remittances, James can not only meet his daily needs but also participate in vocational training and actively seek employment without the immediate pressure of poverty.

Health

When it comes to taking care of those who are far away, a major concern is often ensuring that the help sent truly reaches its intended purpose, especially in terms of health.

This concern is not unfounded, as finding a competent and reliable healthcare professional for loved ones in Kenya can turn a simple step into a real ordeal, especially in emergency situations.

The weeks spent searching for an adequate doctor, the stress of having to navigate a complex health system remotely without any guarantee of quality or effectiveness, and the fear of incurring unofficial additional fees, are significant barriers to equitable access to healthcare.

We remember the story of Joseph, as well as that of Mary, a mother of three living in Nairobi.

Although Nairobi has better health infrastructure compared to other regions, accessing quality care remains a challenge due to disparities in the quality of care and inconsistencies in medical standards.

When Mary was diagnosed with an intestinal infection, she often felt lost due to a lack of clear information.

The doctors seemed reluctant to discuss treatment options openly, exacerbating feelings of vulnerability and helplessness for her brother, Simon.

Simon, who had immigrated to Los Angeles a few years earlier, often felt powerless regarding his sister's medical situation back in Kenya.

However, his discovery of KimboCare marked a turning point.

Informed by an expatriate friend about the possibility of paying directly for quality medical care through this platform, Simon quickly signed up to help his sister more effectively.

Thanks to KimboCare, Mary was able to undergo a comprehensive series of tests needed to accurately assess her health condition.

The results were communicated to her clearly, and a detailed treatment plan was developed, drastically improving her care journey. She felt heard and cared for, with regular visits scheduled with her medical team, ensuring ongoing and reassuring follow-up.

KimboCare transforms the experience of remote care by allowing expatriates to directly fund preventive and curative health services for their loved ones in Kenya.

This approach not only provides peace of mind, knowing that your financial support directly translates into quality healthcare, but it also allows you to follow the treatments and receive feedback from your loved ones.

Instead of simply sending money, you can purchase health credits that will be used exclusively for medical care from reliable and verified local medical partners.

This method ensures that your funds are used as intended and also eliminates the stress and uncertainty associated with managing healthcare from afar.

Moreover, KimboCare steps in as needed to coordinate communications with medical staff to ensure the best possible experience for your loved ones.

Thus, you can easily identify reliable medical facilities and importantly, follow the care and receive feedback directly from your loved ones.

Nutrition

Ensuring that our loved ones have access to adequate and nutritious food is essential, especially in regions where access to quality food products may be restricted by financial limitations.

Sending money to cover food needs not only contributes to the physical well-being of families but also to their happiness and everyday security.

Kenyan cuisine, rich and varied, beautifully illustrates the country's cultural diversity.

Basic ingredients such as maize, beans, and leafy vegetables are used to create nourishing dishes that are more than just meals; they also nourish the community's soul.

Take, for example, ugali, a staple food in Kenya. This simple yet essential dish is made from maize flour and water and serves as a side dish to meat or vegetable dishes like sukuma wiki.

Ugali, with its dense texture and satisfying nature, symbolizes the resilience and ingenuity of Kenyan culture.

Nyama choma and fish from Lake Victoria are also central elements of Kenyan cuisine.

These dishes, often accompanied by kachumbari, provide comfort to expatriates by reminding them of the flavors of their youth.

These dishes are more than food; they are a reminder of home for expatriates and a tangible way to keep traditions alive, even thousands of miles away.

For Kenyans living abroad, sending money home often goes beyond mere financial aid; it is a way to ensure that their families can access these traditional ingredients and dishes.

Each money transfer is thus a way to perpetuate traditions, support local communities, and maintain a vital link with their cultural heritage.

These acts of sending money support not only immediate needs but also reinforce social and cultural ties, essential to the cohesion and well-being of families back home.

Safety tips for making money transfers to Kenya

In an ideal world, sending and receiving money across borders would be as simple and secure as making a phone call.

However, the reality of international money transfers can sometimes be complex, with risks of fraud and scams targeting the most vulnerable.

Verify and validate your fund destination

Ensure that the money you send reaches the person you intend to help.

This may seem obvious, but in the rush of the moment, mistakes can occur.

Double-check the recipient's contact details and information before proceeding with any transfer.

We recommend opting for well-established money transfer services that offer complete transparency about the journey of your funds throughout the process.

Beware of too-good-to-be-true offers

Scammers often use the promise of extremely favorable exchange rates or zero transaction fees to lure their victims.

If an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Similarly, a common scam tactic involves creating a sense of urgency, such as a fake health problem of a loved one, to push you to send money quickly without verification.

Never Share Your Personal Information

Be vigilant with your personal and financial data. Fraudsters may try to obtain it via phone, email, or social networks.

A legitimate company will never ask you to provide sensitive information through these channels.

It is preferable to use a service where your data is protected by advanced encryption protocols, and you have access control.

Ensure you track your funds

Having a record of every money transfer can prove invaluable in case of any issues.

This information can be used to trace and dispute any suspicious transactions.

After sending money, check with your recipient to confirm receipt of the funds.

This simple step can help you quickly detect any potential fraud.

The best help you can get for sending or receiving money in Kenya is from an organization that ensures every penny is invested in specific needs (such as healthcare costs), with zero risk of diversion by unreliable intermediaries.

Overview of money transfer laws in Kenya

While coffee, tea, and horticulture exports were traditionally the main sources of foreign currency for Kenya, remittances from the diaspora have recently overtaken these, becoming a more significant source of income than the combined total of these three exports.

In 2023, Kenyans living abroad sent a record sum of 671 billion Ksh (approximately $4.19 billion) back home, marking a significant increase that robustly contributed to the country's current account balance (4) .

According to data from the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK), diaspora remittances grew by 4% over the year, totaling more than $4 billion, up from 645 billion Ksh the previous year (5) .

This increase is primarily attributed to a marked growth in revenues from the African diaspora, which saw an expansion of more than 50% over the year, emphasizes the CBK.

The United States remains the leading contributor, accounting for 56% of total remittances, marking a slight increase from $2.33 billion in 2022.

Other significant sources include Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Australia.

In Kenya, money transfers are regulated by several key legal frameworks aimed at ensuring the security and efficiency of financial transactions.

The Central Bank of Kenya has implemented various regulations to ensure a secure framework for exchanges.

Some legislation, such as the National Payment System Act and the National Payment System Regulations, establishes a regulatory framework for all mobile money transfer operators, classified as payment service providers (6) .

They must obtain a license and are regulated by the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK). These rules ensure that transactions are carried out securely and transparently.

Additionally, the Money Remittance Regulations are specific to money remittance services (7) .

They require money remittance service providers to also be licensed by the CBK. This includes strict requirements for reporting and compliance to prevent money laundering and the financing of terrorism.

These regulations come in a context where Kenya, with advanced payment systems like M-Pesa, is at the forefront of mobile money transfers, which represent a substantial part of the country's GDP.

The CBK continues to play a crucial role in the oversight and regulation of these services to ensure the integrity and reliability of the Kenyan financial system.

The Kenyan money transfer market is one of the most advanced and diversified in Africa, thanks to a robust economic framework and the widespread adoption of innovative payment technologies.

The mobile payment system has not only facilitated access to financial services for a large part of the Kenyan population but has also laid the groundwork for an increasingly digitized and inclusive economy.

The success of M-Pesa has inspired similar initiatives in other developing countries and is often cited as an example of the positive impact technology can have on economic and social development.

Taxation applicable to sending or receiving money in Kenya

Kenya has implemented several taxes and fees that affect money transfers, including between banks and mobile money wallets, and vice versa.

A notable measure includes a 20% excise tax on bank-to-mobile transactions, such as M-Pesa, Airtel Money, and T-Kash.

This excise tax is applied to the usual transaction fees, and not to the total amount transmitted.

Since transfer amounts are limited, multiplying operations can lead to increased costs.

While money transfers by the Kenyan diaspora play a crucial role in the country's economy, there are ongoing concerns about government policies perceived as ineffective and potentially discouraging Kenyan expatriates from continuing to send money (or at least from using traditional methods).

Kenya is currently revising its tax laws regarding funds transferred by the diaspora, in response to concerns about the double taxation that Kenyans working abroad face.

The Kenyan government, in collaboration with the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA), is working on a comprehensive revision to eliminate this double taxation and thus encourage remittances that are a major source of foreign currency for the country (8) .

Additionally, President William Ruto's proposal to impose a withholding on expatriate money transfers to fund a social housing project could face strong opposition from Kenyans living abroad, who see it as a potentially unfair new financial burden.

Thanks to KimboCare health credits, the support of the diaspora for relatives in Kenya is not subject to any of the tax provisions discussed.

Furthermore, we emphasize the importance of being well-informed about these aspects, as it not only helps ensure hassle-free money transfers but also supports our mission to ensure equitable and affordable access to services, such as healthcare, for those in need in Kenya.

FAQ

How can I send money to Kenya in the safest way possible?

To ensure the security of your money transfer to Kenya, choose recognized services with robust security protocols. Always check user reviews and ensure that the service is regulated by competent financial authorities. If you're sending money for healthcare expenses, opt for recognized services that adhere to high security standards. Our platform ensures that each financial partner complies with stringent security norms, thus guaranteeing that your funds reach your loved ones safely.

Are money transfers to Kenya taxed?

Kenya has implemented several taxes and fees affecting money transfers, including between banks and mobile money wallets, and vice versa. Notably, there is a 20% excise tax on bank-to-mobile transactions, such as those made via M-Pesa, Airtel Money, and T-Kash. This excise tax is applied to the usual transaction fees, not the total amount transmitted.

How long does a money transfer to Kenya take?

The transfer time can vary depending on the service used. Electronic transfers can be instant or take a few hours, while traditional methods like bank transfers may take several business days. For urgent healthcare needs, prioritize services that offer instant or same-day transfers. Platforms like KimboCare notify the patient directly via SMS or a call.

What are the typical fees associated with sending money to Kenya?

Fees vary widely depending on the chosen service, the amount sent, and the payment method. Some services charge a percentage of the transferred amount, while others apply fixed fees. Look for options offering complete transparency on fees to avoid surprises.

Are there any limits on the amount of money I can send to Kenya?

Yes, most money transfer services impose limits, which can vary based on the chosen transfer method and the service's regulations. Note that your recipients may also face withdrawal limits at banks. It's essential to check these limits before making a transfer, especially if you plan to send large sums for needs like covering medical expenses.

How can I ensure I get the best exchange rate when sending money to Kenya?

Compare exchange rates offered by different services before making your transfer. Some services allow you to lock in a favorable exchange rate in advance or offer more competitive rates for larger amounts. Be wary of hidden fees that can affect the final amount received!

How can my loved ones in Kenya receive money?

Recipients in Kenya can receive money through direct deposits into their bank accounts, cash withdrawals at local service points, or, for some services, home delivery. Ensure you choose a receiving method that best suits your recipient in terms of convenience and security.

Regarding health credits, each purchased credit can then be offered to your loved ones for access to quality care in accredited medical facilities.

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