The easiest ways to send money to family and friends in Cameroon
Sending money to Cameroon is complicated by low access to banking and financial services. Almost half of Cameroon’s population lives in rural areas, and just over a third has access to a transactional bank account. This is partly because the majority of financial services are located in Douala, Cameroon’s economic capital, and Yaoundé, the administrative capital.
One of the main reasons people send money to Cameroon is to support family and friends back home. Yet remittances to Cameroon are not as high as neighboring countries. The World Bank reported that remittances to Cameroon in 2020 totaled around USD 334 million. This accounted for 1% of the country’s GDP, compared to some 10% in other countries.
Some additional challenges to sending money to Cameroon include:
- The fluctuating exchange rates and, occasionally, a scarcity of foreign exchange. Since 2021, the USD to CFA Franc exchange rate jumped from around 500 Francs to 600 Francs.
- The Ministry of Finance reported in 2021 that around only 30% of the population had access to banking services; although including other types of financial institutions (I.e. microfinancing or MFIs) boosted this number to some 46%.
- Since January 1st 2022, recipients must pay a new tax rate of 0.2% on any money transfer sent or received in Cameroon, including cash withdrawals. Some companies, such as Express Union and EMI Money, have expressed they may waive fees in an attempt to attract new customers. Bank transfers and electronic transactions that are used to pay taxes and customs duties are exempt.
As such, the best way to send money to Cameroon will depend on the individual factors of your transfer and what access your recipient has. Another alternative is to directly pay for services instead, which is the typical reason people send remittances.
For example, KimboCare offers the ability to pay for medical treatments using blockchain technology. This enables family abroad to securely purchase ‘health credits’ from anywhere in the world. These credits can be used by your family to get instant access to quality healthcare services in Cameroon. We explain here how this option can be more beneficial than sending money, for example, avoiding poor exchange rates and the transfer tax.
In this article, we compare the different ways you can send money to Cameroon to help you choose which is the best option for your situation. We also have detailed articles on how to send money to Africa, Kenya, and the Republic of Côte d'Ivoire
The best ways to send money to Cameroon
Cameroon shares the same currency with six countries in Central Africa, including Central African Republic, Chad, Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon. These countries use the Central African CFA Franc, which uses the currency code XAF. You might also see it written as CFA or Fr. It has the same value as the West African CFA Franc (XOF), and both are commonly referred to as the CFA Franc. The currency is pegged to the euro, so factors affecting the euro also affect the CFA Franc.
A bank account is not required to send money to Cameroon but both you and your recipient will be asked to show an official ID, name, and date of birth. In some cases, you may be required to show the source and reason for sending money to Cameroon.
Below we discuss the parameters that help differentiate between the various ways of sending money, including the ease, speed, cost, and security to send money.
- The easiest way to send money to Cameroon: The easiest way to send money depends on where you are sending money from and what access your family or friend has in Cameroon to collect the money. However, cash is the preferred form of payment in Cameroon. In many cases, it is easiest to enable a cash pick-up for your recipient.
- The fastest way to send money to Cameroon: Mobile wallets offer instant and direct transfers. In recent years, there have been more goods and services that allow mobile payments. However, your recipient may still need cash. If so, an online money transfer with a cash pick-up can be a fast way to send money. Some providers offer this service in a matter of minutes or hours.
- The cheapest way to send money to Cameroon: Online foreign exchange and money transfer operators typically offer the best exchange rates and transfer fees. However, you will need to account for withdrawal fees when researching the cheapest service.
- The most secure way to send money to Cameroon: Banks have traditionally been the most protected way to send money, although bank-to-bank transfers are a more expensive option. Today most money operators also allow your recipient to collect their money from a bank.
- Alternative options to send money home: To avoid exchange rates and banking challenges, some people opt to directly pay for a service instead.For example, on KimboCare’s platform, you can upload money that is for converted into ‘health credits.’ These can be used to cover medical bills without requiring a cash withdrawal or a money transfer. We explain more here.
What’s the right way to send money to Cameroon
The first thing to know is that Cameroon applies restrictions to non-authorized foreign exchange. Today, only some 25 institutions are legally authorized to provide money exchange services.
Online money transfers usually end up being the best way to send money to Cameroon. However, as cash is often required for payments in Cameroon, a cash pick-up is typically the most useful form of transfer.
Because of the issues associated with low banking access and currency supply, paying for services or bills is an attractive option, rather than sending money. This is especially true considering the new 0.2% money transfer tax. For example, you can sign up to KimboCare to pay for medical treatments directly from wherever you are.
Below we go into a deeper explanation about the pros and cons of each key option to send money to Cameroon.
Online money transfers to Cameroon
One issue to note when sending money to Cameroon is to make sure your recipient receives the local currency. Sometimes there is a foreign exchange scarcity and providers might only offer USD or EUR.
Many money transfer services operate worldwide and provide the most competitive foreign exchange rates and transfer fees. The total cost can be as low as 0.5% to 3.5% of your transfer, which is cheaper than sending via a bank.
Another benefit is that some money transfer services allow you to top up credit directly to mobile. For example, through Xoom or World Remit, you can load credit on MTN and Orange mobile phones.
Below are some examples of money transfer operators servicing Cameroon:
- Small World
- Western Union
- Xpress Money
Most transfer services also include a free calculator on their websites, where you can see exactly how much your relative will receive once you account for exchange rates and fees.
Finding the cheapest operator requires a bit of research. It is recommended to use a comparison tool or exchange calculator to see how much your loved one will get across multiple providers. Sometimes costs, like a ‘free transfer’, are hidden in a below-market exchange rate. Examples of such online comparison tools include exiap, FromTo.money, moneytransfers.com and Monito.com.
Sending health credits (not money) to Cameroon
In a country where the unbanked population is so high, there is a need for alternative solutions. The challenge of sending money is what inspired the creation of KimboCare’s healthcare platform. You can read their story here.
KimboCare’s platform is one example where you can pay healthcare bills directly. Users can purchase medical services in advance, remotely from anywhere in the world. Money can be uploaded to their secure online account, which is converted into ‘health credits.’ These credits can be instantly used by family or friends to access a range of high-quality medical services without needing to pay cash. This eliminates the need to have a bank account, withdraw cash, or be subject to fluctuating exchange rates.
Another great advantage is that you can track exactly how your money is spent, which is quite rare with other solutions in the market today. No foreign exchange is required to receive these credits, which can save you money. They can also be topped up and used at any time.
The steps to use KimboCare are as follows:
- Create your account with an email and top up your account with health credits; these are stored online and available to use as you go.
- Select the facility and treatment.
- Name a recipient to benefit from your health credits and to gain immediate access to quality care.
- Your loved one can access our highly competent medical partners (hospitals and pharmacies) without having to withdraw cash or make a transfer.
Bank wire transfers to Cameroon
Traditionally, banks have offered the most secure and protected way to send money to Cameroon. However, your recipient must also have a bank account, which is not always an option in Cameroon.
There have been efforts to increase the number of ATMs to improve banking access and services in the country. However, access is centralized. The banks located in Yaoundé, Douala and Bafoussam account for some 73% of ATMs.
Banks are also not known for being the cheapest or fastest way to send money to Cameroon; a transfer can be as much as $40–50 and take from 1–5 business days to arrive. Banks usually impose withdrawal limits as well, ranging from XAF 250,000 to 400,000 (USD 400–650). This can increase costs if you need to do multiple withdrawals.
However, if you send large amounts to be used over time, a bank account offers the most secure way for your family to access their money.
In 2021, the Finance Ministry reported that the biggest banks in Cameroon were (in order):
- Afriland First Bank.
- Société Générale Cameroun (SGC)
- Banque Internationale du Cameroun pour l'Epargne et le Crédit (BICEC)
- Société Commerciale de Banque Cameroun (SCB Cameroun)
- Banque Atlantique Cameroun (BAC, under the AFG Group)
- United Bank for Africa (UBA)
- Ecobank Cameroon
- Commercial Bank of Cameroon (CBC)
Other banks operating in Cameroon include:
- Banque Camerounaise des Petites et Moyennes Entreprises (BC-PME SA)
- BGFI Bank Cameroon
- Crédit Communautaire d'Afrique Bank (CCA Bank)
- Société Commerciale de Banque du Cameroun (SCB Cameroon)
- Wineex Bank Cameroon (WBC)
- Attijari Securities Central Africa (ASCA)
Mobile banking and wallets
Mobile penetration is high in Cameroon, estimated at around 80% of the population. In Cameroon, Mobile Money Operators (MMOs) are required to partner with banks to offer services.
Mobile wallets are one of the fastest ways to send money but not always suitable; cash is still the most dominant way to pay for goods and services in Cameroon. This may force your relative or friend to withdraw the money from their mobile platform. Depending on the cost of withdrawal fees, it is not always the most economical way to send money. For example, PayPal charges around 5% to withdraw money, similarly to a bank transfer fee.
However, in recent years, more local providers are increasing their mobile payment services. Some offer low-cost (or free) services if the same provider is used at both ends of the digital wallet transfer. Today, people use mobile banking or wallets to address many situations including paying for bills, online shopping, petrol, medications, TV subscriptions, school fees, and wallet-to-wallet transfers inside the country.
Some mobile banking services are provided through mutually beneficial joint ventures between:
- MTN and AFB
- ORANGE and BICEC
- YUP and SGC
- Express Union and WorldRemit
Most money transfer operators and some banks allow for cash pick-ups. Some of the main ones include Western Union, MoneyGram and World Remit. If your family or friend in Cameroon doesn’t have a bank account, this will be the only way you can send them money.
It is typically a fast transaction, where they can have cash in their hands in just a few hours. However, it usually costs more than other transfer options, which makes paying for a service an attractive option.
In specific situations where your loved one can use mobile banking, this will be the fastest and cheapest way to send money. Although, in general, a cash pick-up is the most useful way to receive money in Cameroon, although this is not always the cheapest option.
Additionally, cash pick-ups may not be very practical when it comes to paying for certain essential services such as healthcare and education. For example, paying directly for healthcare can help you save money on exchange rates and does not require financial access. In such cases, KimboCare’s health credits can end up being the most useful way to cover costs for family and friends in Cameroon.