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How to open a bank account in Kenya

29 Nov 2021 - Category: Blog /
open bankaccount kenya

Are you thinking about moving to Kenya? If so you may also need to start thinking about opening a new bank account.

For immigrants living and working in Kenya you will have to get used to how banking and finance works. Thankfully, today so many financial transactions and banking tasks can be completed online.

With the rise of online banking the experience is becoming more accessible. And this is especially true in Kenya where mobile wallets and mobile money have become an integral part of everyday life and there is less of a need to physically handle Kenyan Shilling notes.

In this post we’ll give you an overview of what it takes to open a bank account in Kenya.

Below you’ll learn about:

  • How to open a bank account in Kenya
  • Online and Mobile banking in Kenya
  • Opening a bank account in Kenya from abroad
  • Banks in Kenya
  • How to send money to Kenya

How to open a bank account in Kenya

There are 44 main banking institutions in Kenya. The banking sector is dominated by seven tier one banks that have establishments throughout the country but there are also around 30 locally-owned banks. The process of opening a bank account in Kenya will differ depending on the bank you choose.

Whether you are based in Nairobi, Mombasa city or Nakuru, your ability to bank will change. The process will also depend on whether or not you are a Kenyan Citizen.

Don’t worry! It is not as confusing as it sounds, we’re here to help you.

For a Kenyan resident opening a standard individual bank account at a major Kenyan bank like KCB or Equity Group Holdings you may need to submit the following documents:

  • Passport or national identity card
  • Completed application form
  • Proof of your home address (utility bill or rental agreement
  • Passport size photograph of yourself (sometimes you’ll need multiple copies)
  • Proof of residency (Kenyan residency card)
  • KRA (Kenya Revenue Authority) PIN which proves that you’re registered to pay tax
  • Reference or recommendation from your employer (Character reference)

These are some of the common documents you will need if you are trying to open a bank account in one of the major banks like Stanbic Bank or any of the local banks too.

The exact process will differ from bank to bank but this list should give you a good idea of what you need to prepare before making any bank application.

You can find further information about Kenya’s banking system by visiting the website of the National Bank of Kenya. As well as providing standard banking services, NBK will help you understand how saving, investing and digital banking works in Kenya.

Online and mobile banking in Kenya

In countries across the world, banks are focussing on making their banking experience as mobile and convenient as possible. For many banks this means prioritizing online and mobile banking. This has been particularly important during the pandemic when it has been difficult to visit branches and conduct in person meetings and exchanges.

You can set up an online banking account quite easily at banks like KCB with their iBank system. Moreover, you can access your online banking account through the KCB Mobile App, which allows you to conduct traditional banking transactions and management at the touch of a button.

Kenya leads the world when it come mobile money and finances. In 2021, mobile money transactions surged by 52% and across the country there are now around 67 million mobile money accounts. Currently, it is the most accessible and convenient way for the majority of Kenyans to access, send and receive money. There is support for mobile banking and mobile wallets through companies like M-Pesa, Airtel and Equitel, all of which are partnered with Small World.

Opening a bank account in Kenya from abroad

It is possible for foreigners to open bank accounts in Kenya. Usually you will need to have an address in Kenya or have been living in Kenya already for the process to work. This is because many Kenyan banks require an address and a proof of residency to officially register your bank account.

Every bank is slightly different but usually if you have a work/residence permit and a visa you can start the process of opening an account before you enter the country. Some banks like KCB offer a Diaspora Current Account that allow Kenyan nationals and Kenyan passport holders to open a bank account from abroad.

The requirements for a Diaspora Current Account at KCB include:

  • A Valid Kenyan Passport or National ID
  • You must reside abroad
  • KRA PIN certificate
  • Notarized proof of address
  • Colored passport sized photo
  • (US Citizens must also have a duly signed FATCA form)

Banks in Kenya

Now you know how to open a bank account, it helps to have a list of banks in Kenya to choose from.

Here are a few of the biggest and best banks in Kenya, some of which are partnered with Small World:

All of these banks offer personal banking services as well as a number of more specialized services for commercial or foreign pursuits. Explore their websites to find a bank that suits your needs and decide which bank is most accessible to you.

Whether you choose to bank with a local bank, a commercial bank, or a foreign or specialized bank in Kenya, you can also rely on Small World to help with any of your international money transfer needs.

How to send money to Kenya

Transferring money to Kenya is easy with Small World’s international money transfer service.

You can send money to Kenya with Small World via Mobile Wallet, Bank Deposit or Cash Pickup. All methods are simple, quick and secure.

Small World enables millions to transfer money across borders everyday. So if you need to support your loved ones in Kenya you can rely on Small World.

Your first transfer online is always free of fees!


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