We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.
We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

Tour Operator Payments

Chicago, Illinois
Level Contributor
4 posts
10 reviews
Save Topic
Tour Operator Payments

Recently I was working with a travel agent in South Africa. We worked out an itinerary that I was happy with and I was already to book it when she told me that they only accept wire money transfers. I was a little shocked. Being a cautious traveler I thought it was weird that they only accept wire money transfers. It seems I would be giving up any protection I would have using a credit card. I tried to look if there was any scams out there involving travel and wire transfers, but couldn't find any. has anybody else experienced this? Is it a scam? Thanks

Cape Town
Level Contributor
733 posts
1 review
Save Reply
1. Re: Tour Operator Payments

I am also a tour operator and will only accept direct deposits into my account because credit card companies here want 5% of the sale!

It is hard to know if this person is legit or not but maybe if you post the name of the company on the forum you may get some feedback.

Mark September

Small World Tours

Wayzata, Minnesota
Level Contributor
2,807 posts
31 reviews
Save Reply
2. Re: Tour Operator Payments

If you can't find a company that accepts credit card, I recommend you re-book the same trip with Eyes on Africa in Chicago. They are a competitor of my company but I know the two owners and they are highly reputable.

You have no consumer protection when you wire money overseas so you better know where it is going! From a banking protection standpoint, it is just like you handed them a wad of cash. Once the money is out of your account it does not come back without action & agrrement on the part of the recipient.

I booked a safari for the St. Louis Zoo last year. One reason they were searching for a new safari consultant is that on their previous trip they wired money ($200,000) to a US based agent and the money dissapeared. The lodges were never paid. Here is the story: abclocal.go.com/wpvi/story…

The only way to gain protection for payment by check/cash/wire is to purchase travel insurance AND the company you buy the trip from must be a covered supplier for bankruptcy protection by the US based insurance company. The major US insurance companies all have their lists but Access America publishes there list of covered suppliers on their web site:


Eyes on Africa is not on this list but they take credit cards.

In order to process credit cards my company's credit card processor requires us to keep a cash reserve (WITH THEM) of $136,000. This is to cover their risk in case our company goes bankrupt between the time the client makes final payment and the time they travel. If I don't pay the lodge, the client could easily dispute the charge and get their money back no questions asked. It takes capital to be able to accept credit cards.

Eyes on Africa should have the same or better pricing than any Africa based tour operator. They are big and contract directly with most safari lodges and hotels in Africa at the four star and above level.

Hope this helps. The 5% fee Mark charges is worth it.

Craig Beal - owner - Travel Beyond

Cape Town
Level Contributor
10,068 posts
Save Reply
3. Re: Tour Operator Payments

People who travel around the world without a good travel insurance policy are far more short sighted than those who check a bona fide tour operator and pay by bank transfer!

Booking through a local based operator will give you a local experience. American companies tend to book the same set menu of establishments every time. No surprise then that your fellow guests are nearly all Americans!

Level Contributor
2,529 posts
6 reviews
Save Reply
4. Re: Tour Operator Payments

Many of the tour operators in South Africa accept payment via credit card and DO NOT charge the additional 5% to the client.

Tanya * owner * Africa Direct

Wayzata, Minnesota
Level Contributor
2,807 posts
31 reviews
Save Reply
5. Re: Tour Operator Payments

Not sure how to read the above replies after my comment I think I sounded stupid so here is some clarification:

1. In the case with the Zoo they wired money to a US (Philadelphia) based tour operator and they still lost it all. The court system was useless as there were no assets to "go after". So, it does not matter where the company is. If you wire money, be prepared to lose it if the recipient is not honorable.

2. There is absolutely nothing wrong with booking a safari with a South Africa based tour operator. I have many times referred people on this forum to AfricaDirect, Sun Safaris, and Go2Africa (Mia specifically after we chatted on Facebook). In the case of the first two, I know the owners persoanlly and highly recommend them.

3. Many tour operators do not charge 5%. For companies offering anciliarry safari and travel services (like Mark at Small World), their prices are very reasonable to begin with and with the CC charge Mark's price will still be lower for Cape Town touring than any of the typical companies used by the US tour operators. This is true as I have received quotes from him before.

So, in summery:

1. There are many South Africa based operators and I recommend using them. When I used to spend more time on this forum in '08 and '09 I would always recommend certain SA based operators.

2. I would not do travel business with a company that does not take credit cards. Small start-ups wiill usually partner with a larger company until such time as they can get their credentials to accept cards. Cash only business in my mind are lawn services, movie theaters, etc. In general, places where you can instantly get your service delivered or pay after delivery.

3. The 5% fee is worth it for many services that are already well priced to begin with.

Craig Beal - owner - Travel Beyond

Tempe, Arizona
Destination Expert
for South Africa, Sabi Sand Game Reserve
Level Contributor
8,285 posts
55 reviews
Save Reply
6. Re: Tour Operator Payments

No one answered your real question. I don't know who you worked with - but I doubt that there would be any 'scam' or fraud involved. The fact that the agent doesn't offer a credit card option is no reason to suspect his/her honesty. The concurrent fact that we are so accustomed to using credit cards as one way to protect ourselves is what makes his/her system seem so unusual.

But yes, it might be worthwhile to lay out your itinerary to an agent here to see what sort of quote you get.

Dave Patterson - Owner - The Africa Safari

South Africa
Level Contributor
1,575 posts
23 reviews
Save Reply
7. Re: Tour Operator Payments

I agree with Dave, probably not a scam but for a small company it is expensive to offer credit card as a payment option, due to the 5%. Either they absorb it themselves and it eats up their profit, or they pass it on to the client and it makes their quotes too expensive. Bigger companies are able to negotiate better rates than 5%, and like others already said many tour operators do not charge an additional fee for payment by credit card.

It is true that you have more protection when paying by credit card. If you choose to go with this company and pay by bank transfer, I do suggest that you check to ensure they are SATSA members. SATSA members are covered by bonding insurance, which protects you and ensures you will not lose your money even if the company goes bust. SATSA membership requirements are quite strict so it should give you some peace of mind to work through a SATSA member. Also do some homework on the company, look for online reviews on this forum and elsewhere, ask for contactable references. Make sure it is an established, reliable outfit. An easy way to make sure your money is not being scammed from you is to contact the lodge or hotel where the operator has booked you at, and check if they are indeed holding a provisional booking for you.

Best of luck and have fun planning your safari!


Hermanus, South...
Level Contributor
433 posts
Save Reply
8. Re: Tour Operator Payments

Not offering a credit card service does not necessarily mean that the company is scamming you.

When you start a business in SA it is rather difficult to get a bank to allow you to have a credit card facility. We struggled with that for 3 years before being successful, and in that time only accepted payment by bank transfer.

Often we had clients concerned that they didn't want to wire vast sums of cash to South Africa. The only way we could get through this was to provide references from people that had travelled with us in the past. Sometimes this set peoples minds at rest and sometimes not. On a few occasions we just had the deposit wired and the balance paid on arrival. Not ideal for us as if the client doesn't pitch which happened on one occassion then we were out of pocket. And on another occassion we had a client cancel the day before the trip due to ill health which also left us with a problem, so not many operators will risk this.

SATSA bonding isn't easy to get, so if your operator is SATSA bonded then that is a good indication that they are ok, but it is useful to know that you cannot get SATSA bonded without 2 years full accounts, so if it is a younger company then they won't be able to get that yet.

Gemma Dry - Safari Manager - Truly Africa Tours

Ottawa, Canada
Level Contributor
2 posts
26 reviews
Save Reply
9. Re: Tour Operator Payments

I used go2africa.com operating out of Cape Town. 4 of us booked a 14-day trip in SA and Botswana through them. They take credit card and don't charge extra (or the charge is already factored into their prices). They have a good and secure online invoicing and payment method. They were great, professional and responsive and accommodating, with very competitive rates on lodges. I strongly recommend them.

Pickering, United...
Level Contributor
3,233 posts
28 reviews
Save Reply
10. Re: Tour Operator Payments

I can understand sweedeedee's concern. If you're handing over thousands of pounds, you're a wise consumer to do a few basic checks. I've had to reclaim money from my credit card when airlines have gone to the wall (twice!) as well as for goods and services not received fom seemingly reputable companies. That said, i have NEVER had a problem in SA with any of my transactions including bank transfers (although my bank charges me a lot for the privilege). Good advice to check if they are bonded by an SA organisation or check with one of the regulars here.