Having moved from Kenya to work or study in a new country, you may be looking for a reliable and convenient way to send money to loved ones back home. The important point to remember is that not all international transfer methods are created equal, with transfer fees and exchange rates varying from company to company.

If you’re looking to know more about how money transfers work, and the factors that can influence how much your friends and family members will receive in Kenyan shillings whenever you make a remittance payment, this is the guide for you.

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Currency exchange explained

Many people only really think about currency exchanges when it’s time to convert cash for trips abroad. However, the rate of exchange is also highly significant whenever you’re sending money to Kenya, because it will tell you how the value of your current currency stacks up against Kenyan shillings.

Say you’re in the UK, for example. Checking the exchange rate, you may see that 1 GBP = 155 KES. This hypothetical currency pair tells you that you can purchase 155 Kenyan shillings with one pound. The exchange rate isn’t set in stone, however. It will fluctuate, meaning that one pound may get you a different amount in shillings from one remittance to another.

What can cause these fluctuations? A number of influences, including:

  • Inflation
  • Interest rates
  • Government debt
  • Political and economic policies
  • Political stability
  • How much Kenya imports and exports
  • Demand on the currency markets

So, if there was political upheaval in Kenya, or perhaps a natural disaster, there could be a dramatic change in the exchange rate. Alternatively, a slight shift in interest rates might have a more subtle knock-on effect.

Why can the Kenyan shilling conversion be so high?

Issued by the Central Bank of Kenya, the Kenyan shilling is a relatively weak currency. It’s become weaker still thanks to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, which in 2020 dealt a blow to the hospitality industry and slashed the country’s exports of flowers and coffee. The fallout of the pandemic continues to be putting pressure on the economy and on the KES.

If you don’t have the time or inclination to keep up with the latest news on foreign trade, or the economic policies of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s government, that’s fine. You can still ensure you get the best deal possible when sending money to Kenya, simply by shopping around to find the most cost-effective remittance company available.

Sending money to Kenya: converting to shillings

When you’re converting GBP, USD, EUR, or any other currency to KES, you have a choice. You can make the transfer through your bank, or use a money transfer company. Let’s consider these in turn.

Bank: On the face of it, sending money to Kenya through your bank is an obvious solution. Your money is already sitting right there in your bank account, and all you’ll have to do is instruct the bank to make the remittance, with no need to set up an account with another company. What you should keep in mind, however, is that this may not be the cheapest way to send money abroad.

Money transfer company: By doing some research online, you may see that using a dedicated remittance company could be the right choice. Companies that are based entirely online can be a particularly good choice. They don’t have to spend lots of money on brick-and-mortar premises, which means they can often afford to offer their customers lower transfer fees and highly competitive exchange rates.

Using Remitly to send money to Kenya

One online-only remittance company is Remitly, which has over five million users around the world. Remitly has partnered with a large array of financial institutions in Kenya, such as KCB, SidianBank, and Diamond Trust Bank, meaning you can quickly and securely transfer funds straight to your recipients’ bank accounts back home. You can also opt to send money to mobile money accounts, or designate a cash pickup location where your loved one can collect the banknotes in person.

Keen to get started? You can set up a Remitly account very quickly through the website or by downloading the app. You’ll just have to input some basic personal details, add a preferred payment method, and then enter your recipient’s details. Remitly may ask for additional documentation depending on the amount you’re sending or if we are unable to verify your identity.

You can check what Remitly’s current exchange rates are by looking here.

Sending money from Kenya: converting KES to another currency

Interested in transferring Kenyan shillings out of the country? While the relative weakness of the Kenyan shilling on the international market can mean you won’t get a great conversion rate to other currencies, the basic principle of the transfer is the same. Kenyan nationals can enquire at their bank, or look at money transfer companies that may offer competitive rates.

What about exchanging KES outside Kenya?

Kenyans who are abroad may be able to convert Kenyan shillings to the local currency in a number of ways. You could:

  • Purchase local currency over the counter at a currency exchange or bank
  • Convert the Kenyan shillings online and have the banknotes and/or coins posted to you
  • Use your Kenyan debit or credit card at local ATMs

Many people abroad tend to look to currency exchange desks to purchase local money. They aren’t hard to find, after all, and you can often simply turn up and make your request, or order the currency online. Banks, too, are a traditional go-to for travellers. The possible drawback with these options is that you may end up spending a large amount on fees.

Similarly, while using your bank card to make purchases or draw cash at local ATMs is a lower-effort way to pay your way in another country, this may incur international bank charges that can get very steep very quickly. All in all, you might think of opening a bank account in the country if you’re staying for an extended length of time.

To find out more, have a read of our guides to setting up bank accounts in the UK, the US, France, and Spain.

Finding the best Kenyan shilling exchange rate

Whatever route you choose when sending money to Kenya, the conversion calculation will be automatically done for you by the bank or remittance company. That said, it’s always good to have a basic awareness of what’s going on. The formula for the conversion is straightforward, and looks like this:

Send currency x Exchange Rate = Receive Amount

It’s helpful to see how this works in some hypothetical real-world scenarios. You can obviously adapt these to fit whatever country you’re currently living in.

How to find British pound to Kenyan shilling rates

Say you’re sending 100 GBP, and the hypothetical exchange rate is 1 GBP = 155 KES. The conversion formula goes like this:

100 GBP x 155 KES = 15,500 KES

It’s important to note that this doesn’t mean your loved one back home will actually receive 15,500 KES. Any relevant fees charged by the remittance company need to be subtracted first. Let’s say that a hypothetical company charges £5 per transfer. This makes 775 Kenyan shillings. To see what your recipient in Kenya will get from the transfer, the calculation goes as follows:

         15,500 KES – 775 KES = 14,725 KES

As of this writing, Remitly doesn’t charge any transfer fee at all for customers sending money from the UK to Kenya, which means your loved one could potentially receive more for your money compared to other transfer companies.

How to find US dollar to Kenyan shilling rates

For our next example, let’s imagine you’re transferring 100 USD instead. The calculation, based on a hypothetical 1 USD = 112 KES exchange rate, would be:

100 USD x 112 KES = 11,200 KES

As with the previous scenario, you’ll just have to subtract any fees to see what the final amount in Kenyan shillings will be.

How to find euro to Kenyan shilling rates

Finally, let’s consider someone in France sending 100 EUR. Going by a hypothetical 100 EUR = 130 KES rate, we can work it out as follows:

100 EUR x 130 KES = 13,000 KES

Once again, you have to take away any fees to see what your money will actually buy you in Kenyan shillings.

Getting the best deal

Sending money to Kenya may be a major priority for you – whether you’re providing essential financial support for loved ones, or sending cash gifts to mark important occasions. That’s why it’s a good idea to take some time to weigh up the various options out there, and see which company provides the best deal. After all, having worked hard to make money in a new country, you’ll want as much of it as possible to go to your friends and family whenever you make an international payment.

About Remitly

At Remitly, we’re proud to help bring peace of mind to millions of people who need to make international money transfers. Our service is fast and protected by multiple layers of security. And, with our low fees and competitive exchange rates, we’re committed to ensuring more of your money makes it home. Find out more by reading our website or try Remitly for yourself by downloading our app today.

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