If you are traveling to Kazakhstan and want to know if you can use your foreign bank card to pay or withdraw from an ATM, you’ve come to the right place.
Maybe you are also wondering if ATMs in Kazakhstan charge a commission for withdrawals. Actually, no, they don’t!
Kazakhstan is surprisingly well-integrated into the world economy and card payments are not that uncommon!
Let me tell you all about money in Kazakhstan as a tourist!
Currency in Kazakhstan
The currency in Kazakhstan is the Kazakh Tenge with code KZT. In Kazakh using Cyrillic letters, it’s spelled “теңге” and that’s how it’s written on the money.
A fun fact is that the Russian word for money “деньги” (pronounced ‘dengi‘) is linguistically related to the tenge.
The Kazakh Tenge has been relatively stable against the US dollar since 2016. Despite that, the Kazakh Tenge is not a strong currency. 100 tenge trade for around 0.2$ as of 2023.
The tenge is technically divided into 100 tiyin. In reality, tiyin coins were withdrawn in February 2001 and subsequently stripped of legal tender status after 2012. Today you may find a tiyin coin on the street in which case – you’re lucky, keep it as a souvenir!
The tenge coins today are of denominations 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 and 200 KZT.
All that being said, the smaller denomination coins are rarely used because they are worth little. Most often you will come across 100 KZT and 200 KZT coins.
The most common banknotes in circulation are 500, 1000, 2000, and 5000 KZT.
Can you use you use your card in Kazakhstan?
Yes, you can use your foreign card to pay while in Kazakhstan.
I had no problems paying with my Revolut card in most places in Almaty. Some places, however, wanted to charge me a 2% commission for paying by card, so I politely declined.
Kazakhstan is really living in the future when it comes to payments. Cashless is the name of the game. All across Kazakhstan, you will see the name Kaspi. Literally everybody uses the Kaspi app for payments and the Kaspi terminals for online transactions or the rare cash withdrawal.
As a foreigner, you will have a hard time registering to use the Kaspi App. The terminals you can use with cash to pay for certain things. For example, I paid for a local tour to the Charryn Canyon by depositing money in a Kaspi Terminal.
Don’t worry though. For all intents and purposes, an international debit card is good enough.
Visa, Mastercard, and Maestro are accepted on most POS terminals. American Express cards are rarely accepted.
ATMs in Kazakhstan
There is no shortage of ATMs in the bigger cities of Kazakhstan – Almaty, Astana, Shymkent, etc. They are at every corner and you won’t have to walk long before you stumble upon an ATM.
Kazakhstan is very well connected to the world economy and you can use your foreign card there to withdraw money from the ATMs.
The most popular bank with the most ATMs has got to be Kaspi Bank. It’s also the one with all the terminals and the cashless payments app. Yeah, they really hold the reins on Kazakhstan economic system, don’t they?
All ATMs will certainly accept Visa and Mastercard. Some ATMs may also accept Maestro cards. Almost no ATMs accept American Express.
The maximum withdrawal amount on most ATMs in Kazakhstan is 100,000 KZT (213$).
Even if you aren’t a budget backpacker, my bet is that you don’t want to pay unnecessary ATM withdrawal fees.
I’m not talking about the fees you get charged on your end from your bank – those you can avoid by using a FinTech solution like Revolut, Curve, or Monese.
This is about the fees that the ATMs themselves charge.
Thankfully, most ATMs in Kazakhstan do NOT charge a withdrawal fee!
I tried Kaspi, Halyk Bank, and Bereke Bank and neither of them had any withdrawal fees.
If an ATM displays that it will charge you withdrawal fees, just cancel the transaction and go to a different one – I guarantee you will save some money by just walking a few meters down the road.
ATMs that dispense USD
With the tenge being relatively stable, the demand to withdraw USD directly from an ATM is not that high in Kazakhstan.
Thus, there are few ATMs that dispense US dollars.
You may find such next to bigger banks’ offices, but even then they are rare.
What currency to bring to Kazakhstan
If you’re a fan of bringing cash and not using your card as much, then bring US dollars.
Other currencies that are traded and exchangeable in Kazakhstan (in order of ease of exchange) are:
- Russian Rouble;
- British Pounds;
- Chinese Yuan;
- Kyrgyz Som;
- Swiss Francs;
- Japanese Yen;
Some exchange bureaus may offer better rates for higher denomination banknotes. In general, 50 and 100 USD notes are seen as “better” and may yield a slightly higher rate.
Make sure your banknotes are crisp and new. Exchange bureaus abroad are notoriously picky when it comes to foreign currency banknotes.
Currency Exchange in Kazakhstan
In this section I will share with you all there is to know about exchanging money in Kazakhstan.
Black Market Currency Exchange
There is no black market for currency exchange in Kazakhstan.
There is no need for it. The Tenge is a publicly traded currency and no controls have been in place in the past decade. Moreover, it’s been a stable currency that hasn’t suffered sizable inflation like neighboring Uzbekistan for example.
Do NOT exchange money on the street or with a shady dealer in one of the open-air bazaars (like the Green Bazaar in Almaty). You are setting yourself up for a scam and best case scenario – poor exchange rate.
Exchanging at a Bank or an Exchange Bureau
Exchanging money in a bank in Kazakhstan is pretty straightforward and no different than anywhere else in the world.
Mind these points:
- Bring your passport with you;
- Your foreign currency banknotes must be clean, crisp, and have no signs of wear or tear;
- Most banks’ opening times are 09:00 to 17:00, closed on the weekends;
- You can exchange money at the airport, but will face a little worse exchange rate;
- There are some exchange bureaus at the busiest borders, for example, Korday Border with Kyrgyzstan or the Zhibek Zholi border with Uzbekistan. If you’re taking a train from Almaty to Tashkent, there are even people who come on board and exchange Tenge for Som. As you may imagine, the rate is not as good as on land.
Does anyone still travel with those? I may be too young to understand but I’ve never even seen one.
Traveler’s cheques are mostly not accepted in Kazakhstan.
How much cash to bring to Kazakhstan?
As with many things in life – it depends. Since using your card to obtain cash in Kazakhstan is pretty easy, you don’t need to bring as much foreign currency inside the country.
My advice is to have at least 200$ just in case something goes wrong with your bank cards and you need emergency cash until you sort it out.
When I went to Kazakhstan I had a bit more than that stashed away. I didn’t exchange any money as withdrawing with my Revolut Card was free and easy.
On the other hand, if you’re wondering how much money you need to travel to Kazakhstan, you can check out my backpacker’s budget report for Kazakhstan.
Frequently Asked Questions
Let’s answer some of the internet’s (and most certainly your) most burning questions about money in Kazakhstan.
What is the ATM withdrawal limit in Kazakhstan?
The maximum withdrawal limit on most ATMs in Kazakhstan is 100,000 KZT (213$).
Where to exchange money in Kazakhstan?
You can exchange money in various places:
- At the airport just after you arrive. All international airports have change bureaus, although their rates are bad compared to the city;
- At a land border. Look for exchange bureaus just before or just after land borders with neighboring countries;
- At a change bureau in the city (probably the best rates);
- At a bank;
- At a dodgy-looking guy at the corner of a bazaar (please don’t).
Can you use US dollars in Kazakhstan?
You can’t use US dollars to pay for things in Kazakhstan. However, the US dollar is easily exchanged for local Kazakh Tenge.
Can you use Revolut in Kazakhstan?
Yes, Revolut cards work in Kazakhstan. Both VISA and Mastercard work. Similar fintech apps like Wise, Monese, and Curve also work there.
If you are going to the other Central Asian countries, you may want to read my money guides for them too: