Best ways to spend travel money in Jamaica: Debit and prepaid cards

Find out more about the best ways to spend money in Jamaica – including credit cards, debit cards and prepaid cards.

Most big businesses in Jamaica, including hotels and supermarkets, will accept debit or credit cards. Mastercard and Visa are most commonly accepted, but some places will also take American Express.

ATMs are available in tourist areas, but they are not as common as in many other parts of the world and they can often be out of service. Muggings are also fairly common so it’s best to only use ATMs in the daylight. It’s therefore sensible to take some cash with you so that you’re covered for all events.

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Can I use my debit card in Jamaica?

Generally speaking, yes. Most shops, restaurants and bars in Jamaica accept debit cards from UK banks, however some smaller businesses may not accept them and it would be worth taking cash too. If you take a debit card with you, you’ll be able to pay for items quickly and easily in shops and restaurants. You’ll also be able to withdraw cash.

However, many debit cards charge a foreign transaction fee of around 2.75–2.99% whenever you pay for an item and some also charge a cash withdrawal fee of around 2–2.75% on top if you withdraw cash. This means it can rapidly get expensive which is why it pays to look for a debit card that won’t charge such fees. It is worth getting a debit card with low or no overseas fees.

Pros

  • Convenient to use in shops and restaurants
  • Can withdraw cash at ATMs
  • Safer than carrying around a wallet full of cash

Cons

  • Not all establishments accept debit cards
  • Some debit cards charge high foreign usage fees

Prepaid travel cards

Another option is to use a prepaid travel card. These work in a similar way to debit and credit cards, but you load them with foreign currency before you set off on your trip, so you can lock in a set exchange rate. As US dollars are accepted in Jamaica, this is generally the best currency to use for your prepaid card.

Prepaid travel card providers use either the interbank exchange rate or the rate set by Mastercard or Visa, or one of these with a fee on top. Some prepaid cards won’t charge you for cash withdrawals.

Prepaid travel cards are also good for budgeting as you can only spend what’s on the card – you’ll need to top it up again if you need more money.

Pros

  • Good for budgeting
  • Not connected to your bank account if your card is stolen
  • Some won’t charge foreign usage fees
  • Many don’t require a credit check – useful if you have poor credit

Cons

  • Won’t be accepted everywhere, for example, car hire firms and petrol stations
  • Fees can apply for topping up your card or being sent a replacement
  • Some ATMs may charge a fee

Credit cards

A credit card can be another convenient way to make purchases while you’re travelling in Jamaica. Plus, you’ll have Section 75 protection, which means purchases that cost more than £100 and up to £30,000 are covered if something goes wrong.

The downside is that if you don’t pay off your balance in full each month, you’re likely to be charged interest. You might also have to pay a foreign transaction fee of 2.75–2.99% every time you spend and if you use your card for cash withdrawals, you’ll pay another fee on top.

Always look for a credit card that won’t charge foreign usage fees before you head off on holiday. But be warned that even if you have one, it’s best not to use it for cash withdrawals as you’ll still pay interest from the moment you get your cash – even if you pay off your balance in full that month.

Pros

  • Widely accepted
  • Safer than carrying around cash
  • Access to funds up to a set limit
  • Section 75 protection

Cons

  • Expensive for cash withdrawals
  • Interest might be charged if you do not pay off your balance in full
  • A foreign transaction fee may apply

Traveller’s cheques

Although fewer people use traveller’s cheques these days, they are still widely accepted in Jamaica, provided they are in US dollars. However, there can be a high fee for cashing them in so make sure you check first.

Pros

  • Safer than carrying around cash
  • Widely accepted in Jamaica

Cons

  • Can be costly to cash in

How much money do I need to take to Jamaica?

Although the Island still enjoys a lingering reputation among British tourists as a more affordable holiday destination, prices have risen considerably in recent years. It remains affordable in comparison to European countries, though, with £1 worth almost 100 Jamaican dollars.

Find out some typical holiday prices in Jamaica

Jamaica examplesBudgetMidrangeExpensive
bldg

Hostel

£15-£35 per night

2 Star hotel
£60 – £100 per night
5 star hotel
£130 – £300+ per night
utensilStreet food
£1-£2 per dish
Dinner for two at a traditional Jamaican restaurant
£7 – £20
Up-scale restaurant
£40+ per person
cameraA day at the beach
for free
Shopping in the local marketsBamboo rafting in Rio Grande £60+ per person
Snorkeling £30 per person

*Prices are for example purposes only.

Bottom line

The best type of card for spending in Jamaica will ultimately depend on what you’re more comfortable with. If you’d prefer not to risk getting into debt and paying interest, a debit card or prepaid card will likely be more suitable. But if you are confident you can clear your balance on time, a credit card might be a better option thanks to its Section 75 protection. Just try to avoid using a credit card for cash withdrawals.

Whichever option you choose, make sure you look for one that won’t charge high foreign usage fees. It can also be sensible to take some cash with you to pay for taxis or make payments in markets and small retailers where cards might not be accepted.

Frequently asked questions

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