View looking over woodland to the coast in Barbados

Using a credit card in Barbados

Heading for the sunny Caribbean sea? Here’s how to get the best out of your plastic and your cash on holiday in Barbados.

As well as shipping rum and sugar around the world, Barbados hosts visitors from just about everywhere, and depends on tourism as a major source of revenue. It’s especially popular with visitors from Canada, the US and the UK.

The local currency is the Barbadian dollar (BBD), and since 1975, it’s been “pegged” to the US dollar at US$1 = Bds$2. That means that you’ll typically be given the choice of paying in US dollars or Barbadian dollars. For example, a bottle of wine in a supermarket might set you back US$15 or Bds$30 (most food has to be shipped from the mainland, and as a result is not cheap).

Many of the local small businesses are still primarily cash-based, so you’ll need to carry dollars as well as a card. However, hotels, car hire companies, the majority of restaurants plus the ever-popular boat trip companies will all happily accept card payments. Visa and Mastercard credit cards are widely accepted and you might be able to use your American Express card in some places, too.

Some businesses, including the majority of supermarkets, require you to show a valid photo ID when you use your credit or debit card, and some might insist on looking at your passport. In many locations you’ll be asked to sign for the transaction, either on paper on on the card reader, so don’t forget to sign your card before you go.

Cash machines in Barbados

You’ll find ATMs linked to the Plus or Cirrus systems, so using your Visa or Mastercard card will be easy. There are plenty of cash machines in Bridgetown, and in larger towns around the island. You’ll also find them at many petrol stations.

Unlike those in the UK, almost all the local ATMs are in small enclosed rooms that you access one user at a time. Sunglasses or hats are not allowed in these rooms.

Some local bank-affiliated ATMs impose additional fees to those your bank may levy. They will also ask you which account (savings or credit, say) you wish to withdraw your funds from.

Additionally you’ll be given the choice of who should exchange the funds to the local currency – the bank that owns the ATM or your own bank. Normally, if you’ve bagged a card with favourable terms for spending abroad, it’ll make sense to use your own bank to exchange the funds.

Since the official language of Barbados is English, that’s the default for cash machines.

Cash in Barbados

Cash is king in Barbados, and it’s easy to burn through it quickly. Goods and services don’t come cheap, and as a result, coins are largely redundant. Bank notes start at $2 and run up to $100, and whereas if you whipped out a £50 note in the UK a shopkeeper might be annoyed with you, you’ll get no objections when you hand over a $100 bill in Barbados.

Keep around $200 on you in cash to pay for flying fish “cutters”, snacks, drinks, souvenirs, busses and so on, and don’t be surprised if you’re flatly refused when you ask to pay by card. You may also encounter shopkeepers who aren’t particularly comfortable using the card machines they have.

Chip and PIN, chip and signature or magnetic strip and signature

You may find any of these in Barbados. Contactless payments are not prevalent yet, however. Don’t forget that you may be asked for photo ID when you use your card at a shop, and don’t forget to sign your card before you travel.

You’ll need to know your PIN in any case, to use cash machines.

Is it safe to use my card in Barbados?

By exercising some caution when using your credit card in Barbados, you’ll have a relatively trouble-free experience.

  • Keep your PIN safe. Use one hand to enter the PIN and the other to shield it from prying eyes and hidden cameras.
  • Select ATMs with care. Try and stick to ATMs in banks and avoid using ones in the street.
  • Watch out for “skimmers”. When installed in an ATM, a card skimmer works by stealing information from credit and debit cards. If you feel the card slot is not as smooth as it should be or if there’s a problem with the keypad, cancel your transaction and look for another ATM.

Keeping your credit card (physically) safe

Remain alert to street crime, especially where two or more people work in distracting victims before decamping with their valuables. There have been numerous instances of thefts from hired cars so don’t leave your wallet or purse in a parked car. In some cases, thieves pose as police and ask to see wallets for identification purposes. In such a scenario, make sure you’re speaking with genuine police officers. It is very unlikely that a real officer will want to sift through your wallet.

Potential credit card fees

Credit card fees can leave a noticeable dent in your pocket when you’re travelling overseas, so know what you’re up against well in advance and choose a card with no or low fees.

Foreign transaction fees

British credit card issuers typically charge a fee equivalent to 1% to 3% of your transaction, so carefully review your card’s fine print to avoid statement surprises. Some cards designed for travel come with no foreign transaction fees, so this could be a good time to switch.

Learn more about cards designed for overseas spending

Currency conversion fees

If a retailer offers to bill your credit card in sterling, dynamic currency conversion comes into play. While this might sound like a good deal, you’ll actually end up getting a worse exchange rate, and you might also end up paying currency conversion fees. Whenever you’re presented with an option, choose to pay in the local currency.

Cash advance fees

Using your credit card to withdraw money from an ATM may not make sense unless it’s a bona fide emergency. Each time you withdraw funds from an ATM, you’re likely to pay a cash advance fee. Your APR for cash advances is typically higher than your purchase APR, and you’ll typically get no grace period on interest — instead, you start paying interest immediately. Again, some cards designed for overseas spending will waive this fee.

The table below serves as an example of how much extra you may pay to use your credit card for in Barbados.

section of credit card summary box document

Additionally you can get an idea of costs by using these online currency conversion tools from Mastercard and Visa.

What is a cash advance fee?

A cash advance fee is calculated (and charged) when you withdraw cash from your credit card. It’s usually the greater of a flat fee or a percentage of the transaction. For example, “2.5% of the transaction, minimum £3.00”.

Compare cards with fee-free currency conversion in Barbados

Comparison ordered by representative APR with affiliated products shown first.
Updated June 19th, 2019
Name Product Purchases Annual/monthly fees Credit limits Rep. APR Incentive Representative example
9.9%
£0
Min. limit £300, max. limit not specified.
9.9% p.a. (variable)
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 9.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 9.9% APR (variable).
9.9%
£0
Min. limit £300, max. limit not specified.
9.9% p.a. (variable)
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 9.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 9.9% APR (variable).
24.9%
£0
Min. limit £150, max. limit £1,200.
24.9% p.a. (variable)
No fees for making purchases or withdrawing cash abroad – currencies are converted at the standard Mastercard exchange rate.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 24.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 24.9% APR (variable).
9.9%
£0
Min. limit £400, max. limit not specified.
9.9% p.a. (variable)
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 9.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 9.9% APR (variable).
9.9%
£0
Min. limit £500, max. limit not specified.
9.9% p.a. (variable)
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 9.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 9.9% APR (variable).
9.9%
£0
Min. limit £500, max. limit not specified.
9.9% p.a. (variable)
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 9.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 9.9% APR (variable).
14.71%
£0
Min. limit not specified, max. limit not specified.
14.7% p.a. (variable)
Coutts Travel Rewards available if you shop in the US between 1.7.17 and 30.9.19.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 14.71% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 14.7% APR (variable).
0% for 12 months reverting to 15.9%
£0
Min. limit £500, max. limit not specified.
15.9% p.a. (variable)
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 15.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 15.9% APR (variable).

Compare up to 4 providers

How to prepare before travelling to Barbados

  1. Go with Visa or Mastercard. Carry at least two cards on your trip, preferably connected with Visa or Mastercard. If you just take an American Express card, you won’t get to use it in many places.
  2. Think no foreign transaction fees. When there are cards that come with no foreign transaction fees, using ones that charge 2% or 3% of each overseas transaction does not make sense. Some of these cards don’t charge an annual fee, either.
  3. Keep your bank posted. Banks, in their efforts to thwart fraudulent transactions, block credit cards if they detect suspicious activity such as unexpected overseas transactions. To make sure this does not happen to your card, let your bank know about your travel plans before you leave the UK.
  4. Keep the emergency number handy. Know which numbers you’ll need to call if you end up losing your card or if you need an emergency replacement.
  5. Know where you’ll get cash from. Consider using your debit card to withdraw cash from ATMs. If you need to exchange money, stick to banks or official money-exchange offices because possessing counterfeit money in Barbados is a serious crime. Try to avoid exchanging money at airports and popular tourist destinations because of typically poor exchange rates.

Next steps

Ask yourself these simple questions before you leave so your spending in Barbados does not hit any roadblocks.

  • Which cards will I take? Visa and Mastercard are the favourites. If you’re planning a trip, check out cards which give you complimentary airport lounge access. If you’re planning well in advance, consider earning air miles for your trip with a frequent flyer credit card.
  • Have I let my bank know? If you don’t inform your bank about your travel plans, you may end up with a temporarily suspended card.
  • What fees do I need to pay? If your existing cards come with foreign transaction fees, look for one that does not. Paying in Sterling outside of the UK might come with currency conversion fees.
  • How will I get cash? Using your debit card at an ATM is the simplest way to access your own money. You can carry cash and traveler’s cheques with you. Exchanging Sterling to Barbadian Dollars is easy and you’ll get several options.

When you’re in Barbados, you own’t be able to use your credit card everywhere, and so you’ll also need to carry cash.

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How to use a credit card in …

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2 Responses

  1. Default Gravatar
    PaulMarch 7, 2019

    I am having trouble with arms in hometown with MasterCard. They are not accepting them. Is there a problem?

    • Avatarfinder Customer Care
      JeniMarch 8, 2019Staff

      Hi Paul,

      Thank you for getting in touch with Finder.

      Sorry to hear your trouble in using your Mastercard in your hometown.

      On this page that you’re looking at, it says that using a Visa or Mastercard isn’t a problem either in stores or ATMs. If you’re having a hard time using your credit card, it is best to contact your provider on that matter as they may assist you further, like checking if your card is on hold or exceeded limit etc.

      I hope this helps.

      Thank you and have a wonderful day!

      Cheers,
      Jeni

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