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Using a credit card in Jamaica

Plan ahead to avoid problems with purchases while traveling this Caribbean island.

Updated

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Jamaica’s got it all — pristine beaches, lush green forests and picturesque mountains — making it a must-see for many Americans.

If you’re planning to play or work in this Caribbean nation, you can rest assured that most businesses in tourist areas accept credit cards. Mastercard and Visa are most commonly accepted, although you can find establishments that take American Express as well. However, it never hurts to carry some cash, especially if you’re rambling into more remote areas.

Compare cards for use in Jamaica

When planning your trip to Jamaica, take a look at travel credit cards. A key feature of a strong travel card is that it doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees.

Name Product Foreign transaction fee Annual fee Purchase APR Filter values
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
None
$95
15.99% to 22.99% variable
This popular travel card's signup bonus is worth up to $1,000. Get even more value out of your travel, dining, and Lyft rewards by transferring them to miles.
American Express® Gold Card
None
$250
Earn 4x points at restaurants worldwide. Rates & fees
Petal® Visa® Credit Card
None
$0
12.99% to 29.49% variable
Build your credit with rewards and no fees: Apply if you're new to credit or have a fair to good score.
Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi
None
$0
15.24% variable
Earn valuable cash back on everyday purchases at gas stations, restaurants and Costco as well as eligible travel with no foreign fees.
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
None
$550
16.99% to 23.99% variable
Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
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Compare up to 4 providers

Which credit cards are accepted in Jamaica?

Mastercard and Visa branded cards are widely accepted across this island nation. Most large hotels and shops accept American Express cards, but don’t count on your Diners Club or Discover cards.

If you’re looking for some souvenirs or local goods, cash is your best bet. Several small businesses and shops don’t accept credit cards at all.

Merchant acceptance
ATM acceptance
Visa
exclamation point iconMedium
exclamation point iconMedium
Mastercard
exclamation point iconMedium
exclamation point iconMedium
American Express
cross mark iconLow
cross mark iconNot accepted
Discover
cross mark iconLow
cross mark iconNot accepted

ATMs in Jamaica

ATMs are easy to find in such big cities as Kingston, Montego Bay and Mandeville, as well as around popular resorts spread across the island. However, ATMs in Jamaica can be unreliable, so it’s best that you have a backup plan.

Muggings in Jamaica are common, so look for well-lit ATMs and those located within locked vestibules when taking out cash.

Magstripe and chip credit cards

As with most countries the world over, Jamaica is transitioning from magstripe cards to chip cards. If you have a magstripe card, you can use it with card readers designed to work with chip cards — you’ll just need to sign a receipt.

Because most chip cards come with magstripes at the back, you can often use your chip card with older card readers.

Can I use my chip-and-signature card in Jamaica?

Using a chip-and-sign card in Jamaica shouldn’t be a problem. If a clerk is unsure about what to do with your card, suggest pressing the Enter button if it requests a PIN.

What if I don’t have a chip card at all?

Chip cards offer more secure than magstripe cards. Credit card skimming and cloning is common in Jamaica, so you might want to request a chip card from your bank or provider before your flight.

No-fee travel cards

When using most credit cards outside of the US, there’s a good chance you’ll pay foreign transaction fees of 2% to 3% of each transaction.

If you travel often — whether to Jamaica or elsewhere — consider applying for a travel card that comes with no foreign transaction fees.

Should I use my card to get cash?

You can use your credit card to get cash. But watch out for costly cash advance fees that’ll leave you on the hook for both a fee per transaction and immediate interest on your spending.

To avoid cash advance fees at an ATM, choose to use a debit card over a credit card when withdrawing money. Even though you’ll typically pay a withdrawal fee, most cards charge fees that are less expensive than cash advance fees and interest.

To avoid ATM fees altogether, look for cards that waive transaction fees internationally, like the debit card that comes with a Schwab High Yield Investor Checking Account.

Is it safe to use my card in Jamaica?

Using a card in Jamaica comes with its share of risks.

To be most careful when taking out money, follow these three easy tips:

  • Safeguard your PIN.
    When entering your PIN at a hotel, grocery or restaurant, use one hand to hide the numbers from cameras and prying eyes. And never share your PIN with anyone.
  • Safety first.
    Avoid using ATMs in isolated or dimly lit areas. Even when you’re using a well-used ATM, try to limit withdrawals to the daytime only. And if you’re withdrawing a large amount, consider taking someone along with you.
  • Watch out for skimmers.
    Credit and debit card skimming is a concern in Jamaica. If something appears amiss or suspicious, go with your gut. Cancel your transaction, and look for another ATM instead.

Tips on keeping safe in general

Jamaica’s crime rates are high, especially around specific areas of Kingston and Montego Bay. With credit card fraud especially common, remain vigilant even when using your card at stores and supermarkets.

Don’t display overt signs of wealth or venture into isolated areas or desolate beaches. You could become a target of thieves.

General areas in Kingston that tourists report avoiding include Tivoli Gardens, Cassava Piece, Arnett Gardens, Mountain View and Trench Town. In Montego Bay, you’re better off avoiding Hart Street, Clavers Street, Norwood, Mount Salem, Flankers, Canterbury and Rose Heights.

How should I prepare for my trip to Jamaica?

Before you take off for your trip to Jamaica, prepare to avoid any potential problems with purchases or your credit card.

  • Look for a card with no foreign transaction fees.
    If you have the time, you’ll find many cards that forgo foreign transaction fees. A few options include the Marriott Rewards® Premier credit card, the Hilton Honors American Express Card and Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card.
  • Go with Visa or Mastercard.
    If businesses in Jamaica accept cards, there’s a good chance you’re limited to Visa or Mastercard. While a few accept American Express, you’ll have a hard time finding those who take Diners Club or Discover.
  • Call your card provider.
    Banks will temporarily block cards if they detect unusual activity, and an unexpected transaction from Jamaica could alert a block. Getting your card unblocked can be a hassle, so be sure to contact your credit card company before you travel overseas.
  • Keep important phone numbers close.
    You never know when you might need to report a lost or stolen card. Pack a list of a numbers to call in a pinch.
  • Know where you’ll get cash.
    You can use your debit card to withdraw money from an ATM or convert US dollars at any number of banks or a currency exchange centers. Research a few near your hotel for easy cash when you need it.

Planning in advance is the best way to have safe access to your money when you need it.

US currency in Jamaica

Many businesses in Jamaica accept payment in US dollars and Jamaican dollars. However, any business that doesn’t target tourists may limit currency to the Jamaican dollar.

Local businesses decide their own exchange rates, often favorable to them and more expensive for you. Save money by exchanging your US dollars at forex service or tourist bureaus.

And bear in mind that even though you can easily use US dollars, hardly anyone accepts American coins.

See more guides on using a credit card in other countries.

Bottom line

Jamaican hotels, supermarkets and restaurants usually accept credit cards. Visa and Mastercard are most common, while American Express and Discover cards have limited acceptance. To avoid foreign transaction fees, consider a travel credit card.

For cash withdrawals, consider using a debit card as they often come with no cash advance fee or cash advance APR.

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2 Responses

  1. Default Gravatar
    MichaelaJanuary 22, 2018

    I will be travelling to Jamaica and need a prepaid Visa or MasterCard. How much can I use daily?

    • Avatarfinder Customer Care
      RenchJanuary 23, 2018Staff

      Hi Michaela,

      Thanks for your inquiry. Please note that we are not affiliated with any company we feature on our site and so we can only offer you general advice.

      You may also want to consider getting a prepaid travel money card for you to use in Jamaica. You can get useful information on this page and compare your options.

      You may click the name of your preferred card to know more details and you may click the green “Go to site” button to submit an online application through their official site.

      Hope this helps.

      Best regards,
      Rench

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