Sunday, September 5, 2010

Understanding Jamaican money

Having been to Jamaica 6 times I've always had a decent idea of Jamaican exchange rates and the coins and notes that they offer.  In fact, I have a number of both I've kept as souvenirs!  But I've never been 100% on a few things.   Like...

1.  When traveling off a resort and paying in US cash, are we overpaying?
2.  How do I know the actual exchange rates?
3.  Do the people of Jamaica have a preference on how they get paid?  US or Jamaican?

First off - the Jamaican dollar and our American dollar are WAY different in value.  At the time of this post $425,651 dollars in Jamaica is worth $5,000 dollars in America.   Now, keep in mind this DOES NOT mean you can roll down to Jamaica with your $5,000 life savings and live like a king.  

(at press time worth about 58 cents US)

 For example - here are a few things you can buy in Jamaica right now and their prices IN Jamaican money.

A Blackberry Bold 9700 from Digicel Jamaica for $27,575 JA with a contract or $55,150 JA without.   Do the conversions and that's $323 US for the contract phone or $647 US for the non-contract phone, ouch!  Check Digicel for their latest prices here:

SEPTEMBER 5TH, 2010 - click to enlarge)

So when you wander off campus and hook a local up with a big $5 American dollar bill this won't exactly change their life.  That would be hooking them up with $425JA and this could perhaps buy them a nice lunch or a some piece of clothing.  It's a common misconception that our small notes will keep a local going for weeks.   Check out a local Jamaican classified here,, and see for yourself.
(this link is kept current automatically)

Jamaica has both coins and notes used in current circulation.   For coins they still use these:  1 cent, 10 cent, 25 cent, $1, $5, $10 and $20 dollar's.   For notes they use:  $50, $100, $500, $1,000 and as of September 2009 a big $5,000 note was introduced.   An interesting side note, all nickel-plated or copper-plated steel coins are magnetic which include about 5 different types.

(at press time worth about $58 US)

All of Jamaica's notes and coins feature great citizens that helped shape Jamaica to what it is today.  From historic Samuel Sharpe on the $50 note to the great Michael Norman Manley on the $1,000 note, each celebrates those worth the honor.  When the big $5,000 note came up (above) some criticized the Bank of Jamaica's decision to do it.  Why?  Some thought that the introduction of such a banknote is a sign that the Jamaican Dollar is losing value.

(a non magnetic Jamaican penny, what can you buy with this???)

  • The Cayman Islands used Jamaican money till they got their own in 1972
  • In 1960, the Bank of Jamaica was given the sole right to mint coins and produce notes in Jamaica
  •  The first money in Jamaica was Spanish copper coins called Maravedis
  For a more history on Jamaican money visit the Bank of Jamaica here, Bank of Jamaica, where you'll learn about Spanish pieces of 8, shillings and more!


  1. Prices quoted here for phones from Digicel do not include GCT - tax at 17.5% will to be added.So the prices hurt even more. Ouch, ouch.


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