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!


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