Navigating the Banking System in Belize and Ambergris Caye

Belize BankingThe country of Belize holds some of the most intriguing culture and beautiful sights in the world, attracting everyone from tourists to expats. Whether you’re just visiting or planning on moving permanently to Ambergris Caye, it’s essential to understand the currency and banking system of the country when managing your finances.

The Currency of Belize

The official currency for the country of Belize, including Ambergris Caye, is the Belize dollar. While the currency exchange rate can vary from day to day, historically the rate between United States dollars and Belizean Dollars is about two Belize dollars per one U.S. dollar.

Belize dollars are considered a soft currency. This means it can be difficult to exchange the currency anywhere outside of Belize or neighboring countries.

Commercial Banking in Belize

When banking in Belize and Ambergris Caye, you have several commercial banks to choose from. The banking system is a mix of institutions based out of Belize as well as those classified as multinational banks. The three main Belize-based commercial banks include Belize Bank, Alliance Bank and Atlantic Bank. The two main international banks include Scotia Bank and First Caribbean Bank.

Keep in mind that banking hours are different than in the United States, with many banks closing by 2 p.m. and smaller banks closing completely for lunch. While commercial banks in Ambergris Caye often have ATMs, it does not mean that they’ll work. Your best bet is to use banks in tourist heavy areas, such as the town of San Pedro, or ATMs in hotels that are more likely to work with international credit cards and bank cards.

Take Advantage of Offshore Banking

Laws established in the 1990’s allow Belize to offer offshore banking services for those who are not citizens or legal residents of the country. Belize offshore banks allow individuals who are not full-time residents of Belize to more easily access, protect and control their money when traveling away from their home country.

For Americans who spend a significant amount of time in Belize or Ambergris Caye, an offshore banking account allows them to pay a house mortgage or bills in the United States while paying rent and other expenses simultaneously in Belize, without having to worry as much about factors like currency. Keep in mind that you will most likely need to keep a balance of at least $1,000 in your offshore account. Click here for more information on offshore banking in Belize.

Opening a Bank Account

Opening a bank account at a Belize bank is more involved than in the United States. Expect banks to ask for a standard format reference letter from your past bank on official letterhead, along with potentially other items like references. Most banks will also require applicants to maintain some form of official residency in Belize, whether on Ambergris Caye or other areas in the country.

Summary: Consider following this guide designed to help you navigate commercial and offshore banking opportunities in Ambergris Caye and other areas of Belize.

About this author

Caye International Bank Limited (CIBL) was granted an Unrestricted "A" Class International Banking License on September 29th, 2003 by the Central Bank of Belize and is regulated by the Central Bank of Belize which set the standards for liquidity and capital adequacy.