Whether you want to travel to the Bahamas or are considering the option of moving there, one of the primary things that might be on your mind is money.
More specifically, the currency utilized in the Bahamas for all sorts of transactions is something you will need to familiarize yourself with so that you can stay on top of things, both while traveling and once you step foot onto the island.
So, what is the currency in the Bahamas? What kinds of coins and banknotes are issued as part of the currency and what are the exchange rates for the currency?
To learn more about the currency in the Bahamas, along with some information on handling the currency and money, keep reading and start making preparations!
What Currency Does the Bahamas Use?
The Bahamas uses the Bahamian dollar as its currency to facilitate transactions and exchanges. This Bahamian dollar is further broken down into cents, with each dollar amounting to 100 cents. Typically, BSD is used as the abbreviation to indicate this dollar, with the standard dollar sign ($) being used as its symbol.
When speaking about the Bahamian dollar in the context of other currencies that also make use of the dollar sign (such as the United States and Canada, among others), this currency is usually denoted as B$.
The Bahamian dollar has been around since 1966, with several changes and evolutions bringing it to its current state.
A Brief History of the Bahamian Currency
The Bahamian dollar became the official currency of the Bahamas only in the year 1966. Until that point, the Bahamas used the British pound sterling or GBP as its official currency due to the fact that it was under British colonial rule until 1964.
In 1964, the Bahamas became a self-governing country, although it only officially achieved independence in 1973. Yet, the governing body of the Bahamas introduced the Bahamian dollar in 1966 and used it to replace the GBP, with each dollar equaling 7 shillings.
Only coins were brought into the economy in 1966, with notes being introduced that year too but later falling under the control of the Bahamas Monetary Authority only in 1968.
The responsibility of officially issuing these banknotes fell under the Central Bank of the Bahamas in 1974, which has since been handling this responsibility.
Since the year 1974, the currency of the Bahamas has gone through many changes, such as the issuance of various kinds of notes and coins and issues of counterfeits resulting in even more variations, among other improvements and evolutions.
The year 2020 marked the year when the Bahamas introduced its digital currency, becoming the first country in the world to do so on a legal and official basis.
Designs and Denominations
To understand the Bahamian currency in depth, it is vital for you to understand what the denominations are in terms of the coins and banknotes that form the legal tender of the country.
Many denominations have changed over the years, so here is a look into the coins and notes currently under use and how they came to be.
At the time of its introduction, the Bahamian currency featured only coins. These included denominations of 1, 5, 10, 15, 25 and 50 cents along with 1 and 2 dollars.
Earlier, the country used a variety of materials to make these coins, such as silver, bronze, brass and nickel.
Now, however, there is more uniformity in the materials used, with copper-nickel and nickel-plated steel being the standard for all the coins.
The 1-cent coin is no longer under use, with the current denominations and their designs being as follows:
- 5 Cents: Made from nickel-plated steel and includes the coat of arms on one side and a pineapple on the other
- 10 Cents: Nickel-plated steel with the coat of arms on one side and two bonefish on the other
- 15 Cents: Nickel-plated steel with the coat of arms on one side and three hibiscus flowers on the other
- 25 Cents: Nickel-plated steel and reeded edge with the coat of arms on one side and the Bahamian sloop on the other
- 50 Cents: Copper-nickel construction and reeded edge with the coat of arms on one side and a blue marlin on the other
- 1 Dollar: Copper-nickel construction and reeded edge with the coat of arms on one side and a conch shell on the other
- 2 Dollars: Copper-nickel construction and reeded edge with the coat of arms on one side and two flamingos on the other
The banknotes in the Bahamas were first introduced in the year 1966 by the government but later switched hands to the Bahamas Monetary Authority and then to the Central Bank.
The denominations included 1⁄2, 1, 3, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 dollars, with each of these still being in place even today.
Despite the constancy of these banknotes, the Central Bank keeps making occasional changes to the appearance and watermarks to maintain security and avoid fraud and counterfeits.
Here is a brief look into what each of these banknotes entails:
- ½ Dollar: Queen Elizabeth II on one side and Sister Sarah on the other
- 1 Dollar: Sir Lynden O. Pindling on one side and the band of the police force on the other
- 3 Dollars: Queen Elizabeth II on one side and sailing boats on the other
- 5 Dollars: Sir Cecil Wallace-Whitfield on one side and a portrayal of the Junkanoo dance on the other
- 10 Dollars: Sir Stafford Lofthouse Sands on one side and Hope Town of Abaco Island on the other
- 20 Dollars: Sir Milo B. Butler on one side and Nassau Harbor on the other
- 50 Dollars: Sir Roland T. Symonette on one side and the building of the Central Bank on the other
- 100 Dollars: Queen Elizabeth II on one side and a blue marlin on the other
Each of these also comes in different colors, such as various shades of green, brown, blue, purple, orange, red and others.
Who Regulates the Bahamas Currency?
The Central Bank of the Bahamas holds the responsibility of regulating, handling, managing, updating and issuing the currency of the Bahamas.
First established in June 1974, the Central Bank has been handling the financial management and supervision of the banking system of the Bahamas for a long time now.
The Central Bank also plays a major role when it comes to several other functions of the economy, such as carrying out the country’s monetary policy, maintaining the safety of the financial mechanism, conducting research, managing foreign exchange and figuring ways to mitigate risks to the economy and financial sector.
As part of its functions, this regulatory authority regularly updates and upgrades the currency of the Bahamas to ensure that it remains safe and secure. It introduced the Counterfeit Resistant Integrated Security Product (CRISP) as part of this effort to minimize counterfeiting.
A Note on the Bahamian Economy
The Bahamian economy has been thriving lately due to its spot as a favored destination among tourists. Hoards of tourists and visitors come to the Bahamas on an annual basis and spend time and money exploring the islands.
As a result of this, various parts of the Bahamas have been set up specifically to cater to the tourism industry, resulting in over half of its workforce being employed by this sector. The sector also contributes nearly 70% to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the Bahamas.
Apart from this, another major sector that contributes to the economy and encourages the growth of its currency is it’s offshore banking system. The financial sector, with offshore banking as a major contributor, contributes up to 15% or so to the GDP of the country.
This makes it possible for the value of the currency in the Bahamas to increase in comparison to several other currencies across the world. This further ends up contributing to the foreign exchange value of the Bahamian dollar.
Other sectors in the Bahamas also play a role here, with some examples being agriculture and fisheries, trade and industries of various kinds.
When talking about the economy, I have to get into the exchange rates of the currency in comparison to other currencies. In this section, I will specifically deal with the exchange rates in place in comparison to the US and Canadian dollars.
Take a look at what to expect.
The Bahamas Currency to US Dollars
The Bahamas currency is pegged with the US dollar, which means that 1 BSD is the equivalent of 1 USD.
This makes it extremely useful for those in the United States hoping to travel to or even move to the Bahamas since you do not need to spend precious time thinking about needing to convert each expenditure into US dollars.
The Central Bank of the Bahamas pays careful attention to various rates and trends in the global market to ensure that it can maintain this kind of equal rate between the Bahamian and US dollars. This includes monitoring credit, potential offers and discounts, interest rates and more.
However, this does not mean that the US dollar is completely independent in the Bahamas. The country still keeps tabs on the US dollar and other currencies when it comes to aspects like foreign exchange and associated laws and policies.
The Bahamas Currency to Canadian Dollar
The Bahamas’ currency is not exactly on par with the Canadian dollar but certainly comes close. In this sense, 1 Bahamian dollar is typically equivalent to 1.30-1.40 Canadian dollars.
Given that this is also the exchange rate between the US dollar and the Canadian dollar, this rate is probably very familiar to you.
This makes it relatively affordable for Canadians to spend their money in the Bahamas, even after taking into account the difference in the cost of living in the Bahamas.
The Canadian dollar is also subject to the exchange laws and policies in place in the Bahamas. You will also need to convert your currency into Bahamian or US currency to be able to spend money in the Bahamas.
Can You Use US Currency in the Bahamas?
Apart from the Bahamian currency itself, the only other currency accepted in the Bahamas is the US currency.
This is because of the parity that exists between the two currencies, thus making it possible for you to use the US currency (notes and coins) whenever you want to conduct transactions in the Bahamas.
This is extremely convenient given that you do not need to exchange your currency for Bahamian currency. All businesses and retail locations in the Bahamas accept the US currency in return for their goods and services, with many also offering the US currency back in terms of returning change.
This is also a convenient solution for those residing outside the Bahamas and the US since you can simply convert your money into US currency if you find it difficult to access conversions into Bahamian currency.
Can You Use Digital Currency in the Bahamas?
Another element that I must tell you about when it comes to the currency in the Bahamas is its usage of digital currency. This digital currency is referred to as the Sand Dollar in the Bahamas and is essentially just the digital form of the Bahamian dollar.
The Bahamas legalized the Sand Dollar on October 20, 2020, becoming the first country in the world to introduce an official digital currency. The Sand Dollar is also issued and regulated by the Central Bank of the Bahamas and accessible through various financial institutions across the country.
You can make use of this digital currency for your transactions in the country without needing to make use of the Bahamian dollar, provided that the business accepts this kind of transaction in the first place.
You can make use of a physical card or a smartphone application to access this digital currency and your digital wallet.
Handling Money in the Bahamas
Handling money in the Bahamas as a traveler or visitor is a simple task as long as you are aware of the various forms of access available to you.
Go through the following ways in which you can handle your money and conduct various transactions in this country.
Make sure you carry sufficient cash with you while you are in the Bahamas. This should not prove to be a major issue given that you can make use of the US currency in the country.
Moreover, the biggest advantage here is that there are no limitations or restrictions in place when it comes to how much foreign currency you can bring in and out of the country. However, if you possess more than $10,000 with you, you will still need to declare the currency and amount so as to avoid any legal troubles later on.
Carrying coins and notes of various denominations is also a good idea, especially if you intend to shop in small local markets and shops or visit some of the smaller and more remote islands in the Bahamas.
ATMs are situated far and wide in the Bahamas, especially in major cities like Nassau, West End and Freeport. Several establishments across these cities are likely to have ATMs that you can access using internationally accepted ATM cards.
If you are doubtful, however, make sure you confirm the usability of your card before you travel to the country. It is also a good idea to confirm that you have a four-digit PIN so that you can access money without major issues.
If you intend to travel to smaller parts of the Bahamas, ATMs might be hard to find or tough to access, so make sure you carry enough cash with you.
Many Bahamian establishments also accept credit cards from various banks when it comes to making transactions.
Nonetheless, there are some establishments where this might not be possible, so it can be helpful for you to confirm the details while also keeping in touch with your bank or company about your travel plans.
Make note of the fees involved while using credit cards too.
You can make use of a good ol’ traveler’s check if you are more comfortable with this kind of mode for making your payments and transactions.
Buy these checks from your bank with the required amount loaded into them and provide them to the establishment to make a payment or exchange them for cash.
So, finally, what currency does the Bahamas use? To sum up, the Bahamas makes use of the Bahamian dollar as its official currency, although it also has a legal digital currency called the Sand Dollar to serve as an appropriate alternative.
The Bahamian dollar is equal to the value of the US dollar, making it possible to use the US dollar for your transactions in the Bahamas. Sounds simple, right? All you need to do now is figure out the next steps to make your way into the country to actually put those dollars to good use.