Cash is the engine that powers your holiday and it comes in many different types and flavors. U.S. dollars are increasingly becoming the common currency in Belize. They are accepted practically anywhere at the standard two BZ Dollars for one U.S. Dollar exchange rate. You will be hard-pressed to find anyone to take other currencies except Euros and Pounds Sterling and the banks will not give you a good exchange rate for these currencies. Try not to change too much of your money into local dollars – as they are worthless outside Belize. But if you need local currency one of the easiest ways is through the use of an ATM or automated teller machine offered by all banks here.
The country has four banks. The Belize Bank, Atlantic Bank, Heritage Bank, and National Bank of Belize all have ATMs. There are also several credit unions – the largest being the Holy Redeemer Credit Union affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church. While banking staff are very friendly and professional – banking fees are higher than those you might accustomed to at home. Banks here charge interest rates between 12 and 18 per cent (and sometimes even more) for mortgages and personal loans.
All cities and towns in have banks equipped with ATMS. But only Atlantic and the Belize Bank (Belize Bank Corporatation Limited, successor to ScotiaBank ceased operations 1 March 2022) allow out of town visitors to use their international Visa or MasterCard credit or debit cards to withdraw up to BZ $1,000. (US $500.) per day. These ATMS are clearly labeled with the Plus or Cirrus logos. If they are not, only local credit cards will work. ATMS are far more convenient than trying to exchange your foreign currency by walking into a bank. And you get the Interbank exchange rate which is better than trying to get local currency with foreign currency or traveler’s checks. As of 2022, the only banks allowing access to international credit / debit cards are the Belize Bank Bank and Atlantic Bank Belize.
Credit cards including mainly Visa and MasterCard and American Express, are widely accepted in most hotels, restaurants and tourism-related businesses – for example dive shops and auto rentals, and also at almost any well-stocked supermarkets. Smaller shops and restaurants do not generally accept credit cards – so ask before you run up a bill. Some local businesses add on their own fee for credit card payments so it would be wise to ask in advance.
If you do decide to walk into a bank be wary of certain days of the month when these are full and have long lines. Most Belizean workers get paid through the banks as most company and government salaries are paid into the banks who take out loan payments, then make the balance available to employees.
Government is the biggest single employer (over ten thousand workers). It pays junior and employee salaries on the 14th of the month in the capital Belmopan, and on the 15th in the rest of the country. All other employees are paid at the end of the month except for pensioners who are paid on the penultimate working day of the month. In addition Fridays are very busy days at all banks operate only Monday to Friday. Thus people who need money for the weekend queue up early on that day – along with manual workers who are paid weekly – on Fridays. In addition, smaller businesses that pay workers directly send their clerks to the banks to draw payrolls on Fridays.