Banking

There are a few banking options in Dominica for students. Please see below for more information:

  1. Open an account with the National Bank of Dominica
    • For more information you can click here
    • There are some students who decide to open a bank account with them because it’s easier for them so they don’t have to transfer money back and forth
  2. Open a Charles Schwab account (this is what I currently have)
    • This is often overlooked but I am a huge fan of it! My friends who travel often actually introduced it to me.
    • It’s an online bank and mostly a brokerage account but there is a free checking account.
    • No minimum amount you need in the checking or brokerage account
    • Free debit card and checks
    • FULL ATM reimbursements (at the end of the month and it automatically goes into your checking account)! No ATM machine fees and no foreign transaction fees (which means you can use it like a credit card)
    • You can use this at any ATM and anywhere in the world
    • No fee for cash advances
    • Customer service is amazing
    • Since it is a brokerage account, this is great for thinking ahead in the future and a potential bank to use for retirement funds
  3. Open a Capital 360 checking account
    • Majority of students open one
    • Similar to Charles Schwab
    • Not able to be used on all ATM’s around the world; however, it does work in Dominica
    • Not as good of a conversion rate compared to Charles Schwab (but I believe it is very minimal of a difference)

Credit Cards: You’ll want to get a credit card that has no foreign transaction fees. Most if not all travel cards will have none. Many places on campus take credit cards so this is an option. Also, if you get a travel card, you can get points for purchases and then use it for reimbursements on travel or for booking flights. Most popular ones are Chase Sapphire Preferred and Bank of America Travel Rewards. You can look into both by clicking here. I currently have the BOA card but have also had the Chase card and downgraded since I didn’t want to pay the annual fee anymore. I will say I did like the perks for Sapphire Preferred better but since I’m in school, annual fee wasn’t worth it.

ATM Machines: There are two National Bank of Dominica ATM’s located on campus and charge a $5ec ATM fee that is waived if you have Charles Schwab or Capital 360. I believe they charge you a smaller fee if you use the NBD debit card. There is also a Scotia Bank ATM across campus.

What I use in Dominica:

I’m a BOA customer so most my money is with them and I get direct deposit into my BOA account from financial aid. I transfer my money online to Charles Schwab (CS) when I need to. I only use CS on the island and when I need to withdraw cash. BOA charges a $3 USD fee to transfer to another bank which is slightly annoying but it’s still worth it overall for me. I use my CS card at the 2 Bank of Dominica ATM’s on campus. There’s a Scotia bank ATM across campus which I can use since I’m a BOA customer (they are partners) but Scotia has too many fees. Although CS reimburses you for ATM fees, I prefer to stick with the Bank of Dominica ATM’s since I withdraw pretty often and it’s less of a reimbursement total for CS compared to Scotia.

CS is free to open and you need to open a brokerage account with them if you want a checking account. It’s free to open both and you don’t need a minimum in either account. If you’ve worked before, CS is a great place to open because you can put put your retirement funds with them or it’s just something to keep in mind for when we are practicing physicians and need to think about retirement down the line. They mail you a debit card that you can use at any ATM. Since CS is an online bank, they don’t have many branches or ATM’s which is why they let you withdraw from any ATM. There are no foreign transaction fees and if the ATM you use charges you an ATM fee, CS reimburses you at the end of the month. It’s automatic and it goes directly into your checking account. I haven’t had a time where CS missed a reimbursement. CS also gives you free checks. They do not charge for cash advances.

Their customer service is amazing and there is a chat feature online along with a toll free international number. I’ve used them a few times when I first got to the island and they have always been very helpful and resolved all my problems.

For my daily expenses and places that accept card, you can use your CS card due to no foreign transaction fees but I prefer to use a credit card to get points. I have the BOA travel credit card which has no annual fee and it’s 1.5 points per dollar. I used to have the Chase Sapphire which is so great but didn’t want to pay the $95 annual fee anymore. The Sapphire is 2pts/$1 in food or travel spent and then 1 pt/$1 for everything else. Chase’s rewards I found to be better than BOA. But for BOA I can use my points as a “reimbursement” and for anything that is labeled “travel.” Both credit cards you will need a good credit score.

To pay rent: my landlord prefers cash so options to pay include withdrawing from the ATM or getting a cash advance. From the ATM, it only allows you to withdraw $1000ec at a time so you can just do multiple transactions in the same day until you reach your daily max in USD. However, what I like about CS is that there is no fee for cash advances and the NBD doesn’t charge one either so I go to the teller and get a cash advance. If you’re getting a large cash advance for rent, make sure you call your bank to increase your daily withdrawal amount (you’ll tell them in USD and will tell the bank teller in EC so you’ll need to do a bit of converting).