How I Bank In Grenada

International BankingI frequently get asked how we handle money in Grenada, the Caribbean island that we call home, so here’s a little post explaining all the ins and outs of the process.

It’s not complicated, but it definitely takes a bit of organization on my part to keep track of where everything is going and most importantly, what currency I should be using!

I know a few people were wondering why I was saving up a big lump sum to pay towards my student loans at the end of the year instead of paying extra towards them every month to cut down on interest. Well, all those answers revolve around how we handle our finances here on the island, so let’s get to it!

First things first, I really resisted having a bank account here just because of the logistics. It was fine for us to just use our U.S. accounts with fee-free debit cards at first, but it only worked because I was part time and my paychecks were small enough to be cashed to cover a few expenses down here. However, when I went full time a year ago and my income increased, it was no longer safe to have the cash in my possession, so I opened up an international bank account.

The account is actually a U.S. savings account. I was able to choose whether or not I wanted a Grenada checking, a Grenada savings, a U.S. checking, or a U.S. savings account. I didn’t want the extra debit card since I use the envelope system, so I opted for a U.S. savings account.

For my full time job, I get paid in U.S. dollars, and it is direct deposited here in Grenada in U.S. dollars. It is not possible to have it direct deposited to the U.S. for tax reasons, so if I want to send money to my bank in the U.S., I have to wire it, which costs me around $50-$100 USD in fees each time.

These fees are the reason why I’m not paying my extra student loan payments from Grenada, because I lose money every time. I’d rather take it out all at once and pay one fee rather than several fees throughout the year. I pay 12.5% tax to Grenada out of my full time income, and I report it on my U.S. income tax reports, so everything is clearly documented, although it was a little confusing to figure out at first.

As far what currency I use, every month when I get paid, I go to the bank and take out U.S. dollars to pay for my rent and my car. Then I take out Eastern Caribbean Dollars and break that into envelopes to pay for groceries, utilities, gas, date money, etc. I am trying to save around $800 USD every month from my paycheck, and I leave that in the bank here to be transferred back to the U.S. at a later time.

Honestly, I thought that having an international bank account would be a challenge, but it was more the idea of it that was challenging than the actual reality. I haven’t had any major problems here, and the bank is a short walk from my work so it’s very convenient. I always have access to my U.S. accounts with my debit cards, and all of my income from this blog and my staff writing jobs goes into my PayPal account and then my U.S. account so that’s what I use to fund my IRA and make my minimum student loan payments.

It sounds confusing, but after almost 2.5 years of living in Grenada, I actually have a little system down, and it works really well for us! I know that we lose a few dollars here and there in exchange fees for our regular day-to-day expenses, but that’s the price we pay for living in such a pretty place. :)

Have you ever had to open an international bank account? How do you get access to your money when you travel internationally?

Photo Credit: FreeDitigalPhotos.net

About Catherine Alford

Catherine Alford aka "Cat" is a personal finance freelance writer who currently lives in the Caribbean with her husband and spoiled pup, Julep. To learn more about her writing services, please visit her Hire Me page or e-mail her at Cat[at]BudgetBlonde[dot]com. Follow her on Google + to get all the latest updates.

Lovely comments:

  1. Interesting post since this is something I don’t often read about. When I lived in France I had a French bank account since I was paid in euros. It was helpful since I could use it to pay all my monthly expenses. Back in the early 2000s, I used travelers checks but nowadays I prefer to bring a couple of credit cards and then withdraw the local currency using my ATM card. This only works for countries that have wide ATM access.

    • Yeah it’s actually been really helpful to have it and it’s good in the case of an emergency too!

  2. When I lived in Spain I had a Spanish bank account, but it got quite complicated just to wire money from my Norwegian accounts to the Spanish ones, so I quickly gave it all up..

    • Yeah it can definitely get complicated. Hopefully there is no problem with closing it in a few months!

  3. I will admit that this sounds confusing, but you have it down now. It is easier to do than to talk about I am sure. Thanks for sharing how you bank your way to financial freedom Cat.

  4. I’ve lived outside of the country before, but didn’t work (I was in school), so that simplified things. On stays when I was only gone for 6 months or less, I didn’t bother opening a foreign bank account. I used my US ATM card to pull out money for rent and living expenses (it helped that the country I was in was cheap, so the whole share of my rent was less than the daily withdrawal limit). I usually made one big withdrawal per month that was enough to cover most of my expenses for the month. (The foreign bank charged an ATM fee for each withdrawal, so I wanted to limit them.) It was all in the local currency.
    When I was gone for about a year, I did an international wire of all the money I had budgeted for the whole year (tuition, living expenses… everything) into a foreign account and then paid out of that account throughout the whole year. It was a checking account, so I had a check book and local ATM card, etc. Then when I was leaving, I wired everything that was left back to my US bank. I had some money in the accounts in the states that I used on the occasional trip back stateside during that year.
    What’s interesting is that in the US, I use cards for everything. Even before I had rewards cards, I used my debit card because I hated carrying cash. (I felt like it disappeared.) But abroad, I used cash all the time and used the cards as little as possible.
    I wonder if you’re going to find your habits change when you come back and end up using cards more often for rewards or convenience?

  5. Wow, not something I’ve ever thought about! And I thought setting up a system just in the US could be difficult enough. I’m glad you’ve figured it out. And I’m glad I don’t have to, though living in Grenada sure sounds like it has its perks!

  6. I’m fascinated by this because I’ve always toyed with the idea of living abroad. Good for you for figuring out a system that works and allows you to avoid some of those pesky fees!

  7. I bank in three countries, 4 currencies and it is a bit of a headache. I have a UK credit card with no ATM fees anywhere abroad that is just awesome, then a French card to withdraw Euros in Europe and a Guatemalan US and local account. It is always annoying to see the high % banks take just to make an electronic transfer. Reminds me of the time when text messages were super expensive, and someone realized they cost nothing to the operator.

  8. That’s a really interesting cash issue. Now that everything online, I didn’t realize there were such strange importing/tax issues. This may be a dumb question, but what if you decided that you never wanted to come back to the US and you just defaulted on your loan obligations. What would happen? Would they extradite you?

  9. Ahh! This is all to complicated for me, haha. I don’t like banking to begin with, so I don’t know if I could do it!

  10. LOL, I’m still confused :) But you have a system that works, and that’s awesome!!

  11. I still have my bank accounts in the UK so I can send cheques to the family but that’s the extent of my international accounts. I also keep it open so when we travel to the UK we can just the cash I have over there rather than transferring currencies. My mum still gives me Birthday and Christmas money too ( I know.. don’t ask) so she deposits the money for me in my UK account). The cost to transfer money is costly so I can see why you would rather save up a lump then send it over rather than bit by bit like that.

  12. I should probably clarify that the cheques are for my nieces and nephews for Birthday’s and Christmas which makes it much easier and cheaper than sending a boxed gift from Canada or ordering something online to get shipped.

  13. That’s really interesting to learn about! I’ve never lived any where else long enough to consider getting a local bank account.

  14. Ouch on the fees! That would definitely make paying down the loan more expensive. It’s awesome that you’re able to save, though!

  15. I have never had to look into this. Sounds like you have done a nice job in exploring the best avenues and limiting fees. When I travel internationally, I use the credit card when I can and also keep an amount of currency for the country I am visiting. I get very annoyed when I see the extra charges on my card for the international exchange, though.

  16. Kristine says:

    I lived in Spain. It was difficult opening an international account especially if you’re there for less than 1 year. I would recommend signing up for a bank in the US that has free international transactions, such as USAA or Capital One.
    USAA accounts can only be opened if youre referred by someone in the military. Otherwise, Capital One will do.

    FYI: Capital One has a promo where you get $50 just for opening a checking. Checking accounts also earn interest. $25 for opening a savings. Easy $75 in the bank.
    Check it out here: https://home.capitalone360.com/referafriend?save=ba46ErnFLN

  17. Mary Watson says:

    Hi Cat,

    I will be moving to Grenada this January to begin veterinary school. I am curious as to which bank you chose. I would like to have a bank that is reliable, safe, and a good place to keep my money for school and living expenses. Any information and recommendations would be great!

  18. Hey cat!!! IM also moving to Grenada soon. I need to know everything about Grenada. Food, shopping, etc. Write back please!!!!!!!!!

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