Belize Banking InformationBelize has five commercial banks, not including offshore banks. Three are based in Belize – Alliance Bank, Belize Bank and Atlantic Bank — and two, First Caribbean Bank(formerly Barclays) and ScotiaBank, are large multinational banks with branches in Belize. The local banks are small, about the size of a small-town local bank or savings and loan in the U.S. Belize also has several credit unions and small mortgage lending institutions.
Most expats find that banking is a little different in Belize. In most cases, you can’t just sashay in to your local bank office and open an account. You usually will be asked for references, including a letter from your former bank. There is no standard format for this reference letter, but it should state something along these lines: “Mr. Jones is currently a customer of our bank and has maintained a satisfactory banking relationship here since 1985. His savings, time and demand deposit accounts with us current total about US$150,000.” The letter should be on the institution’s letterhead and signed by an officer.
Commercial banks in most cases also require that you have official residency status of some sort before you can open banks (the offshore banks in Belize are just the opposite – you can’t be a citizen or resident and bank there.)
Banking hours are shorter in Belize, typically only until 1 or 2 p.m. most days, and in other cases banks close for lunch. Many bank offices have modern conveniences such as ATM machines, but they may be out of order as often as they are working, and nearly all (Barclays/First Caribbean is the current exception) accept only ATM cards issued in Belize. At present, some expats living in Northern Belize cross over into Mexico where they can use their American-issued ATM cards, though they get funds in pesos. This situation with ATMs may be changing soon – look for ATM machines in tourist areas that accept foreign ATM cards.
While bank personnel in Belize are usually very friendly – this is Belize, after all – you can’t always say the same about bank policies, especially for loans. Loan interest rates are high. Even as the U.S. prime rate was at 4%, Belize banks were getting 14% to 18% or more on business loans and even higher on some personal loans. And the hidden fees and charges can add several percentage points to the loan interest. Modern consumer protection laws haven’t all made it to Belize yet.
In November 2003, the Belize Central Bank, concerned that the loan to deposit ratio at Belize banks was approaching 98%, told member banks to reduce the number of new loans or to stop making new loans entirely until the ratio improved.
BELIZE BANKS AND FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS
- Belize Bank
- Belize Offshore Services LTD
- Personal Loan Center
- National Bank of Belize
- Scotia Bank Ltd
- Heritage Bank
- Atlantic Bank