Posted By: Caligirl
Credit Cards/ATM - 07/02/01 07:39 PM
So I was wondering if it was easy to access ATM's or if credit cards were acceptable everywhere. I know this is probably a crazy question but I just got back from Russia and had lots of problems... I don't want to take anything for granted.
Don't count on using your ATM card in Belize. The banks do have ATM machines at some locations, but most don't accept foreign-issued cards (Barclays and ScotiaBank ATMs do accept foreign cards ... sometimes).
Credit cards are accepted at nearly all hotels and many restaurants and shops. In some cases there is a surcharge (typically 5%) for credit card use, however.
You can get a cash advance on your bank card at most banks in Belize, for a small fee (plus whatever your bank charges).
Belize First Magazine http://www.belizefirst.com/
Posted By: cjd
Re: Credit Cards/ATM - 07/03/01 02:08 PM
We ate at most of the "popular" restaurants and paid with credit cards and didn't see any service charges. I think you said you were staying at Ramon's right? We stayed there and charged everything (bar & rest. tabs) to the room and settled up when we checked out. No extra charges. Nice clear tally of transactions on the final bill. They made it very easy and "thought free". Thats what vacations are all about!
To clarify on the credit cards, it's not a service charge, it's a SURCHARGE. By my estimate, about one-third of Belize hotels and tourist-oriented restaurants do impose a surcharge. It ranges from 2% to 10% but is usually 5%. In the past, nearly all businesses in Belize honoring credit cards imposed a surcharge. Now it's less common, but it's still a practice that some places, especially the smaller and less successful ones, do follow. On Ambergris, only a handful of restaurants impose it, and a few hotels do. It's more common on the mainland.
While in Belize recently I tried to use my visa card, which I have had for 15 years and have used in foreign countries before, but this time it was declined by Visa. Reason: Unusual activity on my card. Ask how mad I was about that. I called Visa and they said I should have notified them that I was going out of the country and would be using my card. So now I'm shopping around for another card so I can cut up this one. So, a forewarning- hopefully this hasn't happened to anyone else.
Posted By: deano
Re: Credit Cards/ATM - 07/06/01 11:42 PM
Karen I think your VISA provider was trying to do you a favour and you missed it..Credit card theft is REAL! I always call before I take off, They are happy to put a note on your account to the effect that you will be traveling out of the country. They are just trying to cover their rear (and yours) in case of theft. Just be sure to take you provider"s phone## with you so you can report loss or theft asap,and Charge On!! Almost got mine paid off..... time to go back again.
I agree -- that's not how you'd like to have your bank card handle things. They weren't protecting you -- they were just trying to protect themselves, and they didn't have your interests in mind at all. The only time this has happened to me is with a Providian Bank card -- that's a bank that has had some run ins with state attorneys general, and I quickly dropped the card.
I've never had any problem with American Express, which I've had for 25 years. I think Amex is a little more sophisticated about international credit card use than are some banks.
Just to be on the safe side, it probably does make sense to tell your card issuer you are planning to be out of the country and may be making unusual purchases.
Posted By: Wendy
Re: Credit Cards/ATM - 07/07/01 08:24 AM
I have to agree with Deano. Although it can be somewhat embarrassing when my card is not approved or message says to call Visa for approval I appreciate the fact that they noticed activity that was different.
Posted By: Chloe
Re: Credit Cards/ATM - 07/07/01 02:56 PM
I agree, this is a good thing.
My credit card provider, calls me immediately to check if I have made charges out of my area, sometimes while I am still on the phone booking my vacation, that is being prepaid. I appreciate this, sure prevents alot of hassle later. Funny they have been quicker to call on charges in Florida than in Belize. LOL They seem to accept Belize as my area now. LOL
Posted By: Cinca
Re: Credit Cards/ATM - 07/07/01 04:15 PM
Someone I work with wasn't aware that his wallet had been stolen that morning until he got a call from Visa mid-morning asking if he was trying to buy $4000 worth of jewelry by way of a pay phone! I commend them for noticing and acting so quickly. His Master Card wasn't so on the ball, and the $4000 was charged on that one.
Keep in mind that under (U.S.) law, you are only liable for the first $50 of purchases made with your stolen card (or nothing if you notify the issuer before the card is used improperly.)
So even if the thief charges $50,000 on your card, the issuer eats the charges, not you.
Thus, the bank isn't looking out for YOUR interest; it's looking out for its interest.
I appreciate that Visa was trying to protect me, but protect me from whom? Myself? I guess what really irritated me was that I have had the same card for 15 years, have never been late on a payment, have literally traveled all over the world and not once ever had my card declined. My problem with Visa is that I was standing in front of clients and had my card declined, and it put me in a tough spot financially to have to come up with the money. It would have been nice to have received some sort of communication from Visa that warned me ahead of time that if I traveled out of the country, without notifying them, that the card could have been declined, instead of embarassing me. Of course, they were very apologetic, but I felt it was very poor customer service on their part. So, yes, I am shopping for another credit card.
Posted By: silly
Re: Credit Cards/ATM - 07/13/01 12:53 AM
-just make sure when you are whipping out your card it is the CREDIT card instead of your DEBIT card. I accidently put our hotel bill on my debit (I was in vacation lala land ). You can imagine my surprise when I called to get my bank balance and it began with the word "NEGATIVE!!!"
Posted By: Alyse
Re: Credit Cards/ATM - 11/14/01 02:36 AM
I'm particularly interested in Lan's response about the "surcharge". My group of 6 is staying at Banana Beach next week, and my deposit of $100 was charged with a Visa last month. When I got the bill, I noticed a small ($2) surcharge added to the deposit. According to Banana Beach, they did not charge us the surcharge, my issuing bank did. I am trying to confirm this. Banana Beach also mentioned that when they accepted my deposit of $100 US ($200 BZ), they were only credited $196.75 Belizean by their bank (Mas o Menos Ltd), and therefore lost $3.25. Supposedly, that bank charged me the "conversion fee" of $2.
Banana Beach recommends we pay their final bill in US dollars, to avoid these fees. Is anyone familiar with this situation? Banana Beach is also booking our airline tickets on Tropic Air, and I'm following up on whether there will be a credit card surcharge on that as well.
Several things that may apply here:
First, it used to be that most credit card conversions from Belize dollars to US dollars used the conversion rate of 2 BZE to 1US. Now, however, most are using the conversion rate 1.97 to 1, or 1.98 to 1, based I think on the current interbank exchange rate (this is quoted in the Wall Street Journal every Monday in the World Value of the Dollar section). So things are costing a little more if you use a credit card.
This is odd in that as a practical matter the Belize dollar, due to a shortage of U.S. dollars in Belize, has actually DECLINED in value against the U.S. dollar of late, and some money changers are giving US$2.20 to $2.40 or more just to get US dollars.
Second, I believe that Banana Beach does have some kind of surcharge for credit card use. It's hard to figure because Banana Beach typically quotes inclusive rates, a rate that includes taxes and surcharges. I know that when I recently got a mailing from Banana Beach, in connection with a guidebook I am doing, it stated that the promotional rates quoted were inclusive of taxes and surcharges, whatever that means. (I would note, however, that these charges are small and that Banana Beach is a great value, one of the best on the island for what you get.)
Third, some credit card companies do charge a fee for converting any foreign currency charge. It is just another way a bank generates fee income.
Posted By: Alyse
Re: Credit Cards/ATM - 11/14/01 06:21 PM
Thanks Lan. We are still looking forward to staying at Banana Beach. Tim Jeffers explained that the central Belize bank will add the conversion fee to any credit card transaction, and he recommends paying for things with US dollars or traveler's checks to avoid this. Banana Beach itself will charge a 5% service fee for any outside activities it books for it's guests that use credit cards, to compensate for the merchant account fee that gets passed on to them. They will not charge this service fee for the rooms, the in-house gift shop, or internal hotel fees.
So it seems that at the very least, using a credit card will incur a conversion fee via the Belize bank. At the worst, we'll be paying that fee, plus a potential 5% service charge, for using a credit card for other activities. I guess the lesson is to always ask before paying with a credit card.
Posted By: Cinca
Re: Credit Cards/ATM - 11/14/01 06:25 PM
It is also important to note that it is illegal for them to charge a surcharge. I ask in advance, and if they do, I tell them that I will stay elsewhere that doesn't charge it. If we all do that, they will soon stop that practice.
Posted By: Alyse
Re: Credit Cards/ATM - 11/14/01 06:43 PM
Is it really illegal? That's disturbing to hear, after reading so many good things about Banana Beach. The one thing I did find a little suspect, is that Banana Beach offered to book our airfare on Tropic Air and that we could pay for it at the hotel when we arrived. What wasn't stated (until today) was that this service would cost us 5%. I am now verifying if that 5% was included in the quoted airfare that was booked for us ($93US roundtrip).
I spoke with Visa directly and they do charge a 1% conversion rate for all overseas activity. I never saw this before and I've traveled extensively with this card. They explained that it may not have been broken out as a line item before, probably just rolled into the converted dollar amount of the bill. They also said that individual issuing banks may charge an additional fee for foreign transactions - luckily, my credit union does not.
I believe you are wrong about that. There is no law in Belize that prohibits it, to my knowledge.
Credit card issuers do generally prohibit it in the U.S., but not necessarily outside the U.S. Also, there are apparently ways to set this up, I think as a discount for cash, as long as it is applied across the board, so that it meets the requirements of the credit card issuers.
This has been rehashed many times here and elsewhere.
Many hotels still do levy a surcharge in Belize for credit card use, though the practice is less common than it used to be.
I too think it is a bad practice, from a marketing point of view if nothing else. It almost always leaves a bad taste in the mouths of guests.
I can understand why hotel operators and others do it, as so many of them are struggling and operating on thin margins, but in general I think from a marketing point of view it is better to price the product to include the cost of credit card transaction fees averaged over all transactions (cash and credit). This means a slight increase in prices and it also means that cash payers pay a little more than they would otherwise, and so in that sense it is unfair, but it's better marketing.
I also can understand why Tim would want to add the surcharge on outside charges paid for through the hotel. I suspect he doesn't often mark those up and so if he charges you net he loses 5% on everything you spend elsewhere but run through your hotel account.
One time I was staying at Banana Beach and asked Tim to set up a day boat charter for me. He kindly did, and as I recall the boat owner wanted US$150, but I asked Tim to put the charge on my hotel bill, and I would settle it all up at the end of my stay. He did, and I did, though now that I think of it I don't think Tim charged me the 5%, so he lost money.
In any event I think Jeffers and his operations are as honest and reliable as they come. They offer excellent value and do what they say they will.
Posted By: Alyse
Re: Credit Cards/ATM - 11/14/01 08:28 PM
Thanks again. I've been very pleased by my correspondence with Tim. I just didn't expect to do quite as much research into using a credit card in Belize, and it's somewhat uneven implications.
But it's off to Triple A to get those traveler's checks! 6 more days to vacation!
Posted By: Chloe
Re: Credit Cards/ATM - 11/14/01 08:44 PM
Let's face it, using your credit card is the best and safest way. Like any other business or money transaction, there is always a bridge between the transaction, and you will pay a fee for the bridge, meaning when you take money out of interest bearing account to use the money or to invest elsewhere you lose during the bridge time.
Called the cost of during business/vacation.
Posted By: NYgal
Re: Credit Cards/ATM - 11/14/01 09:25 PM
I just figure, to get something you need to pay ..maybe I am wrong. It's a sevice, isn't it?
Posted By: Alyse
Re: Credit Cards/ATM - 11/14/01 10:25 PM
Credit cards are the way to go; we've decided to just absorb the service fees and have a fabulous time!
Posted By: ChrisPcritter
Re: Credit Cards/ATM - 11/15/01 02:21 AM
I ran off and got travelers checks today...see you Tuesday.
I'll be the beet red tall guy with peeka-peeka doing the dance of a thousand sandflea bites.