Frequently Asked Questions

Bank

Bank of Jamaica is Jamaica’s central bank. Its role is outlined in the Bank of Jamaica Act 1960.
The Bank has three main functions. These are:

  • formulating and implementing monetary policy to maintain price stability;
  • ensuring the maintenance of a sound and efficient financial system; and
  • meeting the currency needs of the public.

The Bank was established in October 1960 by the Bank of Jamaica Law and opened for business on 01 May 1961.

Bank of Jamaica does not have shareholders. It is wholly owned by the Government of Jamaica. The Bank’s authorised share capital of J$4 million has been subscribed and fully paid up by the Government.

In implementing monetary policy, Bank of Jamaica offers instruments to primary dealers and deposit-taking institutions. Members of the public interested in purchasing these instruments must do so through a primary dealer.

No, it is a statutory body, that is, it was created by an act of parliament that sets out, in broad terms, the mandate, powers and objective of the institution. The Bank is accountable to parliament through a minister of government.

Bank of Jamaica was established in 1960 to be the sole issuer of coins and notes and to facilitate the management of the country’s financial system.

Bank of Jamaica is responsible for:

  • issuing coins and notes, ensuring that the currency is authentic and that there is an adequate supply to meet the demands of the public;
  • formulating and implementing monetary policy, that is, the measures taken by the Bank to influence the Jamaican economy by regulating the amount of money in circulation.
  • ensuring that the financial system is sound and operates efficiently;
  • managing the foreign reserves of the country; and
  • carrying out other activities that support the implementation of monetary policy and services to the government, banks and licensed financial institutions and the general public

Bank of Jamaica is responsible for the day-to-day administration of monetary policy in consultation with the Minister of Finance.

Look under the section on monetary policy for information related to this topic.

Monetary policy refers to the measures taken by the Bank of Jamaica to influence the economy by regulating the amount of money in circulation.

Fiscal policy refers to the measures taken by the government to influence the economy by increasing or decreasing public spending and taxes.

The Board of Directors must ensure that the Bank is properly managed.

The Bank of Jamaica Act Part II 6(1) says that the Board of Directors shall be responsible for the policy and general administration of the affairs of the Bank.

The members of the Board are appointed by the Minister of Finance.

The Board of Directors includes the Governor, who is the Chairman, the Senior Deputy Governor, the Financial Secretary and six other directors all appointed by the Minister of Finance.

The Bank of Jamaica Act states that the following categories of persons may not be appointed to the Board:

  • a member of either House of Parliament;
  • a director, officer or employee of any commercial bank or any specified financial institution;
  • a member of the Kingston and St. Andrew Corporation or of any Parish Council.

The Board of Directors must ensure that the Bank is properly managed.

The Bank of Jamaica Act Part II 6(1) says that the Board of Directors shall be responsible for the policy and general administration of the affairs of the Bank.

The Bank of Jamaica Act says , “There shall be paid to the Governor and the other directors such remuneration, if any (whether by way of salaries or traveling or other allowances), as the Minister may determine.

The Governor of the Bank of Jamaica is the Chief Executive Officer of the Bank and in this capacity has full control and authority over the work and business of the Bank. He is also chairman of the Board of Directors.

The Governor is appointed by the Minister of Finance for a period not exceeding five years.

The Governor’s term of office shall not exceed five years, but he/she is eligible for reappointment.

The Minister of Finance may terminate the appointment of the Governor if such person:

  • becomes of unsound mind or becomes permanently unable to perform his functions by reason of ill health;
  • becomes bankrupt, or compounds with, or suspends payment to his creditors;
  • is convicted and sentenced to a term of imprisonment or to death;
  • is convicted of any offence involving dishonesty;
  • fails to carry out any of the functions conferred or imposed on him under the Bank of Jamaica Act.

The Governor of the Bank of Jamaica is the Supervisor of Banks.

Yes. You may contact the Financial Institutions Supervisory Division (FISD) at the Bank of Jamaica.

A list of licensed deposit-taking institutions, that is, commercial banks, merchant banks, and building societies licensed under the Banking Services Act.

Yes. Bank of Jamaica supervises and regulates deposit-taking institutions in Jamaica, that is, commercial banks, merchant banks and building societies operating under the Banking Services Act.

Yes. Bank of Jamaica publishes, on a quarterly basis, the assets and liabilities of commercial banks, licensees under the Financial Institutions Act as well as building societies.These reports are accessible from the Bank of Jamaica website.

No. These non-deposit taking financial institutions are supervised and regulated by the Financial Services Commission (FSC) (website: www.fscjamaica.org).

The Banking Services Act sets out the minimum requirements for establishing a commercial bank/merchant bank/deposit-taking institution. Similarly, The Financial Institutions Act & The Bank of Jamaica Building Societies (Licenses) Regulations 1995 set out the minimum requirements for establishing a merchant bank and building society, respectively. Copies of the respective legislation can be downloaded from Bank of Jamaica’s website. For further information please contact the Financial Institutions Supervisory Division of the Bank of Jamaica.

Copies of all legislation/regulations may be obtained, for a fee, from the Jamaica Printing Services (1992) Ltd., 77½ Duke Street, Kingston.

Bank of Jamaica can provide details as to the institution to which such deposits have been transferred. (Please note the remainder of information is deleted).

No, provided the lending activities contemplated will not be in foreign currency. Only persons expressly authorised by the Minister of Finance and Planning to undertake lending in foreign currency may undertake this activity.

Given the financial nature of money lending, this activity may be subject to regulatory oversight by the Ministry of Finance. Persons intending to undertake this activity should also be guided by the requirements of the Money Lending Act.

These are not licensed deposit-taking financial institutions. Such activities, if undertaken, comprise banking type products and banking services, will amount to breaches of the Banking Services Act and if foreign currency is involved, the Bank of Jamaica Act.

No. Interest rates and fees are currently determined by the market. Bank of Jamaica does however have the power under the Bank of Jamaica Act to prescribe the maximum or minimum interest rates that may be charged or paid by commercial banks and other licensed deposit-taking institutions.

Capital adequacy determination in relation to deposit-taking institutions is based on: i) the stipulated minimum capital requirements in law as prescribed in Section 40 of the Banking Services Act. ii) specific capital adequacy ratios, computation details of which are set out in the Banking Services Act (Deposit-Taking Institutions) (Capital Adequacy) Regulations.

Copies of all legislation/regulations may be obtained for a fee from the Jamaica Printing Services (1992) Ltd., 77 ½ Duke Street, Kingston or may be downloaded from the Bank of Jamaica website.

The main difference between a commercial bank and a merchant bank is that commercial banks are able to offer chequing/current accounts while merchant banks cannot offer accounts that are repayable on demand or under 14 days’ notice by cheque, draft or order drawn on the merchant bank.

No. The present banking statutes, as well as existing Bank of Jamaica guidelines, do not require customers of a commercial bank or any other deposit-taking institution, to disclose the reason for withdrawals from their accounts.

Yes. Under the Bank of Jamaica’s AML/CFT Guidance Notes and pursuant to the Proceeds of Crimes Act (POCA) that mandates the implementation of regulatory controls to prevent money laundering, banks are required to request from the customer specific information relating to the source of those funds.

The Minister of Finance has designated credit unions ‘specified financial institutions’ under the Bank of Jamaica Act, which currently enables the Bank to obtain information on their operations. Regulations to establish a formal supervisory framework for these entities have been drafted and subject to extensive discussion with the industry. Bank of Jamaica will assume full supervisory responsibility for credit unions when these Regulations have been finalised.

Where balances in deposit accounts held at commercial banks, merchant banks or building societies reflect no activity for a period of fifteen or more years, these funds by law become part of the revenues of the Government of Jamaica (GOJ).

Prior to the transfer to Government revenues, the Minister of Finance publishes a notice in the Jamaica Gazette and at least one daily newspaper detailing the relevant accounts and indicating that if no claim is made for the funds within a year, they shall become part of the revenues of the GOJ.

If within 15 years of becoming part of the Government’s revenues, an owner of such unclaimed funds is able to satisfactorily establish a claim to the funds to the Accountant General, such balances are repayable to the owner.

Yes. A customer’s contractual obligation to repay a loan (principal and interest) under their loan agreement with a bank is not affected by legal/central bank requirements pertaining to the bank’s accounting treatment of any uncollected principal and interest that is due.

Persons should contact either individual institutions or the Office of the Registrar of Companies, 1 Grenada Way, Kingston 5, to obtain copies of audited financial statements of these institutions.

Deposit taking institutions are also required by law to display, throughout each year, a copy of their latest audited balance sheet and profit and loss account in each place of business in Jamaica. In addition, they are required to publish these figures in at least one daily newspaper. The financial statements may also be published on the DTI’s website.

Code of Conduct

The Code establishes minimum standards of good banking practice for deposit-taking institutions licensed under the Banking Services Act. These institutions are commercial banks, merchant banks and building societies. The Code is not intended to provide consumer protection for users of financial products and services nor is it intended to regulate fees and charges or vary the existing contract between the financial institution and its customers.

The Code of Conduct on Customer Related Matters was issued on 30 August 2016. The Code permits a twelve month transitional period for commercial banks, merchant banks and building societies to bring their operations, in compliance with the Code, that is by 30 August 2017.

All commercial banks, merchant banks and building societies are required to comply with the Code. As at 31 August 2016 these were:

Commercial Banks

  • The Bank of Nova Scotia Jamaica Limited
  • FirstCaribbean International Bank (Jamaica) Limited
  • Citibank N.A.
  • National Commercial Bank Jamaica Limited
  • First Global Bank Limited
  • Sagicor Bank Jamaica Limited

Merchant Banks

  • JMMB Merchant Bank
  • MF&G Trust & Finance Limited

Building Societies

  • Jamaica National Building Society
  • The Scotia Jamaica Building Society
  • Victoria Mutual Building Society

The Code outlines key responsibilities of commercial banks, merchant banks and building societies in their customer relationships on matters such as:

  • Keeping language in contracts simple and clear;
  • Identifying key terms in contracts for customers’ attention;
  • Notifying customers of fees, charges, terms and conditions of contracts;
  • Providing customers with reasonable notice of changes to fees, charges, terms and conditions of contracts;
  • Providing monthly account statements for certain deposit and credit card accounts;
  • Expressing interest rates as effective annual rates;
  • Having effective mechanisms to address customer complaints;
  • Advising customers of the procedures to make a complaint;
  • Maintaining adequate records in relation to customers’ transactions; and
  • Maintaining adequate records in relation to complaints received.

The Banking Services Act under which the Code is issued requires commercial banks, merchant banks and building societies to keep particulars of your customer relationship (i.e. your account details) confidential.

Commercial banks, merchant banks and building societies are required to provide you with the terms and conditions relating to the product or service being acquired at the account opening stage in writing by physical or electronic means. Thereafter, these may be provided at the customer’s request.

Under the Code, commercial banks, merchant banks and building societies are required to advise you of the fees and charges that are applicable to a product or service that you are acquiring. Additionally, they are to provide you with, or make provision for you to, access the fees and charges pertaining to the product or service being used or acquired. This can be in the form of a schedule.

Under the Code, commercial banks, merchant banks and building societies are required to provide a minimum of 45 days’ notice of any changes in fees and charges, except where such changes are outside the control of the institution (e.g. where there is a third party charge). In those cases, customers should be advised at the earliest possible time. Where a change is to the customer’s advantage (e.g. removal of a fee), prior notification is not required.

Under the Code, commercial banks, merchant banks and building societies are required to provide you with a monthly written statement of your account unless you agree in writing for this not to be done. Each account statement should reflect:-

  • opening and closing balances;
  • all transactions undertaken on the account during the statement period;
  • details of interest charges that have been applied to the account during the statement period;
  • details of any other charges that have been applied to the account during the statement period; and
  • basis on which an account status may be classified as ‘dormant’, and any change that may be applicable as a result of the dormant classification.

“EAIR” means “effective annual interest rate”. All commercial banks, merchant banks and building societies are required to disclose this rate, irrespective of any other interest rate used in marketing a loan or deposit product. 

Commercial banks, merchant banks and building societies are required to tell you about their complaints handling process at the account opening stage. You may also telephone your institution to obtain information in-branch, on websites, and through telephone-based banking services on the complaints resolution process.

If you think your commercial bank, merchant bank or building society has breached the Code, a good first step is to raise the issue with your institution. If your complaint is not resolved in accordance with the institution’s complaints handling procedures, you may report the matter to the Bank of Jamaica. You may telephone the Bank of Jamaica at 876-932-4116 for further information.

The Banking Services Act allows for the Bank of Jamaica to publish statistics on customer complaints, and complaints referred to it in relation to the Code.

Where the Bank of Jamaica has confirmed that the Code has been breached, the Bank may firstly issue a warning to the DTI. If the breach is not resolved within the time specified,  the Bank of Jamaica may issue directions to the DTI. Non-compliance with these directions constitutes an offence, liable for prosecution.

You can obtain a copy of the Code from the Bank of Jamaica website.

For further information on the Code you may call the Bank of Jamaica at: (876) 932-4116.

Credit Bureau

A credit bureau is an agency that collects credit information from lenders and other relevant credit information sources on a borrower’s credit history, and provides that information, for a fee, to prospective lenders. Information acquired from a credit bureau allows a lender to better assess the credit worthiness of a borrower.

The Credit Reporting Act 2010 provides for the licencing and operations of credit bureaus in Jamaica.

Under section 8 of the Credit Reporting Act, the following persons or institutions may provide information to credit bureaus:

  • Commercial Banks
  • Licensees under the Financial Institutions Act (e.g. Merchant Banks)
  • Building Societies
  • Societies registered under the Co-operative Societies Act e.g. credit unions
  • The Development Bank of Jamaica Limited
  • Securities Dealers
  • Insurance Companies
  • National Housing Trust
  • The Students’ Loan Bureau
  • Businesses that sell goods under hire purchase, credit sale, or conditional sale agreements as defined by the Hire Purchase Act
  • Persons who publish information on suits and judgments for debt claims
  • Other credit bureaus
  • Any other entity designated by the Minister of Finance to be a credit information provider under the Credit Reporting Act

Under the Credit Reporting Act, a credit bureau can collect the following types of information on consumers:

  • Information about the consumers’ financial means and credit worthiness in relation to transactions involving the borrower
  • The amount and nature of loans and advances or other credit facilities granted to a consumer
  • The type of security taken from any consumer in respect of credit facilities (including lease financing and/or hire purchase)
  • The nature of any guarantee or other non-fund based facility accessed by a consumer
  • History of financial transactions in relation to transactions involving the borrower
  • Analysis of the above information including conclusions as to credit worthiness which may be in the form of numerical or alphabetical scores

A credit report represents a comprehensive credit profile of a borrower. This includes, for example, personal information (e.g. borrower’s name, ID number, date of birth etc.) and a credit summary (e.g. credit accounts held by borrower, whether accounts are current/past due and a record of recent credit enquiries made about the borrower).

The following persons can request a report from a credit bureau:

  • A credit information provider (see Question 4)
  • The supervising authority (i.e. Bank of Jamaica)
  • The consumer to whom the information pertains

Additionally, a credit bureau may also be required to provide information pursuant to a Court Order in the course of investigations conducted under certain specific circumstances pursuant to the Credit Reporting Act.

A credit information provider can use the credit information for facilitating the extension of a loan or other credit facility to the consumer.

In addition, once permission is granted by the consumer, credit information can also be used by a credit information provider for:

  • Facilitating a financial or other commercial transaction involving the consumer
  • Underwriting of insurance involving the consumer
  • Purposes of employment of the consumer
  • Other purposes in accordance with the specific written instructions of the consumer

Credit bureaus compile information on credit repayment records, court judgments, and bankruptcies. All these can be referred to as the credit history of a borrower or consumer.

Many lenders, as well as credit bureaus themselves, also use credit bureau information to generate credit scores. Credit scores are statistical estimates of the probability of default of a borrower based on characteristics available in the information provided to the credit bureau.

Yes. A consumer can submit a written request for all information pertaining to him or her, which is in the credit bureau’s possession.

A consumer is entitled to a clear and complete disclosure of the following information:

  • All information pertaining to the consumer that is in the credit bureau’s custody, possession or control;
  • The sources of the gathered information; and
  • The name and address of every person to whom such information has been disclosed by or on behalf of the credit bureau during the six month period immediately preceding the date of the consumer’s request.

A consumer is entitled to receive a free credit report from a credit bureau in each calendar year on submission of a written request to the credit bureau. Any subsequent requests by the consumer will require the payment of the credit bureau’s fees.

A consumer can submit a written request to the credit bureau for all information pertaining to them that is in the credit bureau’s possession. This includes the name and address of every person to whom disclosures were made during the six month period immediately preceding the date of the consumer’s request.

If asked by a consumer, a person who has obtained a credit report from a credit bureau, is legally required to confirm receipt of the information and advise the name and address of the credit bureau that provided the report.

If there is a complaint such as dispute over the accuracy or completeness of a credit report, a consumer may make a complaint in person or in writing to the credit bureau. If the consumer is dissatisfied with the outcome after reporting it to the credit bureau, he or she may submit the complaint in writing to the supervising authority (i.e. Bank of Jamaica).

Once a complaint is made to a credit bureau, the Bureau should take steps such as to confirm, correct or complete the information no later than fourteen days after the complaint has been made.

Whenever credit information has been amended a copy of the amended report is sent by the credit bureau to every person to whom the credit bureau disclosed the inaccurate or incomplete information. The consumer is also notified when the necessary changes have been made.

Information from a credit bureau allows a lender to more accurately assess the credit worthiness of a borrower. This enables lenders to better assess the risk of each credit and price the loan accordingly. Therefore, potential borrowers with good credit histories can benefit from reduced lending rates.

Currency

Bank of Jamaica has incorporated several security features into its banknotes that are intended to assist the public in distinguishing between a genuine banknote and a counterfeit at a glance. If there is any doubt about the authenticity of a banknote, take note of the following security features:

Watermark (Look Feature) – Each banknote has a watermark that is made into the substrate. Hold the note up to the light and look for the image of the subject (individual) on the face of the banknote (watermark). Additionally, the value of the note is reflected to the right of the watermark (electrotype).

Iridescent coating (Look Feature) – The $500 and $1000 notes feature a vertical band of colour to the left of the subject, which changes when viewed at an angle. For the $500 and $1000 notes, the image is a band of ‘clubs’ and ‘butterflies’, respectively.

Security threads (Look & Tilt Features) – Each banknote has a security thread. If you hold the note to the light, you will see the text ‘BOJ’ and the value of the note displayed on the thread. However, for the $500, $1000 and $5000 notes, the features on the security threads are more advanced.

  • If you tilt the $500 and $1000 notes, you will see the colour shifting thread on the front of each denomination.
  • If you look at the front of the $5000 note, you will see a wide silver thread featuring images of the Jamaica Coat of Arms. At the back of the note, you will see a sliver metallic oval window.

Intaglio (Raised Ink-Feel Feature) – If you run your fingers over the note, you will feel the places where the ink is thicker (raised ink).

Features which are specific to the denominations are detailed at https://boj.org.jm/core-functions/currency/bank-notes/.

Where there is any doubt regarding the genuineness of a banknote, please contact Bank of Jamaica, Nethersole Place, Kingston.

If you are in receipt of a counterfeit note, you should keep the note if possible, record details of the note and contact the nearest police station. If possible, you should provide the police with information about the person from whom the note was received.

Do not deliberately attempt to pass this note to someone else, as this is a criminal offence.

Part IV Section 12 (1) of the Bank of Jamaica Act states that the Bank shall have sole right and authority to issue notes and coins in Jamaica. Counterfeit notes are not issued by BOJ, and in that regard, the practice of counterfeiting contravenes the legislation, and as per Section 12 (3) of the Bank of Jamaica Act, is a criminal offence.

Therefore, by giving value for a counterfeit note, the Bank would be aiding and abetting a criminal activity. Further, currency that is issued into circulation by the Bank is reflected on its balance sheet as a liability that is backed by an asset.

Bank of Jamaica’s policy indicates that a human subject is to be on the front of the banknotes. The subject must be a National Hero or Prime Minister/Premier (in chronological order) and the subject must be deceased.

Mutilated Jamaican notes are those that:

  • constitute less than the original whole note, or
  • are in poor condition (burned, torn or otherwise damaged),

such that their value, which is questionable, can only be determined following examination by an officer of the Bank of Jamaica.

Part IV, Section 16, subsection (2) of the Bank of Jamaica Act, states the circumstances and conditions under which the Bank may refund the value of a mutilated or imperfect note. Once it is established that a banknote is genuine (i.e. it is not a counterfeit), the Bank may award value subject to the following conditions:

  • Full value may be awarded for a note which has at least three quarters of the original note intact and at least one complete serial number remaining.
  • Half the value may be awarded for a note which has half of the original note intact and at least one complete serial number remaining.
  • No value will be awarded for a note which has less than half of the original note intact.

Banknotes and coins that have been withdrawn or demonetised and have ceased to be legal tender will not be accepted by business persons. However, all banknotes and coins issued by the Bank are accepted at face value at Bank of Jamaica, Nethersole Place, indefinitely, subject to the conditions outlined in the previous question regarding mutilated bank notes.

In addition, effective 23 July 2018, the Bank partnered with GraceKennedy Payment Services Ltd (GKPS) in its national coin collection drive. The aim of this drive is to facilitate island wide redemption of all coins in a convenient manner. In that regard, in addition to Bank of Jamaica, $0.01, $0.10 and $0.25 coins, which were demonetised in February 2018, as well as all other coins, may be exchanged for full value at specific GKPS locations island-wide.

The list of GKPS locations can be accessed at  https://gkmsonline.com/coin-collection/.

Based on the Bank of Jamaica Act, Part IV, Section 15 (1), sub-section (2), a coin that is bent, mutilated or defaced shall not be used as legal tender, that is used for transactions.

In addition, Part IV, Section 16, subsection (2) of the Bank of Jamaica Act, states the circumstances in which the Bank may refund the value of a mutilated or defaced coin. In this regard, the Bank, in its sole discretion, may award value for a mutilated or defaced coin if all the features of the specific coin denomination can be determined at the Bank’s banking counter.

In addition, Part IV, Section 16, subsection (2) of the Bank of Jamaica Act, states the circumstances in which the Bank may refund the value of a mutilated or defaced coin. In this regard, the Bank, in its sole discretion, may award value for a mutilated or defaced coin if all the features of the specific coin denomination can be determined at the Bank’s banking counter.

With regard to the use of coins to pay for goods and services, Bank of Jamaica Act, Part IV, Section 15 (1) (b) sets out the legal tender limit regarding payment in coins as follows:

“If made in coins, shall be legal tender for the payment of an amount not exceeding the face value of a maximum of fifty coins in any combination of denominations.”

In other words, payment for goods and services utilising coins only, should not exceed fifty pieces of coins combined in any denomination.

The Bank uses a Tender process to select the supplier/s of its coins each year. Although Jamaica’s coin structure is currently comprised of four denominations, namely, the $1.00, $5.00, $10.00 and $20.00, given the success of its coin collection drive, the Bank’s 2021 coin order consisted of only one coin denomination, that is, the $1.00 coin. The contract for the minting of the $1.00 coins for 2021 was awarded to Royal Dutch Mint.

Similar to the coins, the Bank uses a Tender process to select the supplier/s of its banknotes each year. Given the adequacy of the current stock of the $5000 note to meet demand, the banknote order for 2021 is comprised of the $1000, $500, $100 and $50 notes. In this regard, for the 2021 banknote order:

  • De La Rue International Ltd. was awarded the contract for the $500 and $1000 notes;
  • Giesecke+Devrient Currency Technology GmbH was awarded the contract for the $50 and $100 notes