The tropical island nation of Antigua and Barbuda is located right between the Atlantic Ocean and Eastern Caribbean Sea. The territory is made up of numerous tiny islands but these two are the biggest and the most prominent ones. Together, they have a population of approximately 82,000 people. Being a part of the Caribbean, it is only natural for Antigua and Barbuda to deliver the ultimate experience in terms of tropical paradise living.The temperatures across the region are high and tend to range between 25ᵒ C (76ᵒ F) during the coolest months and 28ᵒ C (82ᵒ F)in the summertime. The Trade Winds give off a constant breeze, maintaining low levels of humidity in the area throughout the year. There is no specific monsoon season as Antigua can experience mild rainfall at any time of the year. However, the amount of rainfall received is far less than the other islands in the region. In fact, the people of Antigua enjoy an average of almost 8 hours of sunshine each day, making it one of the sunniest places in the Caribbean.
The locals are descendants of West Africans, Brits and Portuguese. They are known to be warm and hospitable towards visitors. Antiguans also lead a fairly relaxed and laidback life. Many Westerners come to this place just to escape the regular hustle-bustle of their hectic and fast-paced lives back home.
In Antigua, you will find a number of beautiful, quiet beaches that are ideal for sunbathing and relaxing. The water that surrounds the island is usually calm, warm and blue. It is perfect for those who love water sports and activities such as swimming, boating, sailing, snorkeling and scuba diving. Golf and cricket are popular pastimeswith the residents of this country too.
As an expat who wants to enjoy the sun, sand, sea, serenity and sports all year long, you can’t find a place better than this one. Depending on your current situation, you could relocate to this island completely or choose to spend a couple of months each year on it.
Looking for employment after you move to Antigua is not a very good idea, unless you are highly trained and experienced in your area of expertise. The local companies have to go through a very lengthy and complicated procedure when they try to hire foreigners, even those who already have a residency permit. This is mainly because organizations must show that they first tried to recruit a local to fill the position but couldn’t find a suitable candidate. Most expats living on this island are therefore businesspeople, entrepreneurs, diplomats or retirees. Of course, a number of the professionals have been transferred to Antigua by their existing employers on long-term or short-term assignments. There is also a fair demand for skilled expats in the tourism and teaching industries.
Once you take up a job, work as a freelancer or set up a business, you will need to have access to a bank account in order to manage your income, payment and other day to day finances. While some expats operate their home accounts in Antigua, others are required to open a local account or an offshore account in their home countries.
There are a couple of advantages to operating a local account, such as getting paid in the local currency, being able to set up direct debits or standing orders for various bills, and perhaps even obtaining a loan or a mortgage once you have established a relationship.
With a number of banks and types of accounts to choose from, you will probably need some assistance before opting for any one. Moreover, the procedure for opening an account and the documentation required may not be the same as your home country. Read on for information on opening and maintaining a bank account in Antigua.
Local and International Banks
These islands are home to a number of banks and most of them welcome expat customers. English is the main language of communication and documentation, so you should have no trouble working with people or filling out the paperwork in any bank.
Like many other foreigners, you can choose to open your account with an international institution such as Scotiabank, Barclays, The Royal Bank of Canada, or Frist Caribbean Bank. In fact, your account can be opened even before you move, if you are an existing customer in your country of origin. However, this service is not offered by all financial institutions so it is best to check with your bank in advance. Moreover, you will be required to go through a few identification checks, in spite of having an established relationship with them.
Opening an account with an international bank can be more beneficial, as your overseas transactions will be completed faster. A local bank will take more time to process a foreign transaction and to cash checks from a different nation.
Many international banks give their customers the option of opening accounts that operate using a different currency, especially the US Dollar and the British Pound. This service is ideal for those who receive regular sums of money into their accounts in Antigua from overseas. Americans usually keep their bank accounts in US Dollars and use only that currency for all operational purposes. This helps maintain the simplicity of the account, since US Dollars are as widely accepted as East Caribbean Dollars by many Antiguan businesses.
Since there is a lot of competition, it is best to check around for a while and see which banks are offering you better deals in terms of:
– Availability of online and telephone banking facilities
– Number of branches and ATMs in the area
– Overall products and services
It is quite easy to find all this information by asking around, visiting a bank’s website or making a trip to their branch.
Opening an Account
The procedure for opening a bank account is quite straightforward, even for a foreign resident. Things are likely to be simpler if you are choosing an international bank with which you have already had an account in your home country. However, a lengthier process must be followed for an outsider who has just arrived into the country and has no credit history.
The documents that you will be asked for include a valid passport, a driver’s license and documents that show your visa / residency status. You will also have to submit some kind of address proof like an ownership deed, rent agreement, or a utility bill that is in your name. A number of banks may ask you for references from specific organizations, like your current bank, an Antiguan national or your employer.
Since the exact requirements may vary from one bank to another, it is best to visit the one you are planning to open your account with and get a checklist of documents from them. You can also pick up an application form at the same time, which needs to be filled out before it is submitted along with photographs and the rest of the paperwork.
Some of the banks ask their customers to maintain a minimum balance but this rarely applies to multicurrency or foreign currency accounts. It usually takes a couple of weeks for the account to be opened and activated for use. You will not be able to withdraw any money till the account is completely functional.
If you open a current account, your bank may issue a checkbook along with a debit card. However, this varies from one bank to the other as many of them are trying to phase out written checks. A majority of the big stores and boutiques accept debit or credit cards but the smaller outlets will ask you for cash. Do keep in mind that there are certain restrictions on using different branches of the same back for your transactions. Also, some of the banks may levy an additional charge when you use the ATM of another establishment to withdraw money from your account.
Like in most other accounts globally, you will first need to have an adequate balance in your account before you can issue a check, transfer money online, swipe your debit card or make a cash withdrawal. However, if you are interested in a credit (overdraft) facility, you will need to speak to someone at your bank. It is unlikely that any of them will offer you this service right from the start, without first determining your creditworthiness and ability to repay. However, applying for this facility becomes much easier once you have been a customer with a bank for several years.
You can easily pay off most types of bills and other ongoing expenses without using cash, card or check. It is possible to set up a standing order or a direct debit for any payments that have to be made on a monthly basis, including electricity, credit card and mobile bills. For a direct debit, you need to contact the service provider and give them your bank account details. The provider will then reach out to your bank for outstanding payments per your specifications.
After having spent a few months in the country and having established a mutual working relationship with your bank, you could also think about applying for a loan or mortgage. However, you will first have to prove that you are able to repay the amount you borrow. Your income as well as your credit history and rating will be carefully considered before the loan or mortgage is approved. Do keep in mind that this is a fairly complicated procedure.
Many banks also offer their customers a credit card (Visa or MasterCard), either at the time of opening an account, or after a few months of observing their account activities. However, it is only the bigger companies that issue a credit card; the smaller banks are unlikely to have this facility.
Almost all the local and international banks offer advice on investments and pensions. However, it is important to speak with a senior representative for such information.
Banks are usually open to the general public between 8:00AM and 1:00PM from Mondays to Thursdays. On Fridays, they operate for a longer duration and don’t close until 4:00PM. A number of customers work all through the week and cannot visit their bank on a weekday. For such people, the Bank of Antigua is a better option, since it is open for a few hours on Saturday morning too. However, all banks remain closed on public holidays (around 12 days in a calendar year).
Keeping in line with the rest of the world, the banks on this island offer online banking and phone banking services too. Many customers don’t feel the need to visit their bank at all, as they can transfer money between accounts, pay their bills, and make changes to their personal details online or over the phone. The customer service representatives of most establishments can be reached through a phone number or online chat facilities.
Banks in Antigua and Barbuda
Below are the details for some of the most prominent banks in the island nation.
American International Bank
Heritage Quay, P. O. Box 1673, St. John’s, Antigua
Tel: +268 462 3243/ 6
Antigua and Barbuda Development Bank
27 St. Mary’s Street, P. O. Box 1279, St. John’s, Antigua
Tel: +268 462 0838/ 9
Antigua Commercial Bank
Thames and St. Mary’s Streets, St. John’s, Antigua (Headquarters)
Tel: +268 481 4200/ 1/ 2/ 3
Fax: +268 481 4229
Bank Of Nova Scotia or Scotiabank, Antigua
P.O. Box 342, St. John’s, Antigua
Tel: +268 480 1500
Fax: +268 480 1554
High Street, P.O. Box 225, St. John’s, Antigua
Tel: +268 480 5000
Tel: +268 480 5044
CIBC First Caribbean International Bank
Old Parham Rd, Cassada Gardens, Antigua and Barbuda
Tel: +268 480 5000
Eastern Caribbean Amalgamated Bank
Multiple Locations at Coolidge, St. John’s, Dockyard, and Friars Hill Road
Tel: +268 480 5300
Fax: +268 480 5433
RBC or Royal Bank of Canada
Market and High Streets Branch
P.O. Box 252, St. John’s, Antigua
Tel: +268 480 1150
Fax: +268 480 1190