There are five major banks on the island-share Dominican Republic, spread across the geography of the island. All have automatic teller machines – ATMs – but one word: caution!
In the Dominican Republic, making a withdrawal from an ATM is as simple as it is at home. Money will be given in the local currency, the peso, though if you require American dollars, Euro or Sterling notes, these can be obtained from travel agents or currency exchange offices. For an ATM, the peso is the only option, but considering it is the widely accepted currency of the area, this is not the problem.
The problem with the ATMs of Dominican Republic banks is that they carry a surcharge. While this in itself may not be a huge surprise to any Western visitor, the fee itself will be. Rather than a set charge ($1 is standard in the United States, with L1.50 is in the UK), the ATMs throughout the Dominican Republic charge a percentage of the withdrawal. What’s more, the percentage is high – a staggering five per cent is charged by the bank for using the machines, and there is no upper limit.
The news, unfortunately, gets worse; this amount is not shown on your receipt, so unless you keep a pen and paper diary of your use of ATMs, you can never be sure how much money has been deducted. That is, of course, until you try to withdraw the last of your holiday spending money – only to discover it has all gone in ATM fees! Keep a close check on amounts you withdraw from an ATM, and deduct the percentage fee accordingly each time: remember, your receipt will not tell you what you have been charged, and the amount is deducted from the remaining bank balance rather than the cash withdrawn itself.
There are obvious solutions to this issue with Dominican Republic banks, the foremost being to use cash only. Change your home currency in your home country for pesos, as while you can take dollars or pounds sterling to the Republic and change it there, a fee higher than usual will be charged. A good tip is to take the money you think you will spend in cash, plus a further ten per cent in case of emergencies. By doing this, you can still continue to use cash throughout the island but without paying five cents in every dollar for a withdrawal.
However, another solution is to take change half into pesos and keep the rest as United States dollars – either if this is as your home country, or changing into dollars from pound sterling or Euros. This is because there is a local quirk in the Dominican Republic for dollars, and often a better rate can be negotiated with vendors for dollars – this is on top of whatever the current exchange rate is at the time. One dollar is worth slightly more actually within the country, when used as a method of purchase, than it is on the foreign exchange markets. This, however, is not a certainty and some stores and vendors will not be able to accept dollars, so it is worth changing some cash into pesos or using a credit card as a second option.