All About the Jamaican Dollar

United States By Christy Lowry Nov 14, 2023

What is the Jamaican dollar?

The Jamaican dollar (JMD) is the official currency of Jamaica. Throughout its history, Jamaica has been ruled by the Spanish and the British, before gaining its independence in 1962. As a result, the Jamaican dollar has been reflective of these countries, as well as the US dollar. The Jamaican dollar is symbolized by J$ or JA$ and divided into 100 cents. Learn about the history of the Jamaican dollar, its current value, and the banknotes and coins in circulation.

If you have family or friends residing in Jamaica, send them money with Western Union. Choose how you want to transfer money at the click of a button. Your recipient can receive their transfer for pick-up in minutes or directly into their bank account.

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History of the Jamaican dollar

After colonizing Jamaica in the 15th century, Spaniards traded with the Tainos, Jamaica’s first inhabitants. The Tainos and Spaniards initially did not use a formal medium of exchange, or currency. Instead, they mostly exchanged small items such as glass beads, trinkets, and scissors. Eventually Spanish dollars, or reales, were introduced in the 16th century. Spanish coins became legal tender and were given a fixed value.

However, Jamaica became a colony of the United Kingdom in 1655, and the British West Indies dollar was introduced into the country. Despite its introduction, the Spanish dollar was still used more in international trade. Consequently, the British West Indies dollar was initially driven out of circulation by the Spanish dollar. After gaining its independence, Jamaica introduced its own currency – the Jamaican dollar was introduced in 1969.

Jamaican Dollar Exchange Rate and Value

The Jamaican dollar’s exchange rate was initially pegged to the US dollar. However, the rate of exchange changed due to inflation and devaluation. Now, the Jamaican dollar is a floating currency determined by market forces, as supply and demand determine the value of the currency. While the Jamaican dollar is the primary currency in the country, US dollars may also be accepted.

Currency exchange rates are always in flux. If you are planning a trip to Jamaica, stay ahead of any currency fluctuations, and see how far your dollar will take you. Western Union’s currency converter allows you to calculate currency conversions at effective exchange rates.

Convert USD to JMD

 What are the designs and denominations of the Jamaican dollar?

The Jamaican dollar is issued by the Bank of Jamaica, which is the central bank of the country. Banknotes come in denominations of 50, 100, 500, 1000, and 5000 dollars, and the coins come in denominations of 1, 5, 10, and 20 dollars. After achieving independence from Britain, Jamaica removed Queen Elizabeth from their banknotes. Today, the banknotes feature prominent Jamaican figures and landmarks, such as national heroes, former prime ministers, and cultural symbols. The design for each banknote is the following:

  • $50 Note: The front of the $50 note features Samuel Sharpe, a National Hero of Jamaica. Born into slavery, he became educated and led religious meetings to organize abolitionist activities. In 1831, he devised a plan for slaves to refuse to work until their concerns were heard by estate owners. This resistance escalated into Jamaica’s largest slave rebellion. The back of the note features Doctor’s Cave Beach. The beach was owned by Dr. Alexander James McCathy, who used the beach as a spa.
  • $100 Note: Sir Donald Sangster graces the front of the $100 Note. Donald Sangster served as the second Prime Minister of Jamaica, as well as other notable roles such as the Minister of Finance and the first Deputy leader of the Jamaican Labour Party. The back of the $100 note features Dunn’s River Falls, a famous waterfall near Ocho Rios, and one of Jamaica’s most popular tourist attractions.
  • $500 Note: The $500 note features Nanny, the leader of the Maroons. The Maroons were a group of free slaves who revolted against British colonizers in the early 18th century. The Nanny is a beloved, unifying figure in Jamaica history that symbolizes strength and the fight against oppression. The back of the note features Port Royal, the signature trading center of the Caribbean during the 17th
  • $1000 Note: Michael Manley, former Prime Minister of Jamaica, is featured on the front of the $1000 note. During his tenure, he contributed toward obtaining equal opportunities for women, led a democratic socialist program, and advocated for parity in Third World countries. The back of the note showcases Jamaica House, which is the official residence for the Prime Minister.
  • $5000 Note: This banknote features Rt. Honourable Hugh Lawson Shearer, the former Prime Minister of Jamaica. He was a politician and trade unionist, leading the country to a prosperous era in Jamaica era, promoting tourism and elevating the mining industry. The back of the note showcases an image of the main highway in Jamaica, Highway 2000.

Send money with Western Union

Send money to Jamaica, or wherever your family members and loved ones are. Download the Western Union app or go online to send them money. You can also visit an agent location to send money in person.