Bermuda’s currency, formerly based on the sterling system of shillings, pounds, and pence, went decimal in 1970, adopting colorful dollars and cents issued by the Bermuda Monetary Authority (BMA). Today, Bermuda’s money is pegged to the U.S. dollar and interchangeable with it anywhere on the island.
In 2009, Bermuda released a new set of banknotes, even more striking in their design and color scheme than the originals. Incorporating cultural icons and island landmarks, including flora and fauna, plus numerous innovative security features, the notes will no doubt be sought after by collectors. The currency includes banknotes in denominations of $2 (turquoise, bluebird), $5 (violet-red, blue marlin), $10 (indigo, angelfish), $20 (green, whistling tree frog), $50 (yellow-orange, longtail), and $100 (red-orange, cardinal).
Coins are similarly artistic, especially the penny, manufactured in bronze with the image of a wild hog on the back—a tribute to the distinctive and now very rare Hogge money forged for use by settlers in the colony’s early years, when tobacco-bartering was also common. Other coin denominations, in nickel, include: five cents (angelfish), 10 cents (lily), 25 cents (longtail), and $1 (in gold, Bermuda fitted dinghy). The latter was introduced in 1988, when a $1 note was discontinued and a $2 introduced. Since her coronation in 1952, all notes and coins have featured Queen Elizabeth II, though in the latest note series, her image is simply a small profile posted on the front’s bottom left corner. Because Bermuda notes and coins are restricted to use on the island, U.S. currency is used by all island-based international companies and their non-Bermudian employees, who are paid in U.S. dollars and hold local U.S.-dollar accounts at Bermudian banks.
Travelers are advised to bring credit cards or travelers checks (both are widely used throughout the island), plus a minimum amount of cash for their Bermuda holiday. Since Bermudian currency cannot be exchanged at foreign banks, ask stores for U.S. change where possible before leaving the island (many merchants are happy to comply). Visitors with passports can exchange travelers checks for U.S. cash at any branch of the three licensed retail banks, Bank of Bermuda HSBC (6 Front St., tel. 441/295-4000, www.bankofbermuda.bm ), Butterfield Bank (65 Front St., tel. 441/295-1111, www.butterfieldbank.com ), or Capital G (19 Reid St., tel. 441/296-6969). Mondays and Fridays are busiest, especially during lunch hours when Bermuda residents do most of their banking; the advent of online banking in recent years, however, has cut down on long bank lines.
Personal checks drawn on U.S. banks may be used for purchases at more than 200 establishments on the island. United States checks may be cashed at some hotels or local banks by arrangement. Personal checks can be cashed for a 3 percent service charge at the Bermuda Financial Network (133 Front St., fourth floor, British American Building, Hamilton, tel. 441/292-1799).
ATM machines, open 24 hours, are located at each bank’s Hamilton headquarters and throughout the island at bank branches, gas stations, and supermarkets. ATMs deal only in Bermuda currency—meaning that if you draw cash from a foreign account, you’ll need to spend it during your vacation or carry it home as a souvenir, since you will not be able to convert it once you’ve left Bermuda. Some retailers and hotels will provide change in U.S. currency to tourists who request it at the end of their visit.
The island’s ATMs issue a maximum of BMD 2,000 per day (or much less, depending on your home bank’s policy, which can be as low as USD 250 per day) and charge a 1.5 percent transaction fee of the dollar amount withdrawn, with a minimum fee of BMD 2.50. Bermudians can buy foreign currency, including U.S. and Canadian dollars, British pounds, euros, and special-order currencies, from all the banks. Bank hours vary, but most are open 9 a.m.–4:30 p.m. (Somerset , St. George’s, and airport branches have restricted hours).
Most international travelers checks (Visa, American Express, Barclays) are accepted on the island, but travelers are advised to bring U.S.-dollar checks rather than any other currency. Individual stores and hotels set various limits on amounts that can be cashed at any one establishment. A passport is usually necessary as valid photo ID to cash travelers checks, which must be in the visitor’s own name.
All major credit cards (Visa, MasterCard, American Express) are accepted at most hotels, restaurants, liveries, and retailers and can be used for cash advances at all bank branches. ATMs open 24 hours around the island also distribute cash advances for Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Cirrus, and Plus cards (know your PIN number). The American Express representative is Bermuda Financial Network (133 Front St., fourth floor, British-American Building, Hamilton, tel. 441/292-1799), which offers free phone calls and emergency AmEx card-replacement services. AmEx cardholders can also make payments on their cards at this office. It also allows money to be received or sent in minutes via Western Union money transfer services.
Lost or stolen major credit cards can be reported to these contact numbers (800 numbers are not toll-free from Bermuda):
Despite the lack of sales tax, Bermuda rates as one of the priciest destinations in the world, and many visitors are shocked by the high cost of island living, particularly restaurant tabs (which slap on an automatic 15 percent gratuity) and grocery bills. But budget-conscious travelers can save money in a number of ways during a Bermuda vacation.
Booking an apartment or studio via websites such as www.bermudarentals.com  or www.bermudagetaway.com  can save the great expense of a resort vacation and allow you to live like a local. Shopping—wisely—at grocery stores instead of breaking your budget at pricey restaurants every day can also rein in costs. Shop like Bermudians do: Farmers’ roadside stands, fishermen’s catch of the day, and the Saturday City Market  at Bull’s Head Car Park in Hamilton during the winter all deliver the freshest local ingredients in season at very fair prices.
Traveling by bus and ferry is cheaper than renting a moped or taking taxis. Buying passes for public transport saves money, too: A three-day pass allows you to hop on and off buses and ferries all day long. A book of 13 tokens saves money on each ride if you plan to stay a while.
As far as sights and activities go, much of what Bermuda has to offer is free: Explore the chain of forts, trek the Railway Trail and national parks, swim at umpteen beaches, wander the backstreets of Hamilton, St. George’s, and Somerset —you will not only save money, but you’ll leave Bermuda with a truer picture of island life than anyone sequestered in an all-inclusive cruise or fancy resort.
Bermudians in the service industries are fond of their tips. Taxi drivers expect a 15 to 20 percent tip on rates, more if heavy luggage or official touring is involved. In nearly all restaurants, a 15 percent gratuity is automatically added to your bill, so there is no need to leave a tip at these establishments unless you feel the service or food is exceptional enough to deserve more; in such circumstances, islanders typically leave an extra $10 or $20. Smaller, homespun eateries tend not to build a tip into the tab; check the menu or bill slip to confirm. In hotels, bellboys and doormen should receive $5 or more. Room service warrants a $5–10 tip. Depending on your length of stay and service, chambermaids typically get $20 or more when you leave. Bermudians tip gas-station attendants $2 or more for a fill-up (all of Bermuda’s stations are full-serve).