Gordon Swaby

Breaking the Bank: Eliminating card fees in Jamaica

A couple weeks ago @rtrowe  posted a couple banking tips on twitter. It was well received so I invited him to do a guest post on my blog. A couple weeks and few animal sacrifices later he finally sent me the article. ( I figured he couldn’t deal with me constantly annoying him anymore).

Updates to this article will come with or without questions. I hope this helps you to save some money. Also, please share with your friends so they can start saving money too.

Randy’s 4 Steps to Breaking the Bank by Randy Rowe

So recently it occurred to me that the level of bank charges that I’ve been paying to my bank are much too high. In an effort to curb this I’ve decided to cut down on the quickest area I can, card fees. Fees associated with the day-to-day use of my card (for those of us not inclined to notice the obvious).  Now in an attempt to dilute my bad karma with some good, I’ll be sharing the method I found with you.

Please note, it takes the form of steps, mostly because steps are easy to follow and allow me to get this damned post done as soon as possible.
So without further ado (which is a sentence whose sole purpose is to add “further ado”) here are Randy’s 4 Steps to Breaking the Bank:

Step 1.

Open a First Global Bank savings account.

Don’t bother to tell me that you love your current bank (unless it’s FGB) or that they’ve been good to you over the years (it’s quite unlikely that they have) or that you “cyaah bodda” (If this last one is you, don’t even ‘bodda ‘ to read the next steps, just close the page and go watch some TV). Always bear this in mind, unless you can bring in over 1 billion $ per month, NO BANK LOVES YOU..and even then this “love” would be questionable (think D’Angel).

Now, there are multiple benefits to opening a FGB savings account, but for purposes of this list, I’ll tell you the primary one…Global Access. No, its not a world visa, it’s their online web banking portal, they have, in my opinion, the most advanced web banking portal in Jamaica (that you have access to…I’m pretty sure the folks at BOJ have an even more powerful system). Using their system you can pay pretty much any bill, and transfer to any commercial bank. I’ll delve into this later, but for now, just take it that you should get an account there and sign up for net banking. (it’s 2012, not banking online is almost obscene)

Step 2.

Open a VMBS savings account.

At this point you’re probably gonna come with the typical excuse..”I don’t like having my money all over the place”…true..this is probably why you give it all to <insert your bank name here> each month in charges. Save the excuses, open the account, you’ll thank me later.Now, you’re probably wondering what the benefits to a VMBS current account are..I’ll tell you..simply put, they offer the BEST saving account option in Jamaica, right now (in my opinion of course, and for people who aren’t pulling down MAJOR bucks….I’m willing to bet you’re not, or you wouldn’t be reading this..). What do I use to back this claim up? Simply put, VMBS saving accounts have NO CARD CHARGES. That’s right, no withdrawal charge ($30 – NCB, $33 – Scotia), no Point of Sale (POS) charge (that’s point-of-sale…other banks have lots of charges which match the other meaning of POS) ($12.10 – NCB, $15 –Scotia), No card charges at all.

Step 3

Send your monthly salary to FGB.

I’m assuming that you have a steady, company paid, income here, and the ability to dictate where your pay goes. If you’re not one of the fortunate ones, look into setting up a standing order to FGB, yes there is a charge, but if you play it right, it can be one of your 2 only charges for the month. If you’re self-employed or get paid from multiple sources, find the best way to get your money over to FGB, link me on Twitter for help/tips along those lines. (@rtrowe)
Once you’ve gotten your money over to FGB start doing your banking the way it should be done…from your couch/toilet/backyard/phone/kitchen/AnywhereButInABank. I assume here that you’re an adult and have an actual budget. Well FGB helps greatly with budgeting thanks to the ability to send $ to different accounts in JA.  What you want to send to VMBS is the portion of $ that you have allocated yourself to spend each month. All those trips to the ATM, all those purchases done at the cash register (for which you’d have gotten charged) add up over time, and add up well enough to make NCB and Scotia 2 of the most PROFITABLE companies in JA…without them selling any tangible product. So this is your chance to cut costs, which is 1 of the only 2 ways to keep money in your pocket (savvy financial types will try to quarrel with me on that “only 2” point. Bring IT!!!).

Step 4


You can save an estimated $100k+ per year by avoiding bank charges (depending on your income that is. A better estimate is that you can save about 1 or more month’s pay by avoiding charges…now who wouldn’t want an extra month’s pay?). That’s a lot of money that can be invested to make even MORE money (by the way, Investing is the only other way to keep money in your pocket..I’m still ready to rumble financial goons -_-). Now, I know a few of you just read that and said to yourself “Did Randy just call 100k a ‘lot’ of money?”. Yes, yes I did. See in my short life I’ve learned that no one who truly has money ever calls any amount of money over $500 a “little bit of money”…unless they’re trying to sell you something….So yes, $100k IS a lot of money, so is $50k, so is $20k…(if you don’t believe so, try lending it to a stranger, or giving it away…or worse…losing it). There are many way to ‘PROFIT!!!!’, all fall under the category of ‘Investing’. This is a category that I’ll go into at another time. Its multi-faceted and WILL benefit you in the long run, lots to be gained there, literally, so look out for it.

So lets recap, or for those of us who just skipped to the end, summarize.
Randy’s 4 Steps to Breaking the Bank

Step 1.
Open a FGB savings account. (They have Global Access allowing you to send to every commercial  bank in JA)

Step 2.
Open a VMBS current account. (They have the wonderful advantage of NO CARD FEES)

Step 3
Send your monthly salary to FGB. (So you can access the wonderful benefits of banking like the rich do…even on a Saturday)

Step 4
PROFIT!!!! (Because the 2nd best thing to do with your money is to use it to make more money…the 1st is spend it of course[Strippers and beer 😀 ] ).

That’s it for my tips, feel free to leave a comment telling me if you agree, disagree, like the article, hate the article, think I should write more, think I should be banned from keyboards forever, whatever.
Depending on the response I may write a few more, I’m thinking topics like Managing Credit Card Debt, or General Debt Consolidation or just Investing, as mentioned before. All from the point of view of the small earner, the normal man with a normal paycheque.

Give me a shout on Twitter if you want my opinion of something (anything) at @rtrowe.
Hope you enjoyed…and even more so, I hope you followed and saved money. If you did, let me know and buy me a drink with some of your extra $

Written by Gordon Swaby

Gordon Swaby

Founder and CEO of social learning service EduFocal.com. I’m passionate about technology, the internet and the use of technology in education. I am a recipient of Governor General’s Youth Award, the PSOJ’s 50 Under 50 Award, The commonwealth Youth Award and many others.

Lovingly made on Tuesday, February 21st, 2012 at 1:12 pm. Filed under How To, Interesting, Jamaica/Politics.

  • http://twitter.com/robbizle7 Andre R. Robb

    Sound points. Thanks. But can someone chose to keep and operate from their NCB/Scotia accounts and still employ charge- saving methods? Or are you saying these banks are inherently not for average Jamaicans, to whom every mickle matters.

    • http://twitter.com/rtrowe RTRowe

      Hi Andre, How our largest banks do business currently in JA are, in my opinion, against the common man making any money by keeping his money there in a savings account. If every ‘mickle’ matters then prepare to lose quite a few ‘mickles’ with them. There are steps that can be taken though, which would increase your savings by reducing your charges. If one chooses to remain with the giants then I would recommend monitoring your charges, knowing all the charges in advance, and limiting use of your debit card, A friend of mine allows only 1 charge each month, he goes to the bank, pulls about $100k in cash (and accepts the in-bank fee) and then keeps it in his safe at home. He uses cash for everything, and doesn’t touch his card unless pressed to. That may be a bit extreme but its one method that can work, if you’re willing to risk it.

      • http://twitter.com/apachieomg58 sandra angella peart

        thats the idea but in the exmple of the VM  atm card then no fear of keeping cash at home use the card at the POS no charge added. even paying insurance now can be done that way BCIC has the POS, Sagicor [life ins prem’s]  and many others.

      • niknak

        NCB does have a savings account that allows u not to incur POS and ATM (as long as it’s an NCB ATM) charges…Midas Plus account. You don’t get bank book just mailed statements. This works fine for me and i swipe for almost everything. NCB also does not charge for in branch deposits, they do however charge for withdrawals under 50,000-since 50k is the limit on ATMs

  • Annie Paul

    BLINK. What is FGB? Other than that thanks for the tips, something has to be done about our rapacious banks…

    • http://gordonswaby.com Gordon Swaby

      Haha, FGB is First Global Bank. I just realized that only the acronym was mentioned. Will edit. 

  • Ricardo McKenzie

    please please we need a post about investment!

  • http://twitter.com/Kliejay Klieon John

    GREAT post…especially since Scotia recently found an even more spineless and merciless way to cheat people out of their hard-earned money; something I really didn’t think they were capable of. Didn’t know FGB did international wires… that’s a win for me… sold. 

  • Ricardo McKenzie

    VMBS tell mi say dem doan have a chequing account doe

    • http://twitter.com/rtrowe RTRowe

      A “current account” here speaks to a regular account savings account. I used the wrong term in writing it. My apologies, Ill have it changed. 

  • http://twitter.com/Chaddie_ Jahnoi Anderson™

    I really appreciate this blog post.  I intend to, as soon as possible, carry out each step here.  As Klieon had pointed out earlier, scotia’s bank charges to access my money are ridiculous.
    I also would actually love to see a post about investing, especially keeping students in mind.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the tips! Great article! What do you think about Jamaica National Building Society or First Caribbean International Bank? … And yes I think you should write more.

    • http://twitter.com/rtrowe RTRowe

      I dont consider banks on their own, there is no “good” bank as far as im
      concerned, as I said in the article, “NO BANK LOVES YOU”. I look at the
      individual services I need or want, then I look to see which institution
      offers the best for the least. Thats my mantra when I ‘choose” banks.As for writing more..I believe there are some things on the way for those interested…more anon.

  • http://www.jamaipanese.com/ Jamaipanese

    If I had read and followed these steps earlier I would not be sitting at my desk now without lunch fuming at a $495 “backdated service charge” by Scotia Bank that sucked away my little mickle that was intended to be drawn to pay for lunch today.

  • Danelia

    A post I appreciated,  wholeheartedly. I look forward to a follow up on all the mentioned suggestions. Esp, investing.
    I won’t open a VMBS account though, I have a JN one, and it doesn’t have card fees.

    • http://twitter.com/rtrowe RTRowe

      JN works well alos, I do believe though, that they do charge for something, my memory fails me here, but its either POS or ATM usage. Correct me if i’m wrong. 

    • http://twitter.com/rtrowe RTRowe

      Just an update, JN doesn’t charge for POS transactions, and they also dont charge you to use their ATM, however they DO charge you to use any other bank’s ATM which makes it a lesser offer than VMBS’s.

  • http://www.facebook.com/stacyann.hayles Stacy-Ann Hayles

    Reading this just now because I’m considering adjusting my banking arrangements but I spot one major issue – for me, at least. IDK about others but one of the biggest reasons I have a Scotia account is because of the Visa Debit card. Neither VMBS or FGB offer this functionality and I don’t have or plan to get a credit card…

    • Randy Rowe

      Im in agreement with credit card wariness, however, if the fees you are generating from having that Scotia Account aren’t bothering you, then by all means go ahead and keep the account, sending money there when you need to cover purchases on your card…

  • http://twitter.com/SamuelFolkes Samuel Folkes

    Just a few observations after the research i’ve done into this:

    1. JN also doesn’t have POS transaction card fees and they don’t charge a fee to withdraw funds from a JN ABM. Withdrawals from other ABMs on the Multilink network do however incur a charge. Can anyone confirm that VMBS doesn’t charge for withdrawals from non-VMBS ABMs? Tried getting the info from their website but couldn’t find a rate sheet for card fees.

    2. JN also allows you to move funds to other banks and financial institutions via their online banking platform. The only limitation here is that they do not at the moment facilitate the movement of funds to overseas banks. They are a viable alternative to FGB if you don’t need to transfer funds overseas because it cuts out having to get an FGB account and a VMBS account since it has some of teh more important benefits of both.

    3. Randy, in checking out the FGB online banking demo one thing that caught my eye was the fact that domestic transfers are limited to commercial banks. VMBS is not commercial bank. Has there been a change to now facilitate the movement of funds from an FGB account to institutions that are not commercial banks? If there is it hasn’t been reflected in the demo. Please let me know if it’s now possible.

    All in all I thought this was a very informative article. I’ve been meaning to streamline my banking procedures for a while but I just haven’t gotten around to it. Seeing and calculating for myself how much I’m losing annually has been quite a wake up call. Good job fellas.

    • Randy Rowe

      Hey Sam,

      1. Yes, its confirmed, they have zero fees for using your card on POS and ABM transactions. I actually have a card, and I do use it, and monitor. I always chuckle at the fact that using my VMBS card on a Scotia machine is cheaper than using my Scotia card on the Scotia machine.

      2. If JN allows the same level of commercial bank movements then by all means use them, its about your own convenience, if it works for you for cheap/free, then stick to it. I find that having a commercial bank account is helpful at times, especially with salary payments etc.

      3. The movement from FGB to VMBS was doable thru the use of a 3rd account (with NCB….confusing, I know). I was actually asked to hold off on popularizing this method since it was so ‘difficult’ and told that FGB would be providing a simpler means of transfer to VMBS (and all other building societies) via their Global Access platform. No definite date in when as yet, last i was told this was 2 months ago. I’ll ask more and update once its doable.

      4. Gordon deserves zero credit for anything on this website with the exception of 99.9% of the content, its hosting facilities, domain upkeep, popularization and existence, outside of all of those things I deserve full credit for the rest, and this article…let him know I said so..

  • Chevy

    good post

  • Joshua Robb

    This is an interesting one. Still wondering though if there is a way of saving money while keeping my BNS/NCB account though. Also JN seems to offer some good options.

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