Cruising: Paying with Sand Dollars

The new system will enable banking services throughout the archipelago 

The next time you visit the Bahamas you may find that the people there are carrying a lot less cash. And that’s a good thing. It’s not that they don’t have money, but that they’re using a new type of digital currency that they’re calling “Sand Dollars.”

In a drive-by the central bank to modernize the Bahamas’ payment system and move consumers away from a historical reliance on cash, Project Sand Dollar was designed as a pilot program and rolled out on Exuma in December 2019. It has been favorably received by the public, enough so that there are now plans to expand it to the entire country.

In a press release, the bank emphasized that the digital currency is not a cryptocurrency, like Bitcoin, or a competitor to the Bahamian dollar. Rather it represents a digital version of existing paper currency—legal tender, intended to aid consumers and businesses with limited access to a physical bank. “It will never be different,” says central bank governor, John Rolle. “It can’t differ in value in any way or the other, so Sand Dollars can never be priced differently from Bahamian dollars.”

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