The Turks and Caicos uses the U.S. Dollar as its official currency. There are no Foreign Exchanges or Bureau de Changes at the airport or anywhere apart from local banks, and currency should be exchanged before arriving in the islands.
Exchange rates at local banks are extremely adverse and queue times can be up to three hours for service. In the past, some hotels and resorts offered foreign exchange services, although this is no longer the case.
Local ATMs can be found at the airport and main grocery stores. Unfortunately, local ATMs are frequently out of service, and if you are running low on cash and see a working machine, you are advised to use it. A broken ATM will typically remain broken for the duration of your stay.
Making a cash withdrawal at a local ATM will likely cost less than using a local bank to exchange currency, but you are advised to check with your card issuer and bank as to what the rate is.
The Turks and Caicos Crown
The Government mints coins called Crowns, which feature various animals of the islands, or the national crest, on the reverse, and the Queen on the obverse.
These coins are redeemable at the Treasury on par with the dollar (1 crown = 1 U.S. dollar), however, they are generally purchased as tourist souvenirs and not used as actual currency.
It is extremely unlikely to be given any Crown coins in change or otherwise encounter crown coinage in general circulation.
The Government in the past (around the early 1900s) issued ‘pound’ denominated banknotes, but these are extremely scarce collector’s items. Notes in 5 shillings, 10 shillings, and pounds were issued (20 shillings equal a pound).
The Turks and Caicos has used a variety of currencies as legal tender, the most recent being the Jamaican Pound and then Jamaican Dollar, which was used up until 1973 when the country switched to the U.S. Dollar.
In the past, tokens were issued by local plantations, industries, and companies instead of money. These were redeemed for goods at company-owned stores for food and other items they desired. J.N. Reynolds, a cattle rancher on East Caicos, may have been the first to issue tokens.
Much like modern gift cards, these had the distinct disadvantage of only being tender at company stores as workers were locked in.
In 1881, the Turks and Caicos Legislature passed a law to prevent payment in tokens and anything other than the ‘current coin’ of the islands. Like many past and current laws in the Turks and Caicos, it appears that it wasn’t drafted properly and wasn’t enforced. No company is recorded as being prosecuted under the ordinance. Companies simply switched to either (a) laying off workers who didn’t buy from the company store, and (b) purchases at company stores ended up being taken from future wages, and workers ended up in the same situation. The West Caicos Sisal Company, founded in 1890 (nearly 10 years after the law was passed), issued tokens to its workers and there is no record it was ever prosecuted by the Government.