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At the start of 2021, Trinidad and Tobago’s Forex crisis has become relatively difficult to work with. Most businesses have access to Trinidad and Tobago dollars, but they lack the critical component of USD to buy goods for import. While there is a lot of speculation about why this has happened, it’s too deep a subject to broach here. Instead, we’ll look at practical methodologies for people who want to find alternative methods of payment.
Why Would I Want An Alternative Method of Payment?
If you own a credit or debit card in T&T, you’ll quickly start to realize how difficult it can be to purchase goods from overseas. In the recent past, all one had to do to buy goods from international retailers would be to use their credit card or debit card linked to PayPal. However, with the recent restrictions in spending, with a limit on some cards of as little as $200USD per day, it takes a lot more purchases to get things done. Additionally, some businesses have had the downside of being limited in how much USD they could purchase daily. Trips for buying stock overseas can be severely curtailed because of this limitation. Many local banks have also ceased offering the option to withdraw USD in international ATMs to protect the country’s foreign exchange reserves. If any of these apply to you, you might need to look at these alternative payment methods.
While PayPal still needs to be linked to a credit/debit card for withdrawals to work, it’s the most recognized name in accepting payments. If you’re a freelancer or running an online business, accepting electronic payments to T&T might seem like a challenging task. However, with PayPal linked to the business’s e-commerce page, you don’t have to worry about it that much. The only downside that happens with PayPal is that sometimes their withdrawals may take some time to get to your local account. Please note that PayPal’s withdrawals don’t work with every credit or debit card either. Only VISA cards are supported for withdrawals, although I’m not sure if that policy has changed. Recent news has come to my attention that PayPal doesn’t work in my locale for new accounts unless verified by the local bank. So that is yet another strike against what used to be one of the best payment processors in the world.
Stripe is getting a lot of traction as an alternative payment option for many freelancers or business owners. If you haven’t heard of Stripe, I can’t blame you. Despite its popularity in some areas of the world, it’s still a relative newcomer to payment processing in other regions. However, it can be easier to work with than PayPal, although account availability for your local setting may be a bit difficult to pin down. As it stands, I’m not 100% sure if Stripe does payments to local T&T accounts. Still, they are an integrable processor, meaning that they can operate alongside other payment options that I’ll mention afterward.
TransferWise has a bad rap in some circles because a lot of scammers use their services for payment. As a result, TransferWise isn’t really recommended for freelancers, but it can be helpful for businesses. If you have to get money from your storefront to a local account in Trinidad and Tobago, you should be able to use TransferWise to do so. TransferWise does have an option to get a debit card with them, but currently, it’s unavailable for Trinidad and Tobago residents.
If you’re a local of Trinidad and Tobago, you may or may not have heard of WiPay. My first experience with them was smooth — I used them to pay for the purchase of some local coffee. However, they are the only payment processor that sends your proceeds directly to your local bank account in TT dollars. There is a caveat, however. Unlike payment processors such as PayPal, you won’t have a way of collecting direct payment to your personal account but rather may be required to have a payment portal set up on your website. From my experience, this method may be better for companies or sole proprietors looking to set up their own web business. WiPay integrates with both Shopify and Woo Commerce (through plugins), simplifying your payment setup immensely.
I’ve obviously left the best for last here. I’ve been evangelizing for Payoneer as a payment option for the previous five years at least because it gives you everything you need to maintain yourself as a business and individual service provider. Payoneer has the option to set up a MasterCard debit card linked to your account. Once you have money in the account, you can withdraw it from an ATM (with the obviously hefty fees) and use the cash here. What’s more, your card comes with two linked US bank accounts that you can receive payments too. These payments take two days to process once they get to the account, but the costs of transferring from a business to these accounts are negligible. If you have clients who would like to do direct transfers to your bank account, your Payoneer card is a great way to do so. Aside from that, it operates just like any debit card, AND there’s no limit on the amount you could spend. Once you have money in your Payoneer account, you can use their card. There’s also a way to transfer money from your local TT credit card to Payoneer, but I’ll cover that in a subsequent article.
The Bottom Line
Small businesses in Trinidad and Tobago will be the ones who’ll feel the pinch of not having foreign exchange available. However, there are ways to work around it. If you’re resourceful enough, you don’t have to fall prey to a controlled economy. Instead, you can think outside the box and add a new level of competitive advantage to your business. If you’re interested in learning more, subscribe to my email list, or contact me via email.