A new program from Mastercard and Island Pay gives Bahamians greater flexibility in how they shop and pay using the country’s digital currency.

The Bahamas Sand Dollar prepaid card gives people the option to instantly convert the digital currency to traditional Bahamian dollars and pay for goods and services anywhere Mastercard is accepted on the Islands and around the world.

The digital Sand Dollar is issued by the Central Bank of The Bahamas and carries the same value and consumer protections as a traditional Bahamian dollar. The digital currency can be used to facilitate government disbursements, offer additional payment choices and build a more inclusive economy. In The Bahamas, there are 700 small islands and more than 5000 square miles of water. Cash money movement becomes costly, which makes a central bank digital currency (CBDC) a preferred digital payment in the region. In the future, the Sand Dollar will be offered to tourists.

Originally piloted in 2019, the Sand Dollar became the first fully- deployed digital version of a country’s fiat currency in October 2020. At that time, the Sand Dollar was exclusively accessed by registered users through a digital app at select merchants. Island Pay mobile wallet users can decide if they want to transact in Sand Dollars or Bahamian dollars at merchants using the mobile app.

Mastercard’s innovative work with CBDCs supports governments around the world as they explore, test and deploy real-life use cases across existing payment rails. Its virtual testing environment enables the simulation of issuance, distribution and exchange of CBDCs between banks, financial service providers and people.

Island Pay’s technology platform, combined with Mastercard technology and wide merchant acceptance, has the potential to help reduce the operational distribution costs of cash and modernize the overall payments system in The Bahamas.

As part of its long-term strategy to enable all types of payments – card, ACH and blockchain-based – Mastercard has invested in the technology to be ready to explore and enable both CBDCs and privately issued stablecoins in partnership with governments, banks and fintechs. With 89 blockchain patents globally, and an additional 285 blockchain applications pending worldwide, Mastercard already has one of the payment industry’s largest blockchain patent portfolios to draw from.