Frequently Asked Questions

If you have a question which is not covered below or elsewhere on this site please contact us.

Index:


01: Where is St. Helena?

St. Helena is about 1,200 miles off the coast of Angola, at Latitude 16°s Longitude 5°45w.  The following map may help:

Outline map showing the location of St. Helena

The territory of St. Helena includes Ascension Island and Tristan da Cunha.

Please see our visitor information page and the other links for more information.

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02: What is a Base Rate?

A Base Rate is a level at which a bank sets the interest rates on its loans and accounts.  If the bank increases its Base Rate, the rates on loans and account rise by the same amount.  If the bank decreases its Base Rate, the rates on loans and account fall by the same amount.

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03: Is Bank of St. Helena part of Lloyds TSB Bank?

No, Bank of St. Helena is an independent bank.  We have a commercial arrangement with Lloyds TSB Bank in the UK which enables our customers to take advantage of their UK and international network, for example to effect international payments and transfers, but we are not otherwise linked.

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04: How do I send money from overseas to an account at Bank of St. Helena?

We connect to the International Payments Networks via Lloyds TSB Bank in London, UK.  Please click here for all the information you need.

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05: Can I call you over Skype™?

Sadly, no.  Skype™ carries voice calls free over the Internet between Skype™ users, and so could allow our international customers to contact us free and also reduce the bank’s costs.  However, use of Skype™ is not permitted for use in St. Helena because Cable & Wireless has a licence in St. Helena to the exclusion of any other voice service providers.

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06: Can I borrow money from you to buy a house in St. Helena if I am not a Saint?

If you have the appropriate permission to buy a property on St. Helena then we can lend you the money to buy it (subject to status).  Please contact the Government of St. Helena for details of non-Saint landholding restrictions.

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07: Can you send out banknotes or coins to collectors?

No, Bank of St. Helena does not send out banknotes or coins to collectors.  Thus function is performed by the Currency Commissioners, who are part of the St. Helena Government.  Please address your request to them.  The St. Helena Post Office also sells some commemorative sets which can be ordered over the Internet.

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08: Why didn’t my overseas payee receive as much as I sent?

When a customer requests an overseas payment we instruct our international agents to make a payment of exactly that amount in that currency to the specified destination account.  Any applicable charges that we and our agents incur are charged to our customer here, so the full requested amount is always sent.

However, sometimes the receiving bank deducts "handling charges" from the money it receives.  It may also deduct conversion charges if the amount it receives is not in the same currency as the destination account.

We have no control over these charges.  If this is causing you a problem you should discuss it first with your payee.

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09: Does Bank of St. Helena offer Pension products?

Not as such, but please see the details of the New Life Account, which helps people save for their new life after retirement.

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10: What are the bank’s opening hours?

These are set out here on this website, as are the Public Holidays for the current year.

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11: How many accounts can I open?

We do not impose a limit.  Our system allows each customer number to have 999 accounts, but if that isn’t enough for you we can open you a second customer number!

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12: I’m coming to St. Helena.  Can I open an account in advance?

As long as you qualify to open an account (see the Terms and Conditions) you can open one in advance.  You will need to send us by fax (email is not acceptable for security reasons):

1) The completed application form (a blank can be downloaded from this website);

2) Copies of the photograph pages of all the applicants’ passports (or other official photo ID document);

3) Evidence that each applicant is entitled to open an account.

We will then open the account to receive payments.  Please note that it will not be possible for you to withdraw money from the account or make payments until you have visited one of our offices in person to present the original identity documents and give a specimen signature.

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13: Why can’t I send cash overseas?

You can, as long as you first pay it into your Bank of St. Helena account.  This is to comply with international agreements on the prevention of money laundering.  If you do not have an account with Bank of St. Helena you will need to open one first (see our Documents section for a suitable form).

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14: Does Bank of St. Helena issue Debit or Credit Cards?

One day we hope to, but at present the costs would be prohibitive.  To issue a debit card that can be used worldwide it is necessary to join one of the international card schemes and issue cards which conform to international rules, which would require considerable investment by us.  We could issue a type of card that could only be used in St. Helena, but this would require merchants to purchase terminal equipment that would not be compatible with other cards, and thus would be expensive for very little benefit.

We can, however, introduce customers to the Lloyds TSB Bank International Account, which does offer a Visa debit card that can be used internationally.  Please see our Services page for details.

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15: Are there ATMs on St. Helena?

Before we can install an ATM (ATM=’Automated Teller Machine’, i.e. a cash machine) we need to solve the problem of maintenance.  An ATM needs regular maintenance from a qualified engineer.  There could never be enough ATMs on St. Helena to justify having someone that qualified here full-time, so we would bring in an engineer on a ’flying visit’.  This is not practical until there is an airport on St. Helena.  Once the airport is operating we can consider installing ATMs.

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16: How do you set the interest rate on Loans and Accounts?

Our rates for Loans and Accounts are set against our Base Rate.  If our Base Rate rises, investors earn more interest but loans become more expensive.  If our Base Rate falls, loans become cheaper but investors earn less interest.  Changes in Base Rate can be disruptive, particularly for borrowers, so we try to avoid changing the Base Rate more often than is necessary.

The Base Rate is largely determined by the rate we can obtain for our investments.  In 2006/2007 just over 80% of the bank’s investments were in UK Gilts, and so the bank’s Base Rate is highly dependent on UK Interest Rates.  If these rise significantly we may raise our Base Rate and, similarly, if UK interest rates fall we may need to lower our Base Rate.

We provide a range of accounts, some with higher rates (eligibility and other restrictions apply).  See our Services page for more details.

Our current rates can be seen here.

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17: What happened to the St. Helena Government Savings Bank?

All the accounts with the St. Helena Government Savings Bank (GSB) were transferred to the Bank of St. Helena on 1st April 2004, and the GSB ceased to exist.  If you had an account with the GSB it is now a Bank of St. Helena account.

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18: Why do you no longer issue passbooks?

We now maintain all our records on computer so passbooks are redundant.  If you need to know the balance of your account at any time please call in.

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19: Does Bank of St. Helena offer Internet Banking?

When we last surveyed our customers on the subject very few wished to use Internet Banking.  It is not possible to justify the cost of the additional computer systems to meet the needs of very few customers.  We keep this constantly under review but do not expect the position to change in the near future.  In the meantime we do accept instructions by (signed) fax, and can undertake some transactions by telephone (but, please note, not by email).

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20: Can non-Saints to open an account?

Local banking regulations require that we open accounts only for Saints and those with a clear connection to St. Helena and its dependencies.  The qualifications can be viewed in our Documents section.  If these regulations ever change we will announce it.

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21: Which URL should I use - www.SaintHelenaBank.com or www.SaintHelenaBank.co.sh?

Internet communications between St. Helena and the rest of the world travel across a satellite link which has, inevitably, limited capacity.  To provide our customers and others, both on and off St. Helena, with the fastest possible access to our pages we therefore maintain two websites.  www.SaintHelenaBank.com is hosted off-island (currently, in the UK), and is likely to be best for off-island users, and www.SaintHelenaBank.co.sh is hosted on St. Helena and is likely to be best for local users.  Both provide the same content, so use whichever works best for you.

NB: please note that our email addresses always use the SaintHelenaBank.com suffix.  Email sent to an address with a SaintHelenaBank.co.sh suffix will not be delivered.

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22: Can I send instructions by email?

Email is perhaps the most efficient means of international communication we have available today.  It is faster than post and cheaper than both telephone and fax.  Unfortunately it is also probably the globe’s most insecure means of communication.

In travelling between sender and recipient the email passes through many computers, each of which may choose to take a copy and retain it for an indefinite period.  Emails are not encrypted (coded) so anyone with a computer can read the message.

Bank of St. Helena takes your privacy very seriously.  For that reason we prefer not to send personal information, including account balances, to you by email.  We will do so only where we are satisfied that the email address we have is really yours and that you understand and accept the risks involved.

In addition, with relatively little computer knowledge it is possible to fake an email; that is, make it appear to come from someone else.  Everyone with an email system has probably received emails purporting to come from major banks and requesting personal account details.  This so called ‘phishing’ scam is made easier because it is relatively simple to make the email appear to come from the bank in question, when really it does not.

Therefore we cannot accept instructions by email, as we cannot be certain that the email did really come from the account holder.

Furthermore, Bank of St. Helena will never send you an email requesting that you send us personal or account details.  If you receive such an email purporting to come from us IT IS A FAKE and you should delete it (there is no point in forwarding it to us or the police as there is no global jurisdiction to trace or bring the perpetrators to justice).

We continuously monitor developments in technology and, should a secure form of email become readily available, will endeavour to offer this communication medium to our customers.

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23: What does Bank of St. Helena charge for basic banking services?

To help our customers, all our basic banking services are free.

Many banks around the world charge customers for basic services, such as paying in money, making withdrawals and transfers or obtaining balances.  We try as far as possible not to charge for these services.  The services we do charge for (international payments and foreign exchange transactions) are those where we ourselves are charged for the facilities we use in providing the service.  We pass these charges on to the users of the service (the alternative would be for the costs to be shared amongst all our customers).

This applies to our personal and business customers.

Please note that charities registered in St. Helena can apply to be exempt from all non-interest banking charges.  Please contact us for details.

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24: Where can I obtain a copy of the bank’s annual accounts?

A copy is posted in every office, and the full accounts can be downloaded from this website (see the Documents section).  We can also print a copy for you - please just ask.

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25: Why have I received an email asking me to confirm my account details?

Users of the Internet will almost certainly receive emails purporting to come from banks asking them to ’confirm’ their bank account details, for various reasons.  You should be aware that these are never really from the bank in question, and are examples of the so-called ’phishing’ scam.  If you reply the sender, who is invariably a criminal who has faked the bank’s details, will use your account details to take money from your account.  Some of these emails look very convincing but they are always fake, as no genuine bank will ever ask you for your account details in this way.  The emails also sometimes contain viruses.  Always just delete these emails.  If you have replied to one of these emails and sent any Bank of St. Helena account details please let us know and we will try to prevent you from being robbed.

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26: Why can’t I get information about my friends’ accounts for them?

Bank of St. Helena takes customer confidentiality very seriously.  Unless you can present written and signed permission from the owner of the account we will not disclose any information to you about it, or even confirm that the account exists.  The only exception to this occurs if the Court orders us to do so (which it may do in connection with a legal issue).  This is as set out in the Bank of St. Helena Ordinance 2003 Section 9. (1): "No person appointed to carry this Ordinance into effect shall disclose the name of any depositor or the amount which may have been deposited or withdrawn by any depositor except in due course of law, or to such person or persons as may be appointed to assist in carrying this Ordinance into operation."

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27: Where can I learn more about banking and banking terminology?

The Wikipedia provides a significant amount of freely available banking information.  A good place to start is with this searchOur Wikipedia page is here.

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