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Costa Rica - Banking

Anyone may open a bank account in Costa Rica, you will need your passport or residency card. Tourists are not prohibited from opening an account, but most banks require a current utility bill as proof of your address and residency. Banks are subject to many of the 'Know your customer' reporting requirements to prevent money laundering, including the $10,000 transaction reporting limit. However, banking secrecy laws are in effect, so no government (or private) agency may get access to your specific account information without a court order. This makes Costa Rica a frequent choice for foreigners who would like to keep their assets protected from frivolous civil litigation in their home country.

Costa Rica's financial sector includes the Central Bank, 3 state-owned commercial banks, 12 private commercial banks, 1 workers' bank, 1 state-owned mortgage bank and 3 mutual house-building companies, 9 private finance companies and 28 savings and loans cooperatives. In addition, there are 2 money exchange houses, 30 investment and retirement funds or trusts run by both state and private commercial banks and the state insurance company.

Government banks - These banks offer you the advantage of being safer for your money, since the Costa Rican government backs them. They also have better coverage; practically any town in Costa Rica has a Banco Nacional and/or a Banco de Costa Rica too. They have a wide range of services. The disadvantages are mostly the long lines that occur in busy locations and on peak days (Monday morning, Friday afternoon, 1st, 15th, & 30th of each month, etc.) Although they may have an English speaker on the staff in the larger branches, smaller branches are not as likely to.

Private Banks - These banks offer you several advantages over the state banks: shorter lines, faster service, more English speaking staff and more agility in bringing new products and services into the market. The greatest disadvantage is the lack of deposit insurance. You will have to look closely at the corporation and its behavior when you use a private bank. That said, the government regulations do offer a measure of protection and your funds are safe under normal circumstances with any of the larger private banks.

Useful links:

Costa Rica's Central Bank:

Banco Central de Costa Rica

Costa Rica's State Banks:

Banco Nacional

Banco de Costa Rica


Private Banks:


Banco San Jose


Banco Cuscatlan



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