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Costa Rica - Banking

Costa Rica has a wide range of different banks, with options for both state-owned and private banking. Citibank and Scotiabank have branches in Costa Rica, along with several other international banks. Workers, students or residents can open an account with any bank in Costa Rica however only some of Costa Rica’s banks offer accounts to tourists. You can normally open an account in Colones or Dollars (Colones is the official currency of Costa Rica but Dollars are widely used), and some private banks also offer Euro accounts. Foreigners may find that the level of service they receive in Costa Rican banks is below the standard they are used to in their own country but it is advisable to treat this as the norm and not take it too personally. There is a lot more paperwork involved with banking in Costa Rica and therefore everyday transactions are a much more laborious process.

There are many benefits to opening an account with a state-owned bank. Your deposits will be guaranteed and they have a more extensive network of branches and ATMs throughout the country. This is particularly important if you are based in a rural area as you may not have access to many of the private banks. The normal process is to open a ‘savings account’ which will accrue a small amount of interest on the balance deposited. Debit cards are used widely with these types of accounts and it is possible to receive an international debit card which can be used abroad. The main drawback of using a state-owned bank is that they tend to be much busier with very long queues – particularly on the 15th and 31st of each month which are the most common paydays for Costa Ricans.

The benefits of using a private bank are that there are shorter waiting times and a faster service, and that their services are more likely to be bilingual.

When opening a bank account you should check the specific requirements of the bank you are applying to and should visit the bank in person. The usual requirements are as follows:

  • You must present your DIMEX card (Documento de Identidad Migratorio para Extranjeros). DIMEX is an identity card given to all foreigners living in Costa Rica. If you are in Costa Rica as a tourist then you need only show your passport.
  • You will be asked for a minimum deposit when opening the account. This can vary between different banks and different types of accounts, and can be anywhere between $25 - $1000.
  • You will be asked to provide a utility bill as proof of residence.
  • You will need to provide proof of income.
  • If you are a US citizen you will need to complete several tax forms and documentation to inform the IRS that you are opening an offshore bank account.

Here is a list of the contact details for the most popular banks in Costa Rica:

Citibank Costa Rica
Private, international bank
Tel: +506 2299 0299

Banco de Costa Rica (BCR)
State-owned Costa Rican bank
Tel: +506 2211 1111
Email: CentroAsistenciaBCR@bancobcr.com

Banco National de Costa Rica
State-owned Costa Rican bank
Tel: +506 2212 2000

Banco Promerica
Private, international bank
Tel: +506 2505-7000

BAC San Jose
Private, international bank
Tel: +506 2295 9797

Private, international bank
Tel: +506 2519 1300

Many banks offer English language services, however are unlikely to offer services designed specifically for expats. Typical opening hours are 9am – 4pm on weekdays, with some banks opening longer on evenings and opening at weekends. Many banks have online banking services through which you can pay utility bills, property taxes and other payments.

Overdraft facilities are available with the large international banks such as Citibank and Scotiabank. If you are looking to take out a loan in Costa Rica you must have a residency permit and normally be in employment. The interest rates for loans will vary between different banks therefore it is worth doing some research to find the best rate. The requirements for taking a loan will also differ from bank to bank but they may ask you to provide any of the following:

  • Passport and other forms of ID
  • Social security number
  • Income tax statements
  • Bank and credit card statements
  • Certification of home ownership

Expat Health Insurance Partners

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