Banking in Costa Rica

By Betsy Burlingame

Last updated on: Jul 29, 2019

Cigna International Health Insurance

Summary: Information for expats living in Costa Rica about banking in Costa Rica, wire transfers, banking fees, banking limitations for those on a tourist visa and more.

Living in Costa Rica - Banking in Costa Rica

Can I Have My US Social Security Checks Direct Deposited in Costa Rica?

According to the US Embassy in Costa Rica: Receiving U.S. federal benefits via direct deposit is mandated by U.S. law. Social Security Beneficiaries in Costa Rica have several options for receiving benefits via direct deposit:

  1. Direct Deposit to a U.S. Bank Account ? You will need to supply the U.S. account information to the Federal Benefits Unit. The best way to provide your U.S. Bank information to the Federal Benefits Unit is by fax (hyperlink to Fax #) or using our online form.
  2. Corresponding direct deposit in U.S. dollars to a Costa Rican savings account through the Bank of New York Mellon by providing one of the following banking institutions with your completed enrollment form:
  3. International Direct Deposit through any Costa Rican Bank. You will need to complete form SSA-1199-OP-51 with your bank and return it to the Federal Benefits Unit via fax and/or mail. Note: If you fax or mail documents to our unit please make sure to include your name, claim number, e-mail address, and two telephone numbers where we can reach you.
  4. Direct Express ? https://www.usdirectexpress.com

Is it Difficult to Open an Bank Account in Costa Rica?

"I was easily able (in Spanish) to open an account at Bank of Costa Rica and at same time request social security to be deposited automatically. I opened the acct on the 15th of the month, and the 1st of the next month my social security was in there. I was shocked. (the first time you get it on the 1st, thereafter at 9am on the 3rd. Easy as pie. But a guy in the cafe told me that he had wrestled with the bank guy for one hour trying to open an account. But the second he said that he wanted social security deposited automatically, everything went fast. SO, I began my conversation with 'I would like an account and have my social security deposited automatically'. He immediately started doing it, but what was funny was, after he took care of account papers, he asked, do you still want your soc sec deposited. I said Yes. But it insinuated I would not have had to. I think what helps is having all the needed documents, speaking in Spanish (look up all the terms you will need in dictionary) and act like you have done your homework, instead of marching in speaking English," wrote one expat in Costa Rica.

Expat Banking in Costa Rica

Need an expat bank? TransferWise is an online account that lets you send money, get paid, and spend money internationally. With a TransferWise account, you can send money abroad, get paid in other currencies, and spend abroad on the TransferWise debit Mastercard. Learn more about TransferWise or open an account.

Best Banks for Expats in Costa Rica

In a thread about the Banking in Costa Rica, a newcomer asked, "Any recommendations regarding which banks are the Best to use in Costa Rica???"

"I started with Banco Nacional, but one thing I don't like about them is (in Grecia) that everyone can see what you are doing at the ATM. I ended up later closing the account," commented one expat.

"I also like Bank of Costa Rica because they have separate little rooms for using ATM, with partially frosted windows. Also have locks which I normally do not use unless the security guard is not there or no one around," added another expat.

"Not all Bank of Costa Rica locations have separate rooms for ATMs. The BCR in Tamarindo has one exterior ATM in a public courtyard, and their seating area for banking is small, often requiring some people to wait outside. Banco Nacional in Tamarindo is much nicer. So visit each of the bank branches in your area. I currently have accounts at both BCR and BNCR. I encountered problems with BCR when setting up a CD for Rentista Residency so now I generally prefer BNCR," explained another expat.

Consider Opening Several Accounts in Costa Rica

"For me making sure I use credit cards with no foreign transaction fee, debit cards with no ATM fees. And several accounts in case for some reason one doesn't work or you lose your card," commented one expat.

Banking is Limited If You Have a Tourist Visa

While still not a 'legal resident', the banks will likely not permit you to deposit more than $1000 a month, so if you need more funds, you will have to use the ATM or make a wire transfer, both of which you will have to pay for. Be prepared to tell them where the funds are originating. Also the bank will likely only offer you basic electronic services. Once you have gained legal residency, you will be required to produce proof that your SS/guaranteed for life pension has been transferred into CR when you go to get your cedula renewed," explained an expat in Costa Rica.

"As I recall we were able to open BCR savings acct with just passport, though limited to deposits less than $1000 per month. Received a debit card to go with it. Local experience is that Scotia has more English speaking tellers but BCR is pretty much everywhere," said another expat.

Wire Transfers in Costa Rica & Wire Fees

In a thread about money in Costa Rica, one expat asked, "Anyone have ideas about getting money to Costa Rica from US banks without $40 wire fees each month that is charged by my US bank? I have a savings account with BCR. I am limited to having a balance of $1500 US per month the bank said. Has anyone opened a checking account and deposited a physical check each month to avoid these fees? BCR said it takes 3 weeks for US check to clear. Is this the best system? This account would be used to pay the electric, water, and cell phone, cable bill etc online. Thanks!!"

"In general, I have found the method of depositing a US check every month and allowing about 30 days for it to clear is the most cost effective method to bring moderate amounts of money to CR. (I pay the wire transfer fees for large amounts, such as to buy a car). I opened an account at BCR after I got residency and can now deposit up to $2500 each month by check, with no additional fees. I also just opened a new account at Banco Nacional, but they said that they charge a $40 fee for a US check deposit over $1000! So I started with a $1000 check deposit with no added fees, and it cleared after 15 days - and then I deposited another check for $1000," replied one expat.

"I have an account with Banco America Central. My deposits are ready to use as soon as the deposit is made. I pay a $6 a month fee, nothing else. Money transfers from the US are always in my account here within two working days. Opening the account required no more than my passport and filling out a considerable number of application pages. However, all my transactions are from US Federal Institutions, Social Security, Dept of Defense, Energy Research and Development Administration. I keep banking in Costa Rica to a minimum. And under $5000 to simplify things for my accountant. Preferring Swiss bank in Basel. Also I have had no use for credit cards in nearly 45 years. Only debit cards. With cars as well as homes I have always paid cash or balance in 30 days. Wiring money is expensive to North America, inexpensive to other Central American countries," explained another expat in Costa Rica.

"We personally used a company called Desyfin Financiera. We were and continue to be pleased with their service. I don't know what area you are in, but they have offices here and there. We use the one in Grecia. I did all in Spanish, and they have no one who speaks English well, but they can help you wire money in and would be $25 for even a chunk. Then you can put in an account in dollars or colones. But the account in colones you earn about 3.5%. You can pay bills from it. You need proof where the money came from though, if from sale of house or long standing savings account or whatever. If you want to invest in CD's, you can earn about 8% and more depending on length up to 2 years. Also, something you cannot do in US, you can receive your interest at end of term, every 3 months, or monthly at a slightly less rate. After you have your cedula, you can get CD's at Coop Grecia for about 9.25%. In colones. Can get in dollars but only about 2% or so, can't remember exactly. Desyfin has been around about 25 yrs and Coop Grecia over 50 yrs," said another expat.

Banking in Costa Rica? TransferWise is an online account that lets you send money, get paid, and spend money internationally. With a TransferWise account, you can send money abroad, get paid in other currencies, and spend abroad on the TransferWise debit Mastercard.

About the Author

Betsy Burlingame Betsy Burlingame is the Founder of Expat Exchange. She launched Expat Exchange in 1997 as her Master's thesis project at NYU. Some of Betsy's more popular articles include 6 Best Places to Live in Costa Rica, 12 Things to Know Before Moving to The Dominican Republic and 7 Tips for Obtaining Residence in Italy. Betsy loves to travel and spend time with her family. Connect with Betsy on LinkedIn.

Cigna Expat Health InsuranceExpatriate Health Insurance

Get a quote for expat health insurance in Costa Rica from our partner, Cigna Global Health.
Get a Quote

Join our Costa Rica Expat Forum

Visit our Costa Rica Forum and talk with other expats who can offer you insight and tips about living in , Costa Rica.

More about Costa Rica

17-Best-Places-to-Live-in-Costa-Rica

17 Best Places to Live in Costa Rica

Costa Rica has a lot to offer expats with its tropical climate, eco-friendly culture, beautiful beaches, welcoming people, good healthcare system and relative safety. Many expats warn newcomers about the high cost of housing and food. In this updated version of the best places to live in Costa Rica we cover many more locations such as Playa Flamingo, Nosara, Lake Arenal, Jaco Beach and Ojochal.

Costa Rica has a lot to offer expats with its tropical climate, eco-friendly culture, beautiful beaches, welcoming people, good healthcare system and relative safety. Many expats warn newcomers about...

Expats-Talk-About-The-Biggest-Challenges-They-Face-Living-in-Latin-America

Expats Talk About The Biggest Challenges They Face Living in Latin America

Expats talk about some of the biggest challenges they've faced living in Latin America. Whether you're moving to Panama City or Punta del Este, this article is a must read to help you prepare (hint: you'll be much happier if you learn the language) and adjust your expectations (realities: the roads are rough, the pace of life is slower and bureaucracy is unavoidable). Despite all of the challenges, the list of what expats like about life in Latin America far exceeds the challenges.

Expats talk about some of the biggest challenges they've faced living in Latin America. Whether you're moving to Panama City or Punta del Este, this article is a must read to help you prepare (hint:...

Costa-Rica-vs-Panama

Cost of Living: Costa Rica vs. Panama

People considering a move to Central America often narrow down their list to Panama and Costa Rica. Expats talk about the cost of living in Panama and Costa Rica - housing costs, gas, car, electric, internet, groceries, budgets for various lifestyles and more.

People considering a move to Central America often narrow down their list to Panama and Costa Rica. Expats talk about the cost of living in Panama and Costa Rica - housing costs, gas, car, electric, ...

Expat-Costa-Rica

10 Expats Share Tips for Moving to Costa Rica

Expats in Costa Rica answer the question: If a friend of yours was thinking of moving here, what other advice would you give them. One expat summed it up perfectly when he said not to let your desire to live in paradise get in the way of thinking about the logistics. Here's what other expats had to say.

Expats in Costa Rica answer the question: If a friend of yours was thinking of moving here, what other advice would you give them. One expat summed it up perfectly when he said not to let your desir...

Costa-Rica-Residency

Costa Rica Residency

Applying for residency in Costa Rica can be a daunting process. Which type of residency is right for me? Do I need an attorney? Do I have to leave the country every 90 days? What is a cedula? This article answers these and many other questions.

Applying for residency in Costa Rica can be a daunting process. Which type of residency is right for me? Do I need an attorney? Do I have to leave the country every 90 days? What is a cedula? This...

6-Things-to-Do-in-Jaco,-Costa-Rica

6 Things to Do in Jaco, Costa Rica

An expat in Jaco, Costa Rica shares 6 fun activities for expats (and tourists) to do in Jaco. From surfing to bar hopping to shopping for organic fruits and veggies at the local markets, Jason Mueller shares some great activities.

An expat in Jaco, Costa Rica shares 6 fun activities for expats (and tourists) to do in Jaco. From surfing to bar hopping to shopping for organic fruits and veggies at the local markets, Jason Muelle...

5-Tips-For-Living-in-San-Jose,-Costa-Rica

5 Tips For Living in San Jose, Costa Rica

The majority of expats in San Jose, actually choose to live not in the city, but outside of it. There are great options in the surrounding area, including places that are closer to the coast than San Jose.

The majority of expats in San Jose, actually choose to live not in the city, but outside of it. There are great options in the surrounding area, including places that are closer to the coast than San...

Cigna International Health Insurance

Write a Comment about this Article

Sign In to post a comment.
addacomment

Comments about this Article

hockeyrick
Jul 29, 2019 15:37

No one makes any mention if the online banking(either pc or smartphone) sites/apps have multi languages or not. In Asia you ALWAYS have a pulldown menu or the local/English tab. What about in CR? Mexico was usually just Spanish, with some subtitles. How language friendly are the various bank sites and apps?

Updated On: Mar 26, 2019

First Published: Mar 26, 2019

Cigna Expat Health InsuranceExpatriate Health Insurance

Get a quote for expat health insurance in Costa Rica from our partner, Cigna Global Health.
Get a Quote

Culture-Shock-in-Mal-PaisAn Expat Talks about Culture Shock & Living in Mal Pais, Costa Rica

An expat in Mal Pais, Costa Rica provides a detailed culture shock report that offers a great example of someone who has learned to roll with the punches that come with expat life in a somewhat remote location. Covers everything from mosquitoes, to finding products from the local grocer, to getting your laptop repaired. And don't for get about the fruit bats and monkey poop!

An expat in Mal Pais, Costa Rica provides a detailed culture shock report that offers a great example of someone who has learned to roll with the punches that come with expat life in a somewhat remote...

Living-in-MatapaloAn Expat Discusses Living in Matapalo, Costa Rica

An expat in Matapalo, Costa Rica talks about living in this laid back beach town on the southern Pacific coast of Costa Rica. He advises other newcomers to be prepared to blend in and slow down.

An expat in Matapalo, Costa Rica talks about living in this laid back beach town on the southern Pacific coast of Costa Rica. He advises other newcomers to be prepared to blend in and slow down. ...

17-Best-Places-to-Live-in-Costa-Rica17 Best Places to Live in Costa Rica

Costa Rica has a lot to offer expats with its tropical climate, eco-friendly culture, beautiful beaches, welcoming people, good healthcare system and relative safety. Many expats warn newcomers about the high cost of housing and food. In this updated version of the best places to live in Costa Rica we cover many more locations such as Playa Flamingo, Nosara, Lake Arenal, Jaco Beach and Ojochal.

Costa Rica has a lot to offer expats with its tropical climate, eco-friendly culture, beautiful beaches, welcoming people, good healthcare system and relative safety. Many expats warn newcomers about...

Expats-Talk-About-The-Biggest-Challenges-They-Face-Living-in-Latin-AmericaExpats Talk About The Biggest Challenges They Face Living in Latin America

Expats talk about some of the biggest challenges they've faced living in Latin America. Whether you're moving to Panama City or Punta del Este, this article is a must read to help you prepare (hint: you'll be much happier if you learn the language) and adjust your expectations (realities: the roads are rough, the pace of life is slower and bureaucracy is unavoidable). Despite all of the challenges, the list of what expats like about life in Latin America far exceeds the challenges.

Expats talk about some of the biggest challenges they've faced living in Latin America. Whether you're moving to Panama City or Punta del Este, this article is a must read to help you prepare (hint:...

10-Expats-Talk-About-What-Its-Like-Living-in-Costa-Rica10 Expats Talk About What It's Like Living in Costa Rica

Expats living in Costa Rica talk about Pura Vida, deciding where to live in Costa Rica, meeting people and more.
Expats living in Costa Rica talk about Pura Vida, deciding where to live in Costa Rica, meeting people and more....

Top-5-Reasons-Expats-Move-to-Central-AmericaTop 5 Reasons Expats Move to Central America

From lower cost of living to affordable healthcare and beachfront living, expats discuss the top reasons they moved to Central America.
From lower cost of living to affordable healthcare and beachfront living, expats discuss the top reasons they moved to Central America....

Copyright 1997-2020 Burlingame Interactive, Inc.

Privacy Policy Legal