Whether you’re planning to settle in Costa Rica for the long term or simply looking for a safe place to exchange a few dollars, an important decision you will need to make is "What Bank Should I Use?" Costa Rica offers a wide range of banking and financial services catering to personal as well as business banking. Recent government reforms and the introduction of private banking have also made Costa Rica an attractive choice for investing.
Costa Rica’s banking system consists of the central bank; three state-owned banks, which account for nearly half of total banking assets; a state-owned mortgage bank; 18 commercial banks; four mutual house-building companies; 12 private finance companies; and 27 savings and loans cooperatives. In addition, there are 30 investment and retirement funds or trusts run by both state and private commercial banks and the state insurance company.
The Central Bank of Costa Rica is in charge of establishing banking policy. It is then up to the SUGEF (the General Supervisory Agency of Finance) to enforce compliance with Central Bank policies. All banks (both public and private) are subject to the policies dictated by the Banco Central de Costa Rica.
When choosing a bank, take into consideration both personal convenience and what fees the bank charges. Get information on the types of accounts available and their associated fees from several banks. Internet services offered by both state run and private banks have improved in leaps and bounds over the past couple of years.
Most banks in Costa Rica now offer savings and checking accounts in Dollars and Colones. Banks do differ, however, on the amount of time it takes to cash foreign checks and the availability of ATMS. It is also very important to note that while interest is much higher on colón accounts, there is a monthly devaluation of the colón to the dollar, so you might not be earning as much as you expect. Many also offer Credit or Debit cards, if you meet the requirements (but not all are internationally accepted). All banks will also have different requirements for opening accounts or obtaining credit cards, possibly including banking or personal references, identification, and most likely minimum deposits. Opening hours for most banks are from 9 am to 3 pm.
State run banks are backed by the Costa Rican government and are therefore usually considered safer. They are also located in practically every town in Costa Rica. On the down side, long lines are frequent and bilingual staff is not always available (especially outside the central valley).
Private banks usually offer quicker and more personalized service, shorter lines and English speaking staff. However, they may have fewer branches available outside of the central valley. The great majority of private banks are connected with banks outside the country so that transfers can be done relatively quickly.
The following is a list of state run and private banks:
State Owned Banks
Banco Nacional de Costa Rica
Established in 1914, the Banco Nacional is the largest state commercial bank in both assets and number of branches.
Tel. (506) 212-2000
Fax. (506) 255-2436
Apdo. Postal: 6714-1000 San José
Banco Central de Costa Rica
Regulates Costa Rican banking policies.
Tel. (506) 243-3333
Fax. (506) 243-3011
Banco de Costa Rica
With branches throughout the country, Banco de Costa Rica is considered the most profitable and probably best-run state commercial bank.
Tel. (506) 287-9000
Fax. (506) 255-3316
Apdo. Postal: 10035-1000 San José
Banco Crédito Agrícola de Cartago
Is the smallest of the state run banks.
Tel. (506) 223-8855
Fax. (506) 222-1911
Apdo. Postal: 5572-1000 San José
Scotiabank offers a wide range of personal, commercial and retail, corporate, and trade finance services. With 13 branches across the country, and 1 more to be added to the network by the end of 2003, Scotiabank offers an extensive range of retail and commercial banking services.
Banco San José
The bank is part of the BAC Credomatic Network, comprised of eight banks in Central America, the Caribbean, and Panama, and Credomatic, the largest credit and debit card issuer and processor in the region. BAC Credomatic Network is the financial branch of Pellas' Group, a corporation with over 125 years of history.
Tel. (506) 256-9911
Tel. (506) 222-8208
Apdo. Postal: 5445-1000 San José
BANEX offers customers advanced on-line banking services as well as a en línea le ofrece un avanzado y poderoso sistema de tecnología financiera que lo provee de información las 24 horas de día los 365 días del año, permitiéndole de manera ágil y segura, administrar eficientemente sus fondos, realizar sus transferencias electrónicas y efectuar, mediante una novedosa plataforma, diversas consultas sobre sus cuentas, inversiones, créditos y otros aspectos financieros.
Tel. (506) 257-0522
Fax. (506) 256-0210
Apdo. Postal: 7983-1000 San José
Av. 1, C. Ctrl, Edificio Banex, San José
Corporation UBC International is the holding company that owns the Cuscatlan Groups in the region. This Group has duly regulated operations in El Salvador, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Panama and the United States of America, by means of family remittances. Corporate shareholders include partners such as the International Finance Corporation, IFC, in addition to the Central American partners of the most prestigious business groups of the region.
Tel. (506) 221-2845
Tel. (506) 220-2140
C. 28 y 30 P. Colón, San José
Established 1979, Corporación Interfin S.A. is dedicated to providing international financing and business services for industrial as well as commercial companies.
Offers a wide range of banking services but relatively few branches throughout the country.
Tel. (506) 290-2233
Tel. (506) 296-5721
Pavas, San José
Established in 1992, Promerica offers a wide range of financial services. Branches are available only in the central valley.
Tel. (506) 296-4848
Fax. (506) 232-5727
Pavas, San José