BankingBusiness

Comments about Bank Accounts in Costa Rica

Are you looking at opening an account in Costa Rica? I’ll tell you based on my experience what are the options and certain preliminary recommendations for the process.

When I got my first job, I saw the need to open a bank account to get my paycheck deposited into. I was required to bring a personal identification in good condition, five thousand colones, and a utility bill. At that time the option was just to open a savings account.  With the passing of time (and with the advancement of technology) requirements have changed for safety and agility.

Currently I use four accounts under my name in different banks, this is mainly because the companies or institutions make alliances with specific banks for different types of transactions. There is not one bank that addresses all of the needs for the customer.

It is noteworthy that the Costa Rican banking system consists of: Central Bank, three state banks (Banco de Costa Rica, Banco Nacional, and Banco Popular) and numerous private banks such as  Davivienda, BAC San José, Lafise, Cathay Bank, Scotia Bank, among others.

There some key differences between the banks. Just to name a few:

  • While government banks are backed by the Costa Rican Government, private banks do not have that protection. This means that if by any reason, a government bank falls into bankruptcy or has liquidity issues, the Government of Costa Rica will guarantee the refund of customer’s deposits. Unfortunately, it has happened in the past. In the 1990’s Banco Anglo had to close due to bad management, and in recent years, the Bancrédito was absorbed by Banco de Costa Rica due to cashflow issues.
  • Private banks are more likely to have better customer service than government banks. BAC San Jose and Scotiabank have proven to be more customer oriented than other banks.
  • The availability of branches may vary from bank to bank. Certainly, all banks have a strong presence in the Central Valley, but the farther away that you are the fewer banks that you will find. Banco Nacional and Banco de Costa Rica have a strong presence around the country. BAC San José leads the private banks with the number of branches available.
  • Online Banking. BAC San Jose has a user friendly website, it can certainly improve a lot more, but it is as good as it gets. The user portal for Banco de Costa Rica does not make sense.

If you are foreigner, is it more difficult to open a bank account?

  • The requirements vary by bank, but generally it is required to produce the following:
  • DIMEX (green card),
  • proof of residence,
  • proof of income (documentation of the legal origin of the funds) and,
  • in the case of US citizens, it is required to complete the FATCA form.

For people without residency (tourist) it is still possible to open an account with a bank, but the account will be restricted to transactions of no more than $1,000 USD per month. In addition, it is not possible to complete wire transfers between banks for people with this type of restricted account.

For people with a corporation, the situation can be quite different. While corporate accounts are not restricted, the challenge is to produce the plethora of documents they require to open an account. In addition to the documents required for individuals, it is also required to produce:

  • Certificate of Good Standing
  • Certificate of Stock Ownership
  • Articles of incorporation
  • Utility bill for the address of the company
  • Certificate of income, and if the business is new, then an income projection.
  • If one of the shareholders is a US citizen, then it is required to complete the FATCA form.
  • Some banks may require additional information or documents.

In any case, opening a bank account in Costa Rica may prove challenging, especially when it comes to corporations and foreign nationals. As stated, requirements will vary from bank to bank, and it is always worthwhile looking for options with local credit unions, some of which are, CoopeAlianza, Coopenae, Coopeservidores, Grupo Mutual, among other.

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The Author

Maria Fernanda Alvarado

Maria Fernanda Alvarado

6 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Nataliya Schulman
    January 22, 2020 at 3:20 am — Reply

    It’s worth it to mention that it takes a very long time from the date documents to open a bank account are submitted to when the institution approves the account. DaVivienda took 4 weeks, BAC San Jose took 3. In the states it is one day. It is helpful to manage timing expectations as well as required documentation.

  2. Avatar
    Matt
    January 28, 2020 at 12:10 am — Reply

    Rentista applicants must demonstrate that they have $60000 in an account, with $2500 to be disbursed monthly. The disbursal guarantee is very difficult to get from a US bank, and most recommendations I’ve seen online are that one use a Costa Rican bank.

    Given the restrictions you outline for foreigners on a tourist visa, how does one get $60000 into a Costa Rican bank?

    Thanks!

    • Irene Brenes
      January 30, 2020 at 5:11 pm — Reply

      Certain banks, such as Scotiabank, Popular Valores and Davivienda have a special program for people who wish to open bank accounts to deposit the $60,000 for the Rentista category. OLS has established a relationship within some of these banks and we work directly with them so that they guide our clients with this particular matter.

  3. Avatar
    Barbara
    January 28, 2020 at 4:25 am — Reply

    At what bank can a tourist or non-resident open an account?

    • Irene Brenes
      January 30, 2020 at 5:15 pm — Reply

      Hello Barbara, various Banks such as BAC San Jose allow foreign nationals to open bank accounts, with certain restrictions.

    • Jeffrey Zamora
      January 30, 2020 at 5:28 pm — Reply

      Barbara, adding to Irene’s answer, some of the restrictions that we have seen banks giving to tourists opening accounts are limits on the amount of monthly transactions, for example no more than $2000/month.

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