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.