Living & retiring in Costa Rica:
Costa Rica Banking - What Do I Need to Open a Bank Account in Costa Rica?
With a handful of state-owned banks and around 19 private commercial banks, there is no lack of options if you’re looking to open an account in Costa Rica. All of these banks offer services to foreigners, whether residents, students or workers. The majority offer accounts in colones or dollars, and in some cases, euros.
The first decision you must make is whether to open an account with a private or a Costa Rica state bank. State-owned banks guarantee all deposits and have the most branch and ATM locations. For example, Banco Costa Rica (BCR) offers the most ATM locations all around Costa Rica. While there are a number of advantages to state banks, there is one very important downside to keep in mind: long lines.
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Patience is the first requirement when doing business with state-run banks in Costa Rica. If you simply do not have the time or patience to wait, consider one of the private banks, such as the Canadian-owned Scotiabank. In addition to much shorter wait times, many of the private banks are more likely to have a banker or teller that can assist you in English if your Spanish is limited.
What do you need to open an account?
Whether you’ve chosen a state-run or private bank to open a savings account, there are a number of guidelines:
1) Identification - All banks will require your passport if you’re not a Costa Rica resident, and may ask for an additional form of identification, such as a driver’s license (from country of origin is acceptable).
2) Utility Bill - You’ll also need to obtain a copy of a utility bill that confirms the address where you reside in Costa Rica.
3) Purpose in Costa Rica - This requirement varies bank to bank, but if you’re a retired Costa Rica resident, you’ll want to bring your residency card or some document from immigration or your lawyer that shows you’re in the process of obtaining it. Students should provide a letter from the institution where they study stating their purpose in Costa Rica, and any foreign workers should provide their orden patronal – a small document that reports income and proves payment into social security, or La Caja.
4) Initial Deposit - This amount varies widely, ranging from 3,000 - 25,000 colones, or $10 - $500 for accounts in dollars.
5) Letters of Reference - Most Costa Rica banks will require an average of two reference letters. There is some variation in what is expected, but in general, these are letters from other banks where you have made deposits. They can also be as simple as letters from friends who have accounts in the bank where you are applying, stating your relationship and their confidence in your reliability. In fact, you can help facilitate the process if they can accompany you to the bank.
As long as you’re not rushed and have all your required documents, you will find most Costa Rica bankers and tellers to be very friendly and helpful.
When doing your banking, don't forget to bring a book and avoid going to the bank the last friday of the month. (Lines may go out the doors on paydays). Dec is the worst month, and of course before any holidaysl
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