How to Handle Your Finances Now That You Live in Costa Rica
If you have opted to buy property and create a new life in a Costa Rica, you are likely faced with many exciting and wonderful prospects . . . and a few questions and challenges. One such challenge is figuring out what to do with your money. Should it all stay in an account back “home?” Or should you place some of it in a local account? Can you trust local banks? How do you choose a bank?
Here are some tips on managing your banking needs, and make the financial aspect of your life in Costa Rica a bit easier.
Should you open a local bank account in Costa Rica?
You definitely need to open a Costa Rican bank account if you are planning to buy property in Costa Rica. You will need an account to transfer money for your home purchase, and to hire a lawyer. It’s also important, as a Costa Rican resident, to establish a relationship with a bank.
You can still leave accounts open stateside, and manage your U.S. bills online by setting up direct payments or doing them manually each month.
Keep in mind, if you have U.S. bank accounts and are receiving money there and withdrawing in Costa Rica, ATM withdrawals can get expensive at $3 to $5 on each end of the transaction; the ATM fee and your bank’s fee. Also, you can sometimes get hit with exchange rate fees. Finally, remember that you are typically limited to withdrawals of $500 to $700 per day.
Is opening a local Costa Rica bank account difficult?
Opening a local bank account in Costa Rica is possible, and while doable, it can be a bit tricky. There is much more to it than there is in the United States. First, you cannot open an account at all if you are not a legal resident, so obtaining your residency must come first. Second, Costa Rica has measures in place to prevent against money laundering, and banks will require that you show proof of a local home address (like a utility bill), as well as proof of your identity. You will need to present a passport, and possibly an American driver’s license. And last, you must be prepared to fill out large amounts of paperwork.
It helps if you already have an established corporation, or if you engage the help of your attorney.
What Costa Rica bank should you choose?
Costa Rica has a number of different banking options, from state-run banks, to American bank affiliates, to private banks. Personal preferences vary, but the general consensus is that state-owned banks are the best way to go, as the government will insure your money.
How will you pay bills in Costa Rica?
While paying bills through the mail is common practice in the United States, it isn’t in Costa Rica. Online banking is available for many things, such as cable, cell phone payments, and utility companies- in fact many private institutions such as private schools are also set up to receive payments via transfer. In addition to that, you can transfer funds to another person or company, either within the same bank or to another bank by using their 17 digit “SIMPE” number and identification (Cedula) number. You can also pay many utility bills at grocery stores and or at the utility company office.
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