I get asked this all the time. “Can I open a bank account in Costa Rica”? The simple answer is yes! But you need to know the limitations that are involved. It also depends if you are opening a personal account or a corporate account. There are restrictions set by the “SUGEF”, the General Superintendent of Financial Institutions. This is basically the banking regulatory commission of Costa Rica.
Most foreigners that own property in Costa Rica come for three months of the year or maybe three to four times a year on vacations. It makes it a lot easier if they have a local bank account. Then there are expats, like me, that live here year-round and have gone through the immigration process.
There are government-owned banks in Costa Rica as well as private banks and financiers. Banco de Costa Rica (BCR) is the largest and most-utilized, then there is Banco Nacional (BNCR), Banco Popular, and more. Personally, I bank with Banco BCT, a privately owned bank that is more of a business bank, yet it offers everything the government banks do and in my branch, they speak great English.
If you are a resident of Costa Rica, meaning you have gone through the residency process and have been granted residency (not a perpetual tourist and that’s another subject altogether) it is very easy to open an account. You can open a savings or checking account in either dollars or colones, the local currency, or both. The bank will require copies of proof of identity, such as a passport and proof of legal residency, your DIMEX. DIMEX is a foreigner’s residency card, sometimes referred to as a Cedula. The bank, depending on which one you choose, may need to know how much money you plan on depositing and withdrawing in the account per month. I know it sounds weird but it is all related to the prevention of money laundering. Being a resident, the service options are even greater, let me explain.
By having a full account, whether checking or savings, you can pay your Costa Rica bills online through the bank’s online banking system. Services like water, electricity and cable. If you want to transfer or wire money to someone else in the country you can do it through the SINPE wire system of Costa Rica. If you want to wire funds out of Costa Rica, no problem, that can be done as well. Basically, every type of banking you do in North America or Europe you can do here – all right from your smartphone or laptop.
If you are the owner of a Costa Rica registered corporation, you are in luck. Even non-residents of Costa Rica can have a full working bank account in a company name. However, you will have to secure certain documents from your attorney here in Costa Rica. For example, a shareholder’s certification. A lot of foreigners that buy property in Costa Rica own them through corporations for both liability protection and the opportunity to open a full bank account.
Even if you are not a legal resident you can still open a personal bank account in Costa Rica, but you will be limited to only $1,200.00 USD per month in or out of the account. You will be able to pay local bills online but you cannot wire funds to anyone. These strict policies related to non-resident bank accounts can be a hassle but they are designed to stop money laundering.
So, can you open a bank account in Costa Rica? YES is the answer!
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