Living in Costa Rica – Most expats in Costa Rica decide at some point in time if they are living here that they want to set up a bank account. This could be because they are tired of standing in the 2 hour lines at the bank in order to cash a check and are ready to do online banking from home or just because it makes doing business easier.
Setting up a bank account in Costa Rica can be a nightmare but once you have an account banking is pretty straightforward. You may choose to have an account in Dollars or Colones; it would be useful to have both.
To open a bank account you will most likely need your passport, residency documents (to open a checking account), utility bills to prove your address, a letter of recommendation from a financial institution in your country, a letter from your employer with the official stamp of the company, and reference letters from current account holders at the bank you are applying at.
From your Costa Rican bank you can easily attain a debit card and after jumping through hoops maybe you can get a credit card. These can rarely be used outside of Costa Rica and can never be used online. ATMs are readily available in cities and towns but do close early for security reasons. Banks usually stay open from 9-4. Some have late (until 7p.m.) and weekend hours. Lines at the bank usually take at least an hour. On paydays (the second and last Fridays of the month) expect to wait hours.
Cashing bank checks usually means depositing them and getting the cash in 28 business days! It can be quicker if the check is from a Costa Rican bank but still usually takes 7 to 10 days if it is not from the bank with which you currently have an account. For any international transaction it will be quicker and cheaper to use Western Union.
You will want to check with the bank to find out what it’s requirements are to set up an account, but most are requiring you to be a resident to get a checking account. Getting your residency is another tough road to navigate, but that is another story.