Like all aspects of transitioning to a Costa Rican lifestyle, I’ve researched the best ways to open up an account with a Costa Rican bank. In all cases, having a Spanish translator present has been strongly endorsed. I tried to open an account by myself.
Why have a Costa Rican bank account? The fees from your U.S. bank can be onerous. My U.S. bank charges me 3% of any amount of cash I withdraw with my ATM account, plus a service fee of more than $1, PLUS a $5 surcharge for each cash withdrawal. Charges on my U.S. ATM card also incur two fees totaling about $3 each.
By opening up a Costa Rican bank account, I will be able to transfer funds from my U.S. bank, as needed, using my bank’s online bill payment process. The fee for this transfer is a flat $3 per transaction, so the savings are significant.
So I went to Banco de Costa Rica last week, armed with all the paperwork my research said I would need: a copy of my passport, a letter from my U.S. bank and utility bills showing my local address. I also had the form saying I had applied for residency.
After waiting about an hour for my turn in line, I discovered the bank teller did not know English. I handed him all my paperwork. He said he didn’t need to see my passport but did need to see some other sort of certification. He motioned like it would be some sort of card. I had no idea what he was talking about. I left.
So, two bits of advice: Make sure you have all the paperwork you will need, and bring a Spanish translator if you don’t have command of the language.