How do I open a bank account in Costa Rica ?
This is a logical question for those of you that are considering living or doing business in Costa Rica. More so if you are already established in Costa Rica. The answer to the question really depends on your legal immigration status in the country and the bank that you will be working with.
If you are a legal resident holding a valid residency status in Costa Rica then you should be allowd to open an account in Costa Rica. On the other hand if you do not have legal residency status approved then it will depend on the bank. Some banks will not open personal accounts for non-residents at all while others will.
Some non-residents will try to open a bank account in Costa Rica by using a Costa Rican corporation. This is certainly a possibility and once again it will depend on the bank that you want to work with to determine what their internal requirements for opening accounts.
In Costa Rica you have 2 types of banks. The government owned state banks and the privately owned banks as follows:
Government owned banks:
- Banco de Costa Rica
- Banco Nacional de Costa Rica
- Banco Crédito Agrícola de Cartago Banco de Costa Rica
- Banco Popular y de Desarollo Comunal
The Privately owned banks in Costa Rica are:
- Banco BCT S.A.
- Banco Cathay de Costa Rica S.A.
- Banco Davivienda (Costa Rica) S.A.
- Banco de Soluciones Bansol de Costa Rica S.A.
- Banco General (Costa Rica) S.A.
- Banco Improsa S.A.
- Banco Lafise S.A.
- Banco Promérica de Costa Rica S.A.
- Scotiabank de Costa Rica S.A.
- Banco Bac San Jose, S.A.
Regardless of which bank you select to open your account you can be sure that you will hear a local expat complain about that bank. You will hear an expat that has a complaint about each and everyone of the banks listed above and for a variety of reasons. The reason for this is that expats are accustomed to a level of customer service and ease of operation in their country of origin that leads to frustration when they interact with a local bank. Why does this happen ? Generally the banking system in the U.S. and Europe do not impose upon their customers the type of scrutiny and paperwork that is required of banks in Costa Rica. As such to open a bank account in Costa Rica the customer almost feels like the bank is doing them a favor.
Therefore you should understand this local attitude when you walk into a bank and you will feel less frustrated when you walk out.
If you are considering living in the rural areas of Costa Rica you will find that Banco Nacional and Banco de Costa Rica have more branches in the rural areas of Costa Rica. Also these two banks have some of the best online payment software to pay utilities, property taxes and other payments. However, these are the two worst banks if you have to personally appear at branch offices to do any banking business. They generally have longer lines and extended wait times for customer service.
The documentation that you will need to open the account varies depending on the bank. Most of the them will require you to provide at least the following:
- 1. Copy of your passport or residency card
- 2. Reference letter from your current bank.
- 3. Reference letter from account holder (not all banks require this)
- 4. Tax return (Some private banks will ask for this)
- 5. 12 months of banking statements (some banks may ask for this)
- 6. Copy of your utility bill (all banks will ask for this)
- 7. If you own property copy of the deed (some banks will ask for this)
- 8. Know Your Customer Form (all banks require this). You will need to provide sufficient financial documentation to the satisfaction of the bank related to the source of your funds. This is where the tax returns and bank statement, brokerage statements all come into play.
- If you open the account in the name of a corporation then be prepared to provide additional documentation to include :
- 1. Certificate of corporate standing
- 2. Certification of disclosure of shareholders of the corporation
- 3. Certified Public Account statement of income or projected income
- 4. Cash flow statement signed by Corporate officer and C.P.A. (some banks will require this)
- 5. Copy of the bylaws of the corporation.
- Your best option is to research the banks indicated above and then contact or visit them directly to determine what their bank opening procedures are. I have found that some clients will go to one branch office and are told they cannot open an account and then go to a different branch of the same bank and are able to get the account opened.
- Be sure to show up with ALL the required documents to avoid processing delays. The bank will not open your account if any of the requested documents are missing.