The Costa Rican government owns the national banks and Costa Rican laws governing banking secrecy apply to them. These were the only banks that were permitted under law to operate checking and savings accounts in Costa Rica until 1996 when private banks were permitted to compete in this area.
Accounts can be operated in both US dollars or in colones.
The government of Costa Rica guarantees without limit all deposits of its government owned banks belonging to the National Banking System of Costa Rica.
The national banks can be slow and bureaucratic but are slowly becoming more competitive. If you need to open an account it is prudent to go with a friend who has an account already opened in the bank that you wish to do business with. This will expedite the process considerably. Checking accounts normally require $US500 to open. Savings accounts normally require less money to open but require personal attendance to do transactions and no checks are issued. There are no minimum balances for these accounts and checking and deposit charges are minimal. Most banks have ATM machines and issue debit cards.
When making deposits, consider the following:
The State Commercial Banks are:
Banco Nacional de Costa Rica
Banco de Costa Rica
Banco Credito Agricola de Cartago
Banco Popular — formed under a special agreement by the Costa Rican Government
Private banks offer full service banking including foreign currency exchange, loans, money transfers, letters of credit, mortgages and collections. Service charges for account operations at private banks can be higher than at the national banks when the minimum deposit balance is not maintained. The deposit required to open a checking account varies but is usually averages from $1,000 - $1,500 US.
The private banks are:
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