Money-Getting it, Carrying it and Spending it in Costa Rica Print e-mail this info

Cards, Checks and Cash

Bank/Debit Cards The best way to access your funds depends on your budget, length of stay, current credit card debt, and mathematical ability. —Generally the recommended way to access your funds while traveling in Costa Rica. Check with your bank before you travel to ensure that they charge reasonable fees and you will find that ATM access to your checking account is faster and cheaper than traveler's checks, safer than carrying large amounts of cash, and less nerve-wracking than dealing with unpredictable credit card fees.  You'll also be able to take advantage of cash discounts at many places that accept credit cards but only with a surcharge. The PLUS system is the most widely distributed international ATM (CIRRUS is available at many major tourist destinations).

Debit and Bank cards are convenient, safe and quick. You'll generally pay between 1% and 2% exchange commission, plus flat fees of $US 1-3 per transaction.

General tips for ATM (cash machine) use
In addition to the general common sense practices for using cash machines (don’t go alone at 2:00 a.m., withdraw $500, and then stand next to the machine counting it out loud) there a few others specific to traveling in Costa Rica.

In general be more circumspect when using the machines.  Stand close and block the view of the keypad when entering your pin.

Before you leave home, check with the card issuer to determine exchange rates and commissions, convenience fees, so you'll have an idea of how much they are charging to handle your money.  You can also ask for a list of machines that are within their system in Costa Rica to avoid ATM "roaming charges."

Bank cards (for savings or checking withdrawals) and debit cards usually cost less to use in ATM machines than credit cards.

ATM Locators for VISA/Plus, MC/Cirrus, AmEx cash machines in Costa RicaIf you are having trouble with a transaction be careful about repeating it because the machine may confiscate your card.

It's a good idea to have two different ATM cards. You'll have a better chance of matching the local system and avoiding fees, you'll have a backup if one card is eaten by the automatic teller, lost, or stolen, and sometimes even though the signs all say it will a particular card just won't work (it is still Central America after all).

Always try to use machines that are within your system (Plus, Cirrus, etc.) to minimize the transaction and convenience fees.

It's typically most cost effective to withdraw the maximum amount allowed (typically $US 300-500 in Costa Rica) because convenience fees are per transaction.

Money-Getting it, Carrying it and Spending it in Costa Rica
Atms/Cash Machines
Credit Cards
Traveler Checks

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