Citizens, expats and tourists wishing to make withdrawals with non-BCR cards will now be limited to $100 per transaction.

An issue has arisen with Banco de Costa Rica (BCR) that appears to be directed against expats and tourists in Costa Rica — particularly Americans. BCR has recently instituted a policy of dispensing a maximum of $100 USD per transaction from their ATMs, with a limit of two transactions a day. For people who pay their rent in dollars, this necessitates making several trips to the bank just to get sufficient dollars to pay rent.

My rent, for example, is greater than $1400.00 a month. BCR’s new policy forces me to make more than 7 trips to the bank just to obtain funds for rent. After broaching the issue with BCR on their Facebook page, they indicated that that this decision was motivated by a desire for better security for their customers. Apparently they have not only developed a prejudice against expats, but also they think we are stupid. Better security?

Below is a glimpse of the aforementioned conversation that took place on October 15, 2015 on the BCR Facebook.

  • Darlene Smith Mokrycki: Why in Atenas can I only get $100. I had to drive to the mall two days ago to get more, and it would only let me have 2 transactions there too of $100.
  • Banco de Costa Rica: In this case, when it comes to credit cards from outside the policy of the bank, and for the safety of the customer, one will only be allowed to remove $100 per day. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. [translated]
  • Darlene Smith Mokrycki: I have to go to the bank 14 times to get my rent… this is horrible! It’s not just an inconvenience, my rent is $1400… What about the poor tourists? Which tourists only spend $100 a day???

Other expats and customers have expressed their own dissatisfaction with the new policy. The following are quotations which can be found in the ensuing dialogue on the BCR Facebook page, dated October 16, 2015:

  • Diana MIskell Turlock I am not using a credit card. I am using a Canadian debit card and each withdrawal attracts a bank charge of $5.00 from the Canadian bank. We then do a conversion to colones… BCR obviously profits each time we do a withdrawal and a conversion. If this $100 a day policy continues, we will simply reconsider our continuing dealings with BCR.
  • Diana MIskell Turlock: Is BCR going to stop a customer from drawing more than 50,000 colones a day for safety reasons?
  • Katja Bader: BCR, thanks be to God there are still other banks in this country with a different policy. They are no any less secure than you, simply easier for tourists and foreigners in general. For 17 years I have been working with Banco Nacional and have been doing well. I recommend the same to all those having problems with this senseless policy.  [translated]
  • Mark Van Patten: It’s a problem for me as well. Limited to ₡50,000 [translated]

My personal theory is that BCR is trying to glean additional monies in conversion and cash advance fees from those who need more than this limit in dollars each day. They stated elsewhere on Facebook that if a customer needs more money they can come into the bank and take a cash advance. When I questioned how much this transaction inside the bank would cost, they were very evasive, saying that I need to ask my own bank. They ignored the fact that they would make a conversion fee on top of what my bank would charge. This conversation has been relegated to cyberspace, however, since when I went to find it for this article, it had disappeared from the place it had been on.

The (hopefully) unintended consequences of this decision, might include expat customers switching to more expat-friendly banks, fewer American tourists visiting Costa Rica and a whole host of bad publicity on Facebook and other social networks which could not only sully the reputation of BCR, but it will also reflect poorly on the entire country.

This type of policy sends the message to travelers who perceive Costa Rica to be a tourist-friendly destination where they are welcomed and encouraged to vacation or retire, that they, in fact, are not really welcome here.

Pura Vida indeed!

Note from the Editor

While the unfortunate effects of BCR’s new policy will undoubtedly have its toll on those who are limited in bank variety, those in more metropolitan or tourist centers will still have plenty to choose from. Some such alternative banks include: Scotiabank, BAC San Jose, Banco Nacional and Citibank. Of course, the other option for expats living in Costa Rica long term is to simply open up an account at BCR.

When contacted for an official comment, BCR did not respond.