Credit cards are becoming increasingly popular payment options in Costa Rica, with more than 1.7 million cards issued as of April 2014.

According to a report from the Ministry of Economy, Industry and Commerce (MEIC) – which tracks credit card use in Costa Rica ­– credit card debt is also on the rise. As of April 2014, Costa Rican credit card users had accumulated a total debt of ₡480 billion, an increase of almost ₡1 billion since 2012.

Debt and credit cards go hand-in-hand regardless of the country, but cardholders in countries with more established credit card markets tend to have more awareness of how to deal with this debt. And one of the best ways its to compare credit cards. As features like interest rates and annual fees often changing significantly between issuers, a credit card comparison can save account holders hundreds or even thousands of colónes every year.

Credit card comparisons are also an interesting way to gauge how things can be similar and different between countries. So with that in mind, here is a look at how credit cards in Costa Rica compare to those on the other side of the world in Australia.

Annual fees

While not all Costa Rican credit cards charge an annual fee, MEIC reports that the prices for those cards that do have this fee range from ¢3,839 (AUD$ 8.82) to ¢109,684 (AUD$251.98).

In Australia, credit card annual fees have been standard for years, and it is only in the past few years that cards with no annual fees have become more common. Of cards that charge annual fees, the lowest is $30 (¢13,058) and the highest is over $1,000 or ¢435,290.

Interest rates

Credit card interest rates in Costa Rica currently range from 24% to 50.4% annually. The MEIC also reports that more than half of all cards charge between 40% and 49.9% per year when cardholders carry a balance.

Australian credit cards, in contrast, have an average annual percentage rage of 17%. The highest credit card interest rate in Australia is around 22% per year, while the lowest is around 11%.

The official cash rates in Australia and Costa Rica are one of the main factors credit card issuers consider when setting interest rates, and Australia has a much lower official cash rate than Costa Rica.

Credit card issuers

The MEIC lists 20 main credit card issuers in Costa Rica, with Creditomatic, Banco Promerica, Credix World SA and Banco Nacional and Banco Popular as the top five issuers.

Similarly, there are five major issuers in Australia: The Commonwealth Bank of Australia, ANZ, Westpac, NAB and Citibank (which also has a Costa Rican arm). But there are around 30 other credit card issuers in Australia, which means more competition and better features for cardholders.

The credit card markets in Costa Rica and Australia are clearly very different, particularly as the former is new and the latter is a well-established part of Australian personal finances. But comparing cards in these two countries should give you a better understanding of how much influence credit cards have around the world.