If you have never been to Costa Rica or another Central American country, you may be quite surprised at how local banks outside of a first world country operate.Banks in Cost Rica often behave as if they are doing the customer a favor in serving him and not vice versa.
Despite the fact that private banks often have a modern physical appearance both outside and inside, there is no significant exception from this behavior. You may consider visiting a bank in Costa Rica more like visiting a government agency. With this concept in mind, you should get along quite well with any bank.
Almost every branch is divided into two areas: the cash point and the service area.
For the cash point you need to wait in line. For the service area you need to take a number in order to get assistance.In order to avoid a long wait time, I recommend visiting at off-peak times and with a Plan B in place.
Go to the bank right after opening or after lunch time, but before quitting time. Always take a book, your notebook, and a Plan B with you if you cannot avoid a wait, despite the fact that you are there at a less busy time. By acting on your Plan B you can take a number, take a chance on not getting back to the branch in time, and do something else nearby in the meantime.
There are two exceptions where visiting the bank during off-peak hours in order to avoid a long wait may not work out. Never ever consider visiting a bank with the goal of a short waiting time during first weeks of December, when people get usually their Christmas bonus, or on the 15th or 30th of every month, when people get usually paid.
During these times, banks tend to be overcrowded regardless of the time of day.
There are several differences between the public banks and the public banks.
Public banks have a disadvantage in that they can not offer you good interest rates on your deposited money. The advantage, however, is that your money will be a lot more secure in a public bank than in a private bank.
For both public banks Banco de Costa Rica and Banco Nacional the government is the warrantor. In every international money transfer with an amount over $ 10,000, the SUGEF (Superintendencia General de Entidades Financieras), the controlling institution for all financial entities, needs to be informed by the bank that performs the transaction.
Due to the fact that public banks are mainly governmental and the fact that the controlling institution is also governmental, communication between these entities is far better than between private banks and SUGEF.
This does sound like public banks have a lot of controlling processes, but the positive side is that you can open a bank account with a public bank much easier than with a private bank.
At this time private banks need to earn their trust with SUGEF, as several of them had accounts in the past with customers who tried to engage in money-laundering. Because of what happened in the past, SUGEF tightened the requirements for private bank customers to open a bank account.
If you think about opening an account with a private bank but on behalf of a Costa Rican corporation, you need to organize almost double the paperwork than you would for a public bank. As a private person you need to have Costa Rican residency even to open an account.
This requirement does not exist with public banks.