New rules expedite transfers of money

Anyone living in Costa Rica who moves money in and out of the country needs to know about wire transfers and the terms that surround them. Those that do not will end up waiting for their money because it will get lost or returned. Usually this is because incorrect information is on a wire transfer form.

Recently, an expat had money he was waiting for returned to the United States because it did not have an IBAN number. Because he is North American, he did not have a clue what an IBAN number was or where to get it for his bank in Costa Rica. He only knew about ABA and SWIFT codes.

An ABA is an American Bankers’ Association number. It is a unique 9 digit identifying transit number assigned to each bank in the United States for interbank transfers.

SWIFT stands for Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication. BIC for Bank Identifier Code. Sometimes they are referred to together as SWIFTBIC. Outside the U.S., these numbers are the codes of preference to route money around.

The BIC is an 8-character code known as the SWIFT address. All banks have unique numbers assigned to them. Adding a branch code to a BIC further designates which branch of a bank should receive a SWIFT message to transfer money.

IBAN is short for International Bank Account Number. It is very common in Europe. An IBAN uniquely identifies an account held at a bank. Costa Rica is now using this system, too.

Nowadays, IBAN numbers are a must. They complement SWIFTBIC addresses and expedite wires transfers. Using both of them together can reduce the transit time for money by days.

Money from the United States to Costa Rica usually arrives the same day, or the next day if the sender uses them properly.

Countries have internal routing numbers too. Mexico has CLABE. This stands for Clave Bancaria Estandarizada. In English this means a standard banking code.

In Costa Rica, SINPE is used. The Central Bank of Costa Rica moved its inter-bank payments and transaction system called the Sistema Interbancario de Negociación y Pagos Electrónicos to Microsoft’s .NET technologies at the end of 2002.

Too many acronyms. However, they are important to know to make an error free money transfer from anywhere to Costa Rica.

Here is the meat and potatoes on how to make a wire of money to an account in this country.

All bank accounts in Costa Rica have a SINPE client number. Referred to as a “cuenta cliente” in Spanish. It has 17 digits. By going to the Banco Central’s Web site’s IBAN number generation page and inputting a SINPE number, it will produce the account’s IBAN number.

A wire transfer form to receive money should have all this information. Remember, detailed data like addresses and telephone numbers are very important. Banco Nacional de Costa Rica is money011915used as an example. It can be replaced by any banks information in Costa Rica.

BENEFICIARY BANK: Banco Nacional de Costa Rica


BENEFICIARY BANK ADDRESS: Avenue 1 & 3 Street 4, San Jose, Costa Rica, +506 2212-2000

BENEFICIARY NAME, IDENTIFICATION NUMBER AND ADDRESS: Full name of beneficiary of the funds along with the owner of the accounts identification number. If the account is in a company name, use that number. Use the same information as was recorded when the account was opened. Include telephone numbers.

BENEFICIARY ACCOUNT NUMBER: Add the account number of the account.

IBAN NUMBER: Use for wires from Europe and now for transfers from the United States and other countries. It looks something like this number: CR2115100012345678901.

The Banco Central has a detailed FAQ on its Web site.

Some expats are reporting their credit unions in the U.S. have stopped the service of sending international wire transfers. They were told they were just too much of a hassle. Others report slow transfers. They swear the bank plays with their money to earn interest on the float.

A bank officer at Banco Nacional in the client service department vehemently denies the accusations. She said most people do not know how to send money correctly and that is why some transfers are lost or returned.

The bank officer may be correct. One wire sent to Costa Rica without an IBAN number from the U.S. took 10 days to show up in an account. One with all properly formatted numbers and beneficiary information was sent from the same place at 10 o’clock in the morning arrived at 3 in the afternoon.

Here is a great tip for realtors and those purchasing property in Costa Rica. MoneyCorp provides comprehensive foreign exchange and money transfer services. One foreigner could have saved over 50,000 U.S. dollars if he had used the service. He did not know about it until it was too late, and the Euro weakened against the dollar. MoneyCorp guarantees exchange rates up to two years. They can take the effort and risk out of some international financial transactions.

The worldwide financial system tracks money. Transparency is rapidly creeping into everyone’s lives. Thanks to transparency, individual and corporate bank accounts are becoming open books for tax investigators from all over the world. Sharing information is now commonplace among governments.  All these codes and numbers are the key to compliance with the system. Knowing how to use them can expedite working with money internationally.

Garland M. Baker, a certified international property specialist, is a 45-year resident and naturalized citizen of Costa Rica. His firm’s team provides multidisciplinary professional services to the country’s international community.  Reach him at  Baker has undertaken the research leading to these series of articles in conjunction with A.M. Costa Rica.  Find the collection at, a free reprint is available at the end of each article.  Copyright 2015, use without permission prohibited.

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