Dear A.M. Costa Rica:
Yet another issue has arisen that appears to be directed against American expats and/or tourists in Costa Rica.
Banco de Costa Rica has recently instituted a policy of dispensing only 100 U.S. dollars per transaction, with only two transactions a day from their ATMs. 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 $1000.00 a month. This new policy requires me to make many trips to the bank just to obtain funds for rent. With this ridiculous policy it takes me almost two weeks to extract rent money from BCR. Consequently, items that I may have purchased from other businesses will be left on the shelf. And my day-to-day needs will be put on hold while trying to amass funds to pay the rent.
This ridiculous policy will also affect tourism. A typical family of tourists spends more than a measly $200 a day while on vacation.
After addressing the issue with Banco de Costa Rica on their Facebook page, their response indicated that this decision was motivated by a desire for better security for their customers. Apparently they have not only developed a prejudice against American expats, but also they think we are stupid. Really BCR??
My personal theory and that of other expats, is that BCR is trying to gain additional monies in conversion and cash advance fees from those who need more than this limit in dollars each day. They stated on Facebook that if a customer needs more money they can come into the bank and take a cash advance. So they gouge foreigners that way. Additionally most U.S. and Canadian banks charge ATM fees in the $5 range for each transaction. Making the fees ridiculous for those of us who have to make five to 10 withdrawals just for rent.
The (hopefully) unintended consequences of this decision might include expat customers switching to more expat-friendly banks, fewer American tourists visiting Costa Rica as the word spreads to friends and families back home and a whole host of bad publicity on Facebook and other social networks for Banco BCR.
This bad publicity will not only sully the reputation of BCR, it will also reflect poorly on the entire country. It sends the message to American travelers who perceive Costa Rica to be a friendly destination where they are welcomed and encouraged to vacation or retire, that they in fact, are not really welcome here.
Pura Vida indeed!