Banco de Costa Rica has upset some expats because it has instituted low limits on dollar emissions from automatic tellers.
A bank official said that the limit only exists for those using a non-Banco de Costa Rica credit or debit card to seek funds. That would include a lot of expats who have accounts in their home country and routinely withdraw money here to pay bills.
Zacarías Esquivel, deputy general manager of the bank, said in a statement to A.M. Costa Rica that there is no change for customers of his bank who withdraw funds from their accounts there.
Automatic teller emissions for those with cards issued by other banks are limited to two transactions a day and an amount up to 110,000 colons or the equivalent in dollars, he said.
Those with non-Banco de Costa Rica debit cards can get additional money by going to a teller inside the bank, he said. No commission will be charged for this service, he promised.
However, the bank official and others contacted at Banco de Costa Rica were not specific on why the state institution established this rule. A reporter has asked for clarification.
A customer service representive also added that the automatic tellers only would recognize Visa- or MasterCard-branded cards.
Technicians have been making changes to the automatic
tellers since Oct. 1, which is why some expats have been able to obtain dollars normally and others have not. The new policy was supposed to start officially Friday.
Expats such as Darlene Mokrycki of Atenas speculated that the bank is just trying to obtain more money from repeated use of the automatic tellers or the use of a card at a teller window.
She said she had to make trips to the Central Valley to obtain dollars from the machine of a private bank.
More pessimistic observers noted that similar controls on foreign currency presaged major financial disruptions in Argentina, Venezuela and even México.
Banco Nacional has had a similar, although not identical rule, for months. The bank simply does not allow emissions of U.S. dollars from automatic tellers to persons who do not have a dollar account at the bank. So far, colons could be obtained up to at least the equivalent of $500 dollars.
Less conspiratorial observers suggested that Banco de Costa Rica is just trying to hold on to dollars because the Banco Central has been maintaining an artificial exchange rate that favors the colon for two years.