San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

ATM withdrawal limits in Costa Rica got you down?

New limits on withdrawals imposed at Banco de Costa Rica (BCR) ATMs in October left some non-BCR cardholders frustrated when they tried to take out cash. The bank implemented a daily withdrawal limit of ₡110,000 or its equivalent in U.S. dollars (roughly $200) for non-BCR cardholders at its 595 ATMs across Costa Rica. The change has made it hard for some to pay rent, payroll or a rafting trip for the family.

BCR Assistant General Manager Zacarías Esquivel told The Tico Times in an email that the change was a “business decision” and that larger amounts can be taken out inside the bank without an additional service charge. But walking into a bank branch to withdraw money isn’t always an option. In some parts of the country, ATMs are the only way to get cash.

Plus, unlike banks, ATMs are usually open 24/7. And cash machines are easy to navigate for non-Spanish speaking visitors.

The Tico Times asked our readers on Facebook how BCR’s new limits are affecting them. We also asked some of the biggest banks here what their daily limits are.

Readers said they rely on ATMs here for a mix of convenience, business and bill pay.

Deborah Contreras in Guanacaste said the BCR limit has made it hard for her to get cash for her business’ payroll. Caroline McLatchie said she and her husband couldn’t access their Social Security check because of the ATM withdrawal limit.

BCR’s daily withdrawal limit is far below that of other big banks here. Banco Nacional, another state-owned bank with 468 ATMs across Costa Rica, has a daily limit of ₡700,000 ($1,300). That limit is the same for BN cardholders and non-BN cardholders, according to the bank.

Scotiabank allows users to take out ₡500,000 (roughly $940) per day at its 157 ATMs. Users can take out that daily max in two transactions, at ₡250,000 each.

Some Tico Times readers said they don’t have the luxury of choosing another bank if they need cash in a pinch. Lisa Airaudi said she and her family have to drive an hour-and-a-half down a mountain road to reach the nearest ATM — a drive that becomes impossible in the rain — so frequent trips to the bank aren’t a good option. Mer Glesby noted that Nosara has just two banking options, Banco Popular and BCR, “and one is usually broken or has no money.”

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It figures. Only a state-owned bank would make a stupid “business decision” like this. It’s not really a business. I’ve always liked the BCR cajeros because they’re well designed and user friendly. A cajero is so much more convenient than standing or sitting in a lobby waiting for your number to appear. That’s tedious! I actually have an account at Banco Nacional, but didn’t realize they didn’t have the same mindless policy. The workings of the account were hideously complicated, so I assumed their policy would also rest on the same stupidity. Forcing people to go into the branch doesn’t increase business, but it MAY add several more useless and non-productive government jobs. It makes me think about paying my Caja bill every month. Can I pay three months in advance? Of course not! That would be efficient. I’m not wealthy, I live on US Social Security checks, but I’d love to save money on transportation (I have mobility problems and walk with a cane, so I use taxis more than others.) And it’s not just the savings; it’s the time and hassle. Until Ticos stop acting like sheep and accept all the crap the government throws at them, things won’t change. And what about the rule that you have to carry and show the receipt for your most recent Caja payment when the information is in the computer. That has to be among the top 5 ordinary rules that Ticos accept without protest. Why not create productive and helpful government jobs instead of useless ones? It’s shameful!

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Ken Morris

Maybe, maybe not.

When I asked a teller at BCR what the fee would be to withdraw from her with a non-BCR card, she said 4%. That’s $40 per $1000, hardly an acceptable deal, and this doesn’t include whatever fees the bank that issued your card or the middleman card company may charge.

And while daily withdraw limits are one concern, they aren’t the only one. Scotiabank may allow two $400 withdraws per day, but it limits each withdraw to $400 and charges a $3 fee for each. This is cheaper than BCR’s teller window service, but it’s still $7.50 per $1000–again in addition to other fees

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