Paypal has been hyped as the best way to send and received money anywhere in the world and personally it is the simplest and easiest way to accept credit and debit cards and e-checks. So you’re an expat, and you start a business in Costa Rica. Then you signup for PayPal (which is free), so you can start accepting credit card payments instantly.
Right? Well, as many know, not so true!
The first thing you’ll learn (especially Gringos) you have to open up a banking account [in the U.S.] and now the problem starts of how to get that money to into your hands in Costa Rica. And in the past there have been horrid stories of Paypal freezing accounts when owners try and transfer money. This was mostly caused by the U.S. Patriotic Act after 9-11, where transferring any funds outside the U.S was flagged as suspected terrorist funding.
The second thing you will experience, the transfer has to be to a bank that you and Paypal has verified. Most banks in the US are acceptable to Paypal, so moving funds from one bank to another in the U.S. is easy - but Paypal (in reality) really doesn’t work with Costa Rican banks, what I mean, the money that you have on your verified Paypal account can’t be transferred to a Costa Rican bank account. And Paypal does not convert dollars into colones as of this writing.
But demand and technology may be making Paypal and Costa Rica Banks think twice.
Recently, we heard, Costa Rica Banco Nacional has been approved by Paypal. It is our understanding that when you put your Costa Rica address setting up a Paypal account, it will ask you if you want to set up a Costa Rica Banco Nacional account, so Paypal can verify the account. However, there is a catch. The account must be secured by a debit card, (obviously with funds in it) - in other words, you can not use your credit card to guarantee funds.
In the past, Costa Rica’s expat businesses who accept Paypal have U.S. banks and funds are usually wired and or checks sent. Wiring funds is very expensive and sending checks can take days getting to Costa Rica, and then weeks for the funds to clear. One of our accounts told a frightening story of how it took a $5000 check, almost two months to clear. And even if it is wired, available of the funds may take several days.
To get around this, and with the technological advancement of online banking, nowadays, those that want Paypal have set up accounts with one or two banks that are also in Costa Rica; ScotiaBank, a Canadian Bank and/or Citibank, a U.S. bank. Your Paypal bank account must be set up first with the banks primary country, either Canada and/or U.S.
- Citibank was the first foreign bank to establish operations in Costa Rica in 1968. Since then, it has offered world-class financial services to the country’s corporate market, including electronic banking, treasury and international trade. Banco Citibank de Costa Rica S.A. is based in San José, Costa Rica and operates as a subsidiary of Grupo Financiero Citibank de Costa Rica S.A.
- Scotiabank Costa Rica is part of Canadian financial group Scotiabank and is a Costa Rican private bank. It provides a range of banking products and services for individual clients and businesses. The bank offers checking and savings accounts, investments, loans, and credit cards. One of our accounts in Costa Rica was able to set up an account via online and put funds in it via credit card. Just about all our Canadian accounts use Scotiabank.
Both banks allow a Costa Rica business to deposit funds into their countries main Paypal account. Once the funds have cleared (credit card, 4-8 days; debit card, 2-4 days; and e-check anywhere from 5-15 days) one can then transfer funds via online to their satellite banks in Costa Rica. Funds are usually available the same day or next.
However, Costa Rican banks can be a big pain to deal with – usually the rules and regulations are set up by the individual managers (not corporate policies) who can be very difficult to work with. Obviously, the first rule is to establish a bit of creditability first.
Lets hope that more and more Costa Rican banks follow suit -