Costa Rica - Country Commercial Guide
Trade Financing

It covers payment methods and information on, banking systems, foreign exchange controls, and U.S. and correspondent banking.

Last published date: 2021-11-11

Methods of Payment

Bank letters of credit are the most common and secure method of payment in international trade, including in Costa Rica. Letters of credit are strongly recommended for Costa Rica, particularly in situations where the business relationship between the U.S. exporter and the local importer are still developing. Small transactions are often handled through advance payment via bank transfers or sight drafts. The free convertibility of the colon and the absence of controls on remittances encourage open account relationships in cases where credit risk is deemed minimal. Credit rating agencies in Costa Rica include the private company, Equifax and the government entity SUGEF.  Both are primarily responsible for personal credit records. Major credit/debit cards used in the market are: Master Card, Visa and American Express.

Banking Systems

The Costa Rican financial system is composed of two state-owned commercial banks, 11 private commercial banks, one workers’ bank, one state-owned mortgage bank, two mutual housing finance companies, five non-bank finance companies, 22 savings and loans, two entities engaged in money exchange and transfer, and five Solidarity Associations (beginning January 1, 2022), all under supervision of the Superintendency of Financial Entities SUGEF, which reports to the Council of Financial Regulators CONASSIF, which is in turn a semi-autonomous unit of the Central Bank.  In addition, both state and private financial entities run a number of investment and retirement funds or trusts. 

Please refer to Chapter 6 “Investment Climate” under the subtopic “Efficient Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment” for further information on the banking system. 

Foreign-Exchange Controls

Please refer to Chapter 6 “Investment Climate” under the subtopic “Conversion and Transfer Policies” for information on foreign-exchange controls. 

U.S. Banks and Local Correspondent Banks          

All commercial banks in Costa Rica have correspondent relationships with major U.S. banks.  For a full list of each bank’s correspondent relationships


State-owned Commercial Banks: 

  • Banco Nacional de Costa Rica (BNCR) 
  • Banco de Costa Rica (BCR) 

Banks Created by Public Law: 

  • Banco Hipotecario de la Vivienda (home mortgage bank)  
  • Banco Popular y de Desarrollo Comunal (workers’ bank) 

Private Commercial Banks: 

  • Banco BAC San Jose 
  • Banco Cathay de Costa Rica 
  • Banco CMB (Costa Rica) 
  • Banco Davivienda (Costa Rica)  
  • Banco General (Costa Rica)  
  • Banco Improsa 
  • Banco Lafise 
  • Prival Bank (Costa Rica)   
  • Scotiabank de Costa Rica