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So much cash.......

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So much cash.......

It seems cash is definitely king in Costa Rica! Almost everyone wants to be paid in cash. OK, but how do I avoid carrying around all of this cash?

My bank will charge me % fee plus $5 for each withdrawal from an ATM. I assume the Costa Rican ATM company will also have a fee for that withdrawal. (Plus, if pick-pocketry is so prevalent, do they prey on ATM goers?) My credit card company tells me that they will charge a % fee for foreign transactions. I'm going to be fee-d to death!

I've heard that most restaurants, hotels, and tour operators won't accept travelers cheques. But, can I take travelers or cashiers cheques to any old bank in Costa Rica and cash them? Is there a fee for that?

I appreciate any guidance....I know it will be worth it in any event, but I'm a saver!

Dominical, Costa...
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1. Re: So much cash.......

If you do a lot of international travel, it would benefit you to shop around for better banks and better rates to manage your travel funds. For example, Capital One issues several different credit cards that do not charge foreign transaction fees. Charles Schwab debit cards can be used at ATM's anywhere worldwide with no fees.

If you don't travel regularly and don't think it is worth it to establish some new financial relationships, then you just have to look at the atm and foreign transaction fees as part of the cost of your travel. As long as you follow common sense precautions at ATM's you will be safe. Travelers checks are not easy to use in Costa Rica and not generally recommended.

San Jose, Costa Rica
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2. Re: So much cash.......

You can pay with old $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$...Credit cards...

No most of the people will ask for cash...

Travellers Checks not well accepted anymore...bringing cashiers checks ...hummm that is a good question...but then you will spend half of your time in a bank...no good idea to spend a vacation.

Since you are going to be dealing with not large amounts of money...just pay with credit cards...any reputable restaurant and or tour operator will take them...and just have a few colones or dollars in cash...


Costa Rica
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3. Re: So much cash.......

I agree that it would be a good idea to find a credit card or debit card that doesn't charge big fees and use that.

Don't bother with traveler's checks - they are not accepted and even some banks will not change them, as roadadvisor said.

You can certainly pay for your "big ticket" items with credit card - hotels, tours, transportation - and much of this can be paid for ahead of time. Credit cards are widely accepted so you could use a combination of cash and credit cards. It kind of depends on where you go and what you do. The more touristy areas will have more places that accept credit cards.

If you don't want to get another card, then just use your card every few days and consider it another vacation cost. If you are concerned about carrying cash, use a money belt.

I have not heard any about any widespread problems with people getting robbed at an ATM but probably not a good idea not to walk away counting your money!

I was once at the small bank in the small town where I live and a gringo who had an account at the bank asked the teller, very loudly, "I want to withdraw $600 from this account" and gave him the number. Well, all the people waiting in the bank perked up and I could only imagine what they were thinking about this guy walking around town with that fresh $600 in his pocket. Sometimes, people just don't think......

Destination Expert
for Jaco, Bocas Town
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4. Re: So much cash.......

Yep you need to shop around for a good travel credit card. I have a Capitol One card and it is good for travel, but if you can become a member with USAA then check them out. They have the best credit card deals for traveling international.

La Fortuna de San...
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5. Re: So much cash.......

ATMs...they are EVERYWHERE! Even in the smallest of towns you'll find at least one bank! Just make sure to notify your bank and credit card companies at home that you'll be in Costa Rica from "x-x" time so they don't put a stop on them for "fraudulent" activity.

Wendy, La Fortuna, CR

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1,005 posts
155 reviews
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6. Re: So much cash.......

Yes...credit card was fine. I split my cash and kept most of it in zipped trouser or shorts' pockets that I wore, unfortunately the pile that was in my ruck sack fell out...76,000 in costa rican currency and $160...gutted! My own stupid fault though...should have followed the above advice!

Siquirres, Costa...
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7. Re: So much cash.......

Another good option could be a Visa Travel Money card, we have friends that have used it on trips down here - it works on the Visa Plus system which most CR ATMS accept and only charges about a $3 withdrawl fee each time you use it.

You can buy it at most Safeway grocery stores (in the gift card kiosk) and other locations for about $12 and load the cash on it there too. And it's reloadable (I think up to 3 times) so you can hold on to it for future trips.

You can google it and find the official Visa page to see what the latest fees are and where to pick it up at.

Have a great trip,


Punta Uva, Costa...
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8. Re: So much cash.......

Use the ATMs and pay the fees, is better than carrying big amounts of cash all over CR.

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109 posts
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9. Re: So much cash.......

Thanks for all the advice! I will budget accordingly.

New York
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10. Re: So much cash.......

Which credit card is most preferable in CR? MasterCard, American Express, Visa?