May 08 2014

Questions and Answers: Investing in Certificates of Deposits and Avoiding Bank Fees

If you are thinking about moving to Costa Rica (or anywhere unfamiliar, for that matter), you have lots of questions and are searching for the answers. We get a lot of questions here at Retire for Less in Costa Rica, and often, we get the same questions more than once. Here are this month’s questions:

Don asks, “I am wondering what the interest rate is today if I were to buy a $100,000.00 CD, i.e. How many colones would I have after I year?… I understand that if one owns property in Costa Rica, they qualify automatically to purchase a CD at Coopenae credit union.”

The exchange rate keeps changing but today you would get about 540 colones to the dollar, depending on the bank. What you would have at the end of the year depends on a lot of factors, primarily the interest rate of your CD and the value of the dollar at the end of the term if you want to convert the colones back to dollars.

We’ve contacted Coopenae and they’ve sent us their current CD interest rates, as follows:


(Note: rates updated March 2015)

To see how these rates compare to the current rates at other banks and credit unions in Costa Rica, click here. 

But before you could do any of this, you would need to qualify to open a bank account in Costa Rica, and it’s much harder to do these days. We wrote an article about this shortly after the laws changed. Also, AM Costa Rica recently published an article called “Foreigners face barriers to open a bank account” (4/14/14) which you might want to read as well. Unfortunately, just purchasing property here does not allow you to open a bank account. Now, due in part to to the U.S. Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) requirements, one almost always has to be a legal resident to open a bank account in Costa Rica.

We are not financial advisers, so be sure to get investment advice from someone qualified to give it.


Larissa asks, “I have noticed month after month that you do not pay banking charges. How do you do this?”


We did pay bank fees in the beginning but haven’t for at least 3 years now. The short answer is that we write checks from our U.S. bank to our Costa Rica bank (credit union). It takes a month for the check to clear but we plan accordingly. That way we don’t have the high ATM charges whenever we need cash.

Here’s a link to an article we wrote a while back that explains it in more detail: 

Please note that you have to be a legal resident of CR to open a bank account these days (see above).

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