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cpcd Jan 26th, 2010 06:05 PM

American cash, ATM, or credit cards???
My plan is to use ATMs for cash. A couple of my hotels , as well as my driver, would like cash. Should I bring American dollars or rely on ATM s for colones? Credit cards seem like a good alternative, though surcharges might not make them the most economical. I was looking for an exchange rate and saw a warning not to bring hundred dollar bills to CR as they will not be accepted anywhere ( afraid of counterfeits). Also said American money should be in good shape and no tears.( or will not be accepted) What do most of you do?

shillmac Jan 26th, 2010 06:10 PM

We arrive with about $200 (small bills, lots of $5's and $1's), split between us. Then we hit the ATM at the airport upon arrival and take out colones, another $200 or so. . .it depends. We also use credit cards and occasionally take traveler's cheques if there are hotels who accept them as payment(we don't use them for anything else). Sometimes we carry extra cash for hotels. So a big mix for us. We do like having colones, though, rather than using USD. We try to minimize the amount of cash we have on us at any one time, and we never keep it all in the same place. A little here, a little there. As long as you don't forget where your "here's and there's" are! :)

ShellD Jan 26th, 2010 07:16 PM

If you have Capital One they don't charge a foreign transaction fee. Make sure you call before you go to let them know you'll be in CR and authorize the charges. We found the ATMs had pretty high fees and didn't use them much, but they may be our bank. We took travelers checks and used them to pay for hotels where they'd take them, to minimize the cash we'd have to carry. We also brought a few hundred dollars, maybe $500 if I remember to pay for anything where we didn't use credit cards - like drivers etc. We didn't have any problems with places taking US dollars. Most change came in colones and we'd use that once we got it. We never really exchanged money that I remember.

Jeff_Costa_Rica Jan 26th, 2010 08:31 PM

Counterfeiting of $50 bills is a problem too. A lot of places won't take them. Stick with $20s and lower.

Places that do take dollars as payment (and remember that nobody is obligated to) will always use a less favorable exchange rate than the bank or an ATM does. The "everybody takes dollars" approach does come at a cost. That's fair, because they're the ones that end up having to make the exchange at the bank.

qwovadis Jan 27th, 2010 05:38 AM Visa CREDIT CARD for me

no foreign exchange fees ATM all my Colones

always get the FOREX daily rate

570 C/1 D last I checked..

qwovadis Jan 27th, 2010 05:39 AM sorry typo

suze Jan 27th, 2010 06:29 AM

Theh fees for using an ATM machines are from your own home bank, not the bank in Costa Rica.

Kinkazote Jan 27th, 2010 08:02 AM

We go with a variety of things. Colones from the last trip, lots of dollars, credit cards, and ATM cards. We have used travelers checks to pay the bill at Bosque del Cabo and cashed them for Colones at Si Como No. Our view is that you should not commit to just one kind of payment medium. We are resigned that almost every transaction is likely to bear some cost over the face value of the amount due.

Jeff_Costa_Rica Jan 27th, 2010 09:18 AM

On the topic of using colones left over from previous trips, for the time being, I'd try to spend down colones as much as you can before the end of your trip. They're going to start rolling out the newly redesigned bills soon, one denomination at a time. There will be a transition period (I think six months) for each during which old and new bills are valid. After that time, the old bills will not be legal tender, but can be exchanged for new bills at a bank. That's a chore if you don't have to do it.

The big, clunky old silver-colored coins (5, 10, and 20) are already no good as of Jan. 1. Those can't be spent, and banks will not take them for exchange. They're worth so little that if you're stuck with any, it's no loss.

hipvirgochick Jan 27th, 2010 11:29 AM

Thanks Jeff! I have a bunch of coins I was going to use next trip...I guess now they will just be made into necklaces or something. LOL!

In CR I use ATM (low fees with my bank) and almost always use colones. Exception is hotel with quoted US prices and they're offering a discount for cash. I take a couple spare checks just in case for places like Bosque del Cabo. I don't use credit cards at home or traveling but a few travelers checks can't hurt.

Jeff_Costa_Rica Jan 27th, 2010 03:58 PM

Hip, the gold-color coins are still fine to use, as are the newer thin silver-color ones that look and feel almost like they're made from aluminum. They always will be fine to use.

It's the big, clunky silver 5, 10 and 20 coins that are gone from circulation. But when you consider that the 20 is worth less than four cents, it's no loss to be stuck with them. I'm glad they're gone.

shillmac Jan 27th, 2010 06:56 PM

Yep, they get pretty heavy to carry around! I'll miss 'em, though.

When you get a design worked out for that necklace, hip, send it to me! :)

Jeff_Costa_Rica Jan 28th, 2010 03:36 AM

You wouldn't even be able to lift your head with a necklace like that. :)

carolll Jan 29th, 2010 10:23 AM

One more cautionary tale...a couple of years ago, I tried to use an ATM in Liberia, a stand alone unit that must have been especially hungry, since it ate my card.

So, stay away from stand alone ATMs. Use ones outside or inside banks. Re travelers checks; some hotels and restaurants can't even handle large sized checks so get those in denominations of $20.

Carol L

Jeff_Costa_Rica Jan 29th, 2010 02:05 PM

That's a good suggestion, Carol. I'll add this to it: It sounds counterintuitive, but use the bank's ATM during the bank's business hours. It's more secure than using the machine at night, plus if there's a problem with the machine or card, it'll be a lot easier to get someone to help you during normal business hours.

Aquaholicbabe Jan 31st, 2010 08:31 PM

Everyone has posted some great ideas! Don't be afraid to go into the bank to exchange money. Inside the bank you will get the best exchange rate. (Forget the airport) Remember to have a copy of your passport with you just for the banks reference. Banks will accept your $50's and $100's the teller will just scrutinize it very closely. Make sure they are in 'good condition'. Also don't forget to take off or turn around hats and remove sunglasses. CR banks have VERY different rules when inside. An adventure in itself!

Again, when using the ATM use the banks!

Many places and location will offer discounts for cash instead of accepting payment with credit cards due to the local banks charging approx %16 in fee's for the business to even have the service.

The current exchange rate for colones to dollars is approximately 553.00 to 1 dollar. Here's hoping the dollar will increase to help your dollar to stretch further!

shillmac Feb 1st, 2010 09:30 AM

LOL, Jeff, that's the truth. But you know, it would make a nice framed wall hanging! I need to frame my 5 colones bill. It's in great shape and very pretty! :)

kencolian Feb 1st, 2010 11:29 AM

i enjoyed the trip to the bank. Instead of standing in line, we sat in line. Moving up a chair at a time. Very different. On the other hand I would not want to do it often,as transactions seemed to take longer than I am used to.

sylvia3 Feb 2nd, 2010 01:19 PM

Found ATMs all over the place, and cc accepted everywhere.

cocoa3c Feb 2nd, 2010 09:51 PM

Hi Everyone,
Say hipvirgochick, saw one of your photo contributions in the new Fodor's CR!

What I decided to do for our first upcoming CR trip next month was get colones from our bank here in Canada before our trip, so I wouldn't have to deal with getting money right off the bat. They can bring them in no problem. I don't know what the exchange rate is yet. I assumed it will be pretty good...I hope. I'll let you know when I pick them up this week.
After looking at what CR prices were for food etc, I figured getting c1000 denomination was the best - so that's what I asked for since I didn't want a great wad of cash to carry. Are rojo's the main bill that people carry around?
We'll also bring a bit of US currency. From what I can see, the idea of having several options is a good one, though I figured that just dealing in CR currency would be the simplest, once I get the hang of it.

Thanks for the info.

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