Overcharged in Costa Rica??

Old Jul 10th, 2008, 04:28 PM
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Overcharged in Costa Rica??

Could you seasoned travelers help us out? My husband is not happy about the charges that are appearing on our credit card.

While at BdC (6/15-6/18), my husband tried to write a check on our last day for our 3 day stay at BdC $1,668.25. We booked at short notice. While at BdC, we went on Nature Hike w/Phillip and also Fishing w/Miguel and Phillipe.

Husband accidentally started writing the amount on the wrong line of the check (was probably busy looking at monkeys or animal life passing by!) Husband didn't have any checks left, so he had them run it on his charge card. The online statement came back w/an entry on 7/08/2008 as $1726.46. Wonder why they charged us more than $1,668.25 on our credit card?

7/08/2008 BOSQUES DEL CABO GOLFITO 74... $51.79 (This is an international transaction fee -- we weren't aware of anything like this in advance).

6/23 CHECKCARD BCAC-AE
ROPUERT SANTAMAR AL... $52.67 (we have no idea what this is for).

Also, breakfast at Denny's next to the airport ended up being $21.00!! Didn't realize this until we got home and saw our statement.

We had a WONDERFUL time...I'm just trying to figure out if we maybe used the wrong method of payment. And why was Denny's so expensive???We don't like to just waste money, so obviously we did something wrong here.
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Old Jul 10th, 2008, 05:47 PM
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Well, the bank charge is a foreign transaction fee that is between you and your credit card issuer so Bosque del Cabo has nothing to do with it. That other charge looks like it is from the airport? Does that ring a bell?
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Old Jul 10th, 2008, 06:02 PM
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The only credit card that I know of that doesn't charge a transaction fee for international charges (generally 3%) is Capital One. I have a credit card through them that I only use for my international travels, no annual fee.

Is your $52.67 perhaps your departure tax for two people and you purchased it in advance at the airport?
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Old Jul 10th, 2008, 06:47 PM
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Yeah, the $52 definitely looks like your departure tax.

For the overage from BdC, don't think that is their fault, looks like the normal charge for using a credit card (from the credit card company) which runs 3% - 5%. I know from just this May my 4 or 5 charges added up to over $50 in transaction fees. You should call your cc company to verify.
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Old Jul 10th, 2008, 07:19 PM
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Thanks for your help! Why do you think Denny's breakfast was so expensive? My husband had heard that the prices in Costa Rica were inexpensive (except for places like BdC).
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Old Jul 10th, 2008, 07:48 PM
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CR can still have excellent deals, at local & Tico owned places but definitely not at Denny's or the like; you pay for the tourist oriented familiarity.
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Old Jul 11th, 2008, 06:14 AM
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I guess the breakfast at Denny's costs more or less $21.00, Costa Rica is not that cheap!
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Old Jul 11th, 2008, 06:44 AM
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When we asked about settling our bill at the end of our stay at BdC by credit card, we were told that they would accept the credit card but that, for outside excursions (such as fishing, Dolphin watch, Animal Sanctuary, etc.), they would also have to charge us their credit card surcharge since they pay out the tour operators in cash. I can't remember what the percentage was but perhaps this is part of what you're seeing.

Also, one thing we noticed with another hotel was that, although we were quoted in US dollars and were handed an invoice in US dollars, there was obviously at least one exchange from dollars to colons in the transaction. Perhaps they or their bank converts the dollar charge to colons when charging our bank (i.e. the bank that issues our VISA card) who then converts it back to US dollars. I don't know. But, in the end, our charge statement showed a figure in colons and the converted dollar amount we were charged was actually less than what our invoice stated, probably because the exchange rate changed or the banks use slightly different exchange rates.

As stated by others, the international transaction fee is charged by your credit card. It's pretty standard although percentages vary.
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Old Jul 11th, 2008, 08:09 AM
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As tully mentioned, any tourist-oriented place in Costa Rica is usually pretty expensive. To enjoy Costa Rica's lower prices (and they do still exist, believe it or not), you have to live like the locals, most of whom could not afford to dine at Denny's.

Most tourist-oriented businesses (hotels and tour operators) quote their rates in dollars, but on their end, the credit-card transaction must be processed in colones, the currency of the country. On your end, when you get your statement, of course, the amount will appear in dollars. So there will always be a currency-exchange transaction that enters into it, and that ends up costing the customer a bit of extra money. The only way around that is to pay in cash, and for a bill of $1,600, you're not going to do that.

Legally, all restaurants in Costa Rica must list their menu prices in colones with the tax and service included. Many violate that law.
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Old Jul 11th, 2008, 09:34 AM
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Actually, on our recent trip about half of the time the charges went through in dollars without a transaction fee. The only way for that to work is if the Costa Rican business has a US arm that is processing the transactions (I think). But anyway, a lot of them seemed to.
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Old Jul 14th, 2008, 05:24 AM
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I spoke w/my husband, and he used his debit card, not his credit card, the entire time in Costa Rica.
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Old Jul 14th, 2008, 05:59 AM
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>> I spoke w/my husband, and he used his debit card, not his credit card, the entire time in Costa Rica.

Yes, but I'm guessing that his debit card has a VISA symbol on it, right? Otherwise, the merchant wouldn't have been able to process the charge.

Visa is a network with what is essentially a central clearing house. The merchant submits the claim to their bank, their bank submits the claim to Visa, Visa submits a claim to your bank and your bank charges your account. The difference for a debit card is the "authorization" process which requires that you have the funds in your bank account and the funds are withdrawn automatically.

It may seem instantaneous but the transaction still involves multiple parties and several transactions and the same exchange rate issues, international transaction fees, etc. are applicable.
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Old Jul 15th, 2008, 07:06 AM
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kippy6:

Sorry to learn of your "costing" problems but you should be aware that most banks are bigger crooks than any travel rip off artists.

Look at the interest charges for credit card financing right at home. From 18 to 19% charged by the credit card company when the same person can get a bank loan [same bank] for much less!

Look into ALL credit card fee charges particularly for foreign purchases. You may get a shock.

So what can you do?

Well, being a senior, our bank offers Amex cheques at no charge to us. These are in US$ so any exchange to get the US$ still must be paid.

When we went to Costa Rica for two months last winter, we took Amex cheques and used a credit card only twice when it was not convenient to cash a cheque.

I searched banks [on the web] in Costa Rica and found that Scotia Bank had many branches in San Jose. I got an ATM account with the Scotia at home [Canada].

In San Jose, I went to a Scotia Bank, presented my passport, my Scotia ATM card [to identify myself as a Scotia customer] and cashed my Amex cheques.

At the Scotia branch downtown across from the tourist office, I was charged 1% to cash my cheques. At ALL other Scotia branches in San Jose, I was charged 0%. If I wanted Colones, I would have to pay the exchange on those.

I paid for our items in US$ as much as possible.

Of course, it still cost us the exchange between US$ and our Canadian $ [bank buying and selling rates are different, expect to pay more] but our cost of money was minimized.

I did research this cost of money beforehand so I had a plan that I had hoped would work and it did.

Our next trip will be to Galapagos, Lima, Machu Picchu, Lago Titicaca, Buenos Aires and Punte del Este in Uruguay. There are no Scotia banks in these places but one bank [I forget the company name] will cash US$ Amex cheques, albeit at a higher rate, but that is the cost of travel. At least, I will not use an ATM unless I need to and I will not use my credit card either if I can help it.

The ATM fees are as bad or worse than the other bank fees. To make matters even more worse, their limits on withdraw requires more transactions and this ups the cost as well.

If you do not do your research you will likely have to pay for that omission. A good place for that research is right here on this Fodor Travel chat site.

Woodie
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