Wedged between Nicaragua and Panama, and flanked on either side by the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea, Costa Rica boasts one of the world’s most biodiverse ecosystems, stretching from dense rainforests to misty volcano peaks to long stretches of white sand beaches. With its rich and vibrant landscape, Costa Rica has become one of the world’s most popular destinations for Canadian eco-tourists.
When it comes to sending money to Costa Rica (to fund long days spent zip lining and surfing), Canadians are spoiled for choice. So how do you make sure you choose the right service for you? Look for one that offers the most return on your dollar, with better exchange rates and lower transaction fees.
Compare Money Transfer Services
Banks versus money transfer companies
While banks often promote international money transfer services as part of their brand, that doesn’t mean that they should be your go-to when you want to send money overseas. Why not? A couple of reasons. Banks are notorious for jacking up exchange rates while at the same time charging exorbitant administrative fees and taking several days to process your transaction. What does this mean for you as a consumer? You’re paying top rates for the slowest possible service.
For this reason, many Canadians opt to use online transfer services, instead of the bank, for all of their money transfer needs. Unlike the banks, money transfer services trade in large volumes of currency every day, so they are better-positioned to offer competitive exchange rates with lower fees, and as an added bonus, they can often get your money to where it needs to be in a matter of minutes, which can be a real lifesaver in an emergency.
Case study: John Sends Money to Costa Rica
John’s daughter Kelly is two weeks into a Costa Rican surf trip when she loses her wallet on the beach. John knows that Kelly has budgeted for her trip very carefully, so when she calls him in tears, he promises to send her $1000.00 as soon as he hangs up the phone. John has an inkling that his bank will overcharge on exchange rates, not to mention take several days to complete the transfer, so he decides to compare two well-known cash pickup transfer companies to see if he can find a more suitable deal.
|Money transfer company 1||Money transfer company 2|
|Exchange rate||1 CAD = 450 CRC||1 CAD = 430 CRC|
|Transfer method||Online transfer||Online transfer|
|Processing time||1-3 days||1-3 days|
|Amount received||CRC 450,000 (~$980.32 CAD)||CRC 430,000 (~$936.75 CAD)|
John can send an extra CAD $53.00 to his daughter by doing a quick comparison and choosing the first transfer provider.
How do I compare transfer companies when transferring and receiving money via Costa Rica?
John learned a lot from his quick inquiry into his money transfer options. So what does he recommend you look for when comparing services?
- Competitive exchange rates. Track down the best rates. While official rates are set, financial institutions can make adjustments to cover their costs, which means more money out of your pocket. Exchange rates can have a big impact on your bottom line and it pays (quite literally) to do your homework.
- Minimal fees. Look for flexible fees. The bank charges a standard fee on all transfers regardless of the amount. Money transfer services have flexible fees that vary according to the amount being transferred. Simply plug in different cash amounts to see how much your fee is going to be with each service.
- Various transfer methods. Discover your options. Depending on your circumstances, you may prefer a bank account to bank account transfer rather than a cash pickup. Figure out your limitations, and then choose the right fit for you.
- Fast transfer times. Don’t get left behind. Money transfer services have faster processing times (most completed within one business day). For regularly scheduled payments the bank is an option, but in case of an emergency, your friendly neighborhood transfer service is your best bet.
- Suitable transfer amounts. Know your limits and play within them. Some services have a minimum and maximum amount that can be sent with each transaction. Make sure to do your homework.
- Reliable customer service. Hold reputation in high regard. When transferring money frequently, ensure peace of mind by using a reputable service that will connect you with an agent immediately if there’s a problem with pick-up.
How do I send money to Costa Rica from Canada?
- Canadian Banks. Many Canadian banks can facilitate overseas transfers online, but most cost more than a dedicated international money transfer service.
- Money Transfer Services. Most money transfer services offer lower exchange rates and fees. Just make sure they offer a cash pick-up option in Costa Rica (like Western Union) so that you don’t run into problems on the receiving end.
- Cash pickup transfer companies. Western Union and MoneyGram both have several cash pickup locations in Costa Rica.
- PayPal. PayPal offers international money transfers between countries all over the world.
Emergency cash transfers in Costa Rica
If you’re in a bit of a pickle (like John’s daughter Kelly) and you need to send money to Costa Rica as quickly as possible then search for a cash pick-up option like Western Union to complete transactions in as little as 10 minutes. With this type of service, higher transaction fees and less competitive exchange rates often apply, so just make sure you know what you’re agreeing to before you sign on the dotted line. Once the money is sent, the recipient just needs to present with their passport at the appropriate pick-up location to collect funds.
Cash pickup locations in Costa Rica
With scores of locations in Canada and Costa Rica, Western Union and Moneygram both offer fast and convenient cash transfers between the two countries. You’ll typically need to provide a reference number, transfer details and some identification when picking up cash.
- Find a pick-up location with the Western Union Agent Location tool.
- Pick up from more than 400 locations in Costa Rica, including Banco de Costa Rico, Easypay Agent, Pelican Money Transfers and TeleDolar.
Tips for picking up cash in Costa Rica
If you do plan to visit Costa Rica, the Government of Canada recommends that you exercise a high degree of caution (as of 23 Jan 2018) due to crime. Petty crime—including pick pocketing and bag snatching—occurs frequently in Costa Rica; tourists are common targets for theft because they are perceived as being wealthy. It’s important to be cautious of strategies to distract your attention and avoid showing signs of affluence. When picking up cash, be extra careful around automated banking machines (ABMs), steer clear of isolated areas and never walk alone at night.