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Using a credit card in Costa Rica

Beware of hidden fees of up to 8% when paying with plastic in this popular tourist destination.

Due to the large number of tourists visiting Costa Rica, credit and debit card payments are very common and generally safe. While Visa and Mastercard are the most widely accepted credit cards, American Express is also popular. If you prefer to use cash, you can pay with US dollars or the local currency known as colónes. However, avoid using your credit card to withdraw US dollars from an ATM and never allow a merchant to charge your card in US dollars – both of these practices will have you facing unnecessary fees.

Compare credit cards for use in Costa Rica

If you’re thinking of applying for a new credit card before you go to Costa Rica, consider a card that charges no foreign transaction fees. Although the fees are relatively low, they can add up quickly if you use your credit card often.
Name Product Welcome Offer Rewards Purchase Interest Rate Annual Fee Min. Credit Score Description
Brim World Mastercard
Up to $300 worth of bonuses
1.5 points for every $1 spent
19.99%
$99
Min. recommended credit score: 700
Earn up to $300 worth of bonus points when you shop with Brim retailers for the first time through the Brim mobile app. 
HSBC World Elite® Mastercard®
70,000 Points
Up to 6 points per $1 spent
19.9%
$0 annual fee for the first year ($149 thereafter)
Min. recommended credit score: 650
Get a Welcome Bonus of 20,000 Points ($100 travel rewards). Plus, earn an additional 50,000 Points and get a 1st year annual fee waiver. Apply by September 27, 2021.
BMO U.S. Dollar Mastercard
N/A
N/A
19.99%
$35 USD
Min. recommended credit score: 725
When your purchases total US$1,000 or more in a year, the next year's annual fee (US$35) is rebated to your card.
Brim World Elite Mastercard
Brim World Elite Mastercard
Up to $500 worth of bonuses
2 points per $1 spent
19.99%
$0 annual fee for the first year ($199 thereafter)
Min. recommended credit score: 700
Collect up to $500 worth of bonus points when you shop with Brim retailers for the first time using your Brim World Elite Mastercard.
Scotiabank Gold American Express Card
40,000 points
Up to 5 points per $1 spent
19.99%
$120
Min. recommended credit score: 700
Earn up to 40,000 bonus Scotia Rewards points in your first year (that’s up to $400 towards travel) Apply by August 31, 2021.
Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite Card
40,000 points
Up to 2 points per $1 spent
19.99%
$139
Min. recommended credit score: 750
Earn up to 40,000 bonus Scotia Rewards points in your first year (that’s up to $400 towards travel). Apply by July 1, 2021.
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Visa and Mastercard credit cards are the most widely accepted issuers. Check with your bank before traveling to Costa Rica to confirm whether or not you’ll be able to use your credit card during your trip.
Name Product Welcome Offer Rewards Purchase Interest Rate Annual Fee Min. Credit Score Description
HSBC +Rewards™ Mastercard®
20,000 Points
2x points per $1 spent
11.9%
$0 annual fee for the first year ($25 thereafter)
Min. recommended credit score: 630
Get 20,000 Points (up to $100 in value), plus get a 1st year annual fee waiver. Apply by September 27, 2021.
BMO CashBack Mastercard
5% cash back
Up to 3% cash back
19.99%
$0
Min. recommended credit score: 660
Get 5% cash back on all eligible purchases in the first three months of card membership (up to max. spend of $2,000). Plus, get a rate of 1.99% on balance transfers with a 1% balance transfer fee for nine months.
Tangerine World Mastercard
1.95% rate on balance transfers for 6 months
Up to 2% cash back
19.95%
$0
Min. recommended credit score: 680
Get a 1.95% interest rate on balance transfers for the first six months (valid within the first 30 days of account opening).
BMO Preferred Rate Mastercard
3.99% rate on balance transfers for 9 months
N/A
12.99%
$20
Min. recommended credit score: 660
Get a rate of 3.99% on balance transfers for 9 months with a 1% transfer fee. Plus, get the $20 annual fee waived in the first year.
Brim Mastercard
Up to $200 worth of bonuses
1 point per $1 spent
19.99%
$0
Min. recommended credit score: 700
Earn up to $200 worth of bonus points when you shop with Brim retailers for the first time through the Brim mobile app.
Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card
1.95% rate on balance transfers for 6 months
Up to 2% cash back
19.95%
$0
Min. recommended credit score: 680
Get a 1.95% interest rate on balance transfers for the first six months (valid within the first 30 days of account opening).
Refresh Financial Secured Card
N/A
N/A
17.99%
$12.95
Min. recommended credit score: Any score
Take advantage of a low annual fee, with no credit check and guaranteed approval once you secure your card with some funds.
BMO Rewards Mastercard
10,000 points
Up to 2 points per $1 spent
19.99%
$0
Min. recommended credit score: 725
Get a bonus of 10,000 BMO Rewards points when you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months. Apply by October 31, 2021 . Plus, get a rate of 1.99% on balance transfers for 9 months. A 1% fee applies to transferred balances.
BMO World Elite Mastercard
30,000 points
Up to 3 points per $1 spent
20.99%
$0 annual fee for the first year ($150 thereafter)
Min. recommended credit score: 760
Get up to 30,000 points and the $150 annual fee waived in the first year. Apply by October 31, 2021
Scotiabank Value Visa Card
0.99% rate on balance transfers for 6 months
N/A
12.99%
$29
Min. recommended credit score: 660
Get a 0.99% introductory interest rate on balance transfers with a 0% transfer fee for the first 6 months. Apply by July 1, 2021.
Home Trust Secured Visa
N/A
N/A
14.90% - 19.99%
$0
Min. recommended credit score: Any score
Choose from three card options: No Annual Fee ($0 annual fee, 19.99% purchase rate), Low Interest Rate ($59 annual fee, 14.90% purchase rate) or a Low Monthly Fee ($5 monthly fee, 14.90% purchase rate).
BMO eclipse Visa Infinite
40,000 points
Up to 5 points per $1 spent
20.99%
$0 annual fee for the first year ($120 thereafter)
Min. recommended credit score: 760
Get up to 40,000 points and the $120 annual fee waived in the first year.
Shell AIR MILES Mastercard from BMO
800 Miles
Up to 3x Air Miles for every $25 spent
19.99%
$0
Min. recommended credit score: 660
Get 800 AIR MILES Bonus Miles (enough for $80 towards purchases with AIR MILES Cash).
Brim World Mastercard
Up to $300 worth of bonuses
1.5 points for every $1 spent
19.99%
$99
Min. recommended credit score: 700
Earn up to $300 worth of bonus points when you shop with Brim retailers for the first time through the Brim mobile app. 
BMO eclipse Visa Infinite Privilege
50,000 points
5 points per $1 spent
20.99%
$499
Min. recommended credit score: 760
Get up to 50,000 welcome points in your first year.
Neo Financial Credit Card
N/A
4% cash back
19.99% - 24.99%
$0
Min. recommended credit score: 600
Earn an average cash back of 4% at Neo partners across Canada, which includes most major gas stations and grocery stores, gyms, restaurants, coffee shops and more.
HSBC World Elite® Mastercard®
70,000 Points
Up to 6 points per $1 spent
19.9%
$0 annual fee for the first year ($149 thereafter)
Min. recommended credit score: 650
Get a Welcome Bonus of 20,000 Points ($100 travel rewards). Plus, earn an additional 50,000 Points and get a 1st year annual fee waiver. Apply by September 27, 2021.
Shell AIR MILES World Mastercard from BMO
Up to 1.25x Air Miles
1 Mile for every $15 spent
19.99%
$99
Min. recommended credit score: 760
Get 1.25x Miles on card purchases at Shell locations in Canada.
BMO CashBack World Elite Mastercard
Up to 10% cash back
1% cash back
20.99%
$0 annual fee for the first year ($120 thereafter)
Min. recommended credit score: 760
Get up to 10% cash back in your first 3 months and the $120 annual fee waived in the first year.
Shell CashBack Mastercard from BMO
$50 in cash back + 1% cash back
Up to 1.5% cash back
19.99%
$0
Min. recommended credit score: 660
Get $50 in cash back bonuses once you charge your first eligible purchase to your card. Plus, earn 1% cash back for the first 6 months on all eligible purchases.
BMO Rewards Business Mastercard
35,000 points
Up to 3 points per $1 spent
14.99%
$0 annual fee for the first year ($120 thereafter)
Min. recommended credit score: 650
Get 35,000 points and the $120 annual fee waived in the first year (a total value of $295 when you pay with points).
BMO Air Miles Business Mastercard
3,000 Miles
1 Mile for every $10 spent
19.99%
$120
Min. recommended credit score: 650
Get up to 3,000 AIR MILES Bonus Miles ($310 towards your purchases with AIR MILES Cash).
BMO IGA AIR MILES Mastercard
800 Miles
Up to 3x Air Miles for every $25 spent
19.99%
$0
Min. recommended credit score: 660
Get 800 AIR MILES Bonus Miles (enough for $80 towards purchases with AIR MILES Cash).
BMO U.S. Dollar Mastercard
N/A
N/A
19.99%
$35 USD
Min. recommended credit score: 725
When your purchases total US$1,000 or more in a year, the next year's annual fee (US$35) is rebated to your card.
BMO AIR MILES World Elite Mastercard
2,000 Miles
1 Mile for every $12 spent
20.99%
$0 annual fee for the first year ($120 thereafter)
Min. recommended credit score: 760
Earn a bonus of up to 2,000 AIR MILES. Terms apply. Plus, get the annual fee of $120 waived in the first year.
BMO Cashback Business Mastercard
10% cash back
Up to 1.75% cash back
19.99%
$0
Min. recommended credit score: 650
Get 10% cash back on gas, office supplies, cell phone bills and internet bills for 3 months.
BMO AIR MILES Mastercard
800 Miles
Up to 3x Air Miles for every $25 spent
19.99%
$0
Min. recommended credit score: 660
Get 800 AIR MILES Bonus Miles (enough for $80 towards purchases with AIR MILES Cash). Get a rate of 1.99% on balance transfers for 9 months. A 1% fee applies to transferred balances.
BMO AIR MILES Mastercard For Students
800 Miles
1 Mile per $25 spent
19.99%
$0
Min. recommended credit score: 660
Get 800 AIR MILES Bonus Miles (enough for $80 towards purchases with AIR MILES Cash). Get a 1.99% introductory interest rate on balance transfers for 9 months. A 1% fee applies to balance amounts transferred.
BMO CashBack Mastercard For Students
5% cash back
Up to 3% cash back
19.99%
$0
Min. recommended credit score: 660
Get up to 5% cash back in the first three months (up to max. spend of $2,000). Plus, get a rate of 1.99% on balance transfers for 9 months (with a 1% transfer fee).
BMO Air Miles No-Fee Business Mastercard
1,000 Miles
1 Mile per $20 spent
19.99%
$0
Min. recommended credit score: 650
Get 1,000 AIR MILES Bonus Miles (over $100 towards your purchases with AIR MILES Cash).
Shell CashBack World Mastercard from BMO
N/A
Up to 3% cash back
19.99%
$79
Min. recommended credit score: 760
Earn 3% cash back at Shell stations in Canada, plus 1.25% cash back on all other spend.
BMO Sobeys AIR MILES Mastercard
800 Miles
Up to 3x Air Miles for every $25 spent
19.99%
$0
Min. recommended credit score: 660
Get 800 AIR MILES Bonus Miles (enough for $80 towards purchases with AIR MILES Cash).
Brim World Elite Mastercard
Brim World Elite Mastercard
Up to $500 worth of bonuses
2 points per $1 spent
19.99%
$0 annual fee for the first year ($199 thereafter)
Min. recommended credit score: 700
Collect up to $500 worth of bonus points when you shop with Brim retailers for the first time using your Brim World Elite Mastercard.
Scotia Momentum No-Fee Visa Card
Up to 5% cash back
1% cash back
7.99% intro APR for the first 6 months, 19.99% thereafter
$0
Min. recommended credit score: 660
Earn 5% cash back on all purchases for the first 3 months (up to $2,000 in total purchases).Plus, get a 7.99% introductory interest rate on all eligible purchases for the first 6 months. Apply by July 1, 2021.
Scotia Momentum Mastercard
7.99% rate on balance transfers for 6 months
Up to 1% cash back
7.99% intro APR for the first 6 months, 20.99% thereafter
$0
Min. recommended credit score: 660
Get a 7.99% introductory interest rate on all eligible purchases for the first 6 months. Apply by July 1, 2021.
Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite Card
10% cash back
Up to 4% cash back per $1 spent
20.99%
$0 annual fee for the first year ($120 thereafter)
Min. recommended credit score: 750
Earn 10% cash back on all purchases for the first 3 months (up to $2,000 in total purchases) and pay no annual fee in the first year, including on supplementary cards (A welcome offer value of $350). Apply by August 31, 2021.
Scotiabank SCENE Visa Card
2,500 points
Up to 5 points per $1 spent
19.99%
$0
Min. recommended credit score: 660
Earn 2,500 bonus SCENE points when you spend a minimum of $500 on eligible purchases in the first three months as a new SCENE Visa cardholder. Apply by July 1, 2021.
Scotiabank GM Visa Card
N/A
Up to 5% cash back
19.99%
$0
Min. recommended credit score: 660
Earn 5% in GM Earnings on all eligible purchases on the first $5,000 annual spend, and 2% thereafter.
Scotiabank GM Visa Infinite Card
No first year annual fee
Up to 5% cash back
19.99%
$0 annual fee for the first year ($79 thereafter)
Min. recommended credit score: 660
Get the annual fee waived in the first year on the primary card as well as any supplementary cards. Apply by July 1, 2021.
Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite Card
40,000 points
Up to 2 points per $1 spent
19.99%
$139
Min. recommended credit score: 750
Earn up to 40,000 bonus Scotia Rewards points in your first year (that’s up to $400 towards travel). Apply by July 1, 2021.
ScotiaGold Passport Visa Card
5,000 points
1 point per $1 spent
19.99%
$110
Min. recommended credit score: 660
Receive 5,000 bonus Scotia Rewards points when you make your first eligible purchase. Eligible purchase must be posted to your account within 2 months of account opening. Apply by July 1, 2021.
Scotia Momentum Visa Card
7.5% cash back
Up to 2% cash back
19.99%
$39
Min. recommended credit score: 660
Earn 7.5% cash back on all purchases for the first 3 months (up to $2,000 in total purchases). Plus, get a 2.99% introductory rate on balance transfers and a 0% balance transfer fee for the first 6 months. Apply by August 31, 2021.
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Which credit card issuers are accepted in Costa Rica?

American Express cards are more popular in Costa Rica than in other countries, but Visa and Mastercard are still the most widely accepted. If you decide to withdrawal cash from an ATM using your Amex card, look for Banco BAC San Jose ATMs – although this will cost you big, so use your debit card unless it’s an emergency.

Merchant acceptance
ATM acceptance
Visa
check mark iconHigh
check mark iconHigh
Mastercard
check mark iconHigh
check mark iconHigh
American Express
check mark iconHigh
check mark iconHigh

Potential credit card fees in Costa Rica

  • Foreign transaction fees. Most credit cards come with foreign transaction fees of 2.5%. Every time you use your card in Costa Rica, you’ll need to pay this fee. Fortunately, there are a few credit cards that offer no foreign transaction fees in Canada.
  • Currency conversion fees. If you’re offered the choice of paying in Canadian dollars or Costa Rican colónes with your credit card, always choose the local currency. Paying in Canadian dollars with your card will subject you to a dynamic currency conversion (DCC) that can lead to poor exchange rates and currency conversion fees. When outside of Canada, always choose to pay in the local currency and let your bank do the currency conversion.
  • Cash advance fees. Using your credit card to withdraw money from an ATM will cost you big – you’ll face a cash advance fee and the cash advance interest rate. There is usually no grace period with a cash advance transaction, which means you’ll be charged the cash advance interest rate from the day you withdraw the funds. Instead, use your debit card to withdraw funds from an ATM and skip the high cash advance APR.
  • ATM fees. Even using your debit card to withdraw funds from an ATM will likely have you facing a fee. To avoid this fee, you can use a debit card issued by a bank that belongs to an international ATM alliance. As an example, Scotiabank is a member of the Global ATM Alliance, which means you can withdraw funds from an ATM free of charge – but you’ll need to use ATMs that belong to the alliance.
  • Hidden fees. Watch out for hidden charges at hostels and hotels when paying with your credit card. Some merchants may add up to an 8% fee to your bill.

How can I avoid these fees?

Before travelling, apply for a credit card that charges no foreign transaction fees. You can also apply for a debit card that belongs to an international ATM alliance, which will help you avoid the ATM fee. In addition, always ask about any hidden fees or additional charges, decline paying in Canadian dollars and avoid using your credit card at all costs to withdraw cash from an ATM.

ATMs in Costa Rica

In bigger cities around Costa Rica, you can pay with your card almost anywhere. In the countryside? Not so much. If you need cash, you could make a cash withdrawal from an ATM using your debit card. You could also exchange Canadian dollars for either US dollars or the local currency of Costa Rican colónes. It’s best to use colónes to pay since purchases paid for in USD will be rounded up.

Do taxis in Costa Rica accept credit cards?

No, taxis in Costa Rica don’t accept credit cards. If you want to pay with a credit card, you’ll need to use a rideshare service like Uber. Keep in mind that while Uber is cheaper in Costa Rica, it’s also a grey area — not entirely legal, but not illegal either. It’s also not offered in many places around Costa Rica.

Is it safe to use my credit card in Costa Rica?

While it’s safe to use your card in Costa Rica, you should exercise the same level of caution as you would in Canada.

  • Keep your PIN secure. Don’t write down your PIN anywhere. When using a keypad to enter your PIN, use your other hand to shield the screen from onlookers and hidden cameras.
  • Use an ATM inside a bank. In case the ATM has any issues, you’ll be able to get assistance. Also, ATMs that are within a bank are much less likely to be tampered with.
  • Choose ATMs carefully. Try and stick to ATMs found in public places and banks. Avoid ATMs in isolated areas – you may become the victim of a robbery, or a skimmer may be more likely to be installed on the machine.
  • Take two credit cards. If your primary credit card is lost or stolen, you’ll have a backup.
  • Keep your card physically safe. Costa Rica isn’t known to have a big card cloning issue — but just in case, always keep an eye on your card.

How to prepare before travelling to Costa Rica

  1. Get a credit card without foreign transaction fees. Some credit cards come with no foreign transaction fees, which can save you 2.5% on every transaction made overseas.
  2. Opt for a Mastercard or Visa. They’re more universally accepted, though American Express is also popular in Costa Rica.
  3. Get a backup card. This is particularly useful if something happens to your primary card. With a backup card, you won’t be stuck without money. It’s also a good idea to have your bank or credit card providers phone number on hand in case of an emergency.
  4. Get some cash. Costa Rica merchants accept both the local currency of colónes as well as US dollars. If you want the local currency, you can use an ATM to make a cash withdrawal.
  5. Inform your bank that you’re travelling to Costa Rica. That way, you’ll avoid the bank blocking your card due to unsuspecting card activity from Costa Rica.

Next steps

Ask yourself these questions in order to avoid common credit card related problems in Costa Rica.

  • Which cards will I use? Visa and Mastercard are the most widely accepted brand of credit cards worldwide, but you will find many businesses in Costa Rica that accept American Express. You should also take at least two credit cards with you on your travels in case one gets lost or stolen.
  • Does my bank know? If your bank is not aware of your upcoming trip, you may have to deal with a temporarily suspended card. Always notify your bank or credit card provider of your overseas travels to avoid your card being blocked.
  • What fees will I face? Read your credit card terms and conditions or call and ask your credit card provider if you’ll face any foreign transaction fees. You will need to apply for a no foreign transaction fee credit card to avoid these fees. Remember, you can easily avoid currency conversion fees by paying in the local currency instead of Canadian dollars.
  • How will I get cash? Your options include using your Canadian debit card at a local ATM, exchanging money or carrying travellers’ cheques. Avoid using a credit card to withdraw money from an ATM unless its an emergency.

Using a credit card in …

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