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Due to the large number of tourists visiting Costa Rica, card payments are generally safe and widely accepted. Aside from Visa and Mastercard, American Express is also quite popular.
However, there are some potential fees to watch out for when you’re paying with plastic:
It’s also worth noting that when it comes to cash advances and non-sterling transactions, card issuers will often start charging interest on the day your account is debited, rather than the customary “up to 55 days interest-free” that applies when you clear your balance in full each month.
Here’s a section of a fairly typical T&Cs document showing the charges applicable when spending abroad:
Consider taking out a credit card offering commission-free currency conversion (see table below), even if you only use it when you’re abroad. Once you have one of these cards, if a merchant offers to take payment in sterling, say you’re happy to pay in colones, since you know your own bank won’t charge you for the privilege.
Generally speaking it’s not a great idea to use a credit card to withdraw cash, but some travel credit cards won’t penalise you for this either. Finally, make sure to check whether the ATM you use is going to charge a fee. Bank ATMs are generally a safer bet than those in convenience stores or bars.
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Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 23.9% (variable) p.a. with a fee of £3 per month, your representative rate is 29.8% APR (variable).
Chip-and-PIN credit cards aren’t common in Costa Rica, but you can still freely pay with your chip-and-PIN card wherever cards are accepted.
To avoid unpleasant situations when withdrawing money or checking out, make sure your card’s logo matches one of the logos on the ATM or POS terminal.
Yes, it’s generally safe to use your credit card in Costa Rica. You can always practice good safety habits to better protect your finances, though. Consider these precautions:
No, taxis in Costa Rica don’t accept credit cards. But you can request Uber rides if you need to pay with your credit card. Keep in mind that while Uber is cheaper in Costa Rica, it’s also a grey area – not entirely legal, but not illegal either.
When you travel to Costa Rica, you shouldn’t have a problem using your credit card in large cities. But if you go to the countryside, you’ll want to have some cash on hand. Be careful to not incur fees you can otherwise avoid. With a decent travel credit card, you can avoid a poor exchange rate or foreign transaction fees by simply declining the DCC when offered.
However, some merchants may add additional fees to credit card transactions. Make sure you ask about them before you make a payment to avoid unnecessary charges.
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