Sunday 19 September 2021

Costa Rica Starts Bank Account Renumbering

Paying the bills


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Paying the bills


Q COSTA RICA – Sunday, January 22 will see the start of the process to replace the 17-digit customer ‘cuenta cliente” (account numbers) with the global standard International Bank Account Number (IBAN), which will facilitate interbank transactions at the national and international level.

The Central Bank (Banco Central de Costa Rica – BCCR) says on its website:

Costa Rica is making firm progress in changing the current format for bank accounts to the standardized bank account number structure, that will allow a single account number for both local and international transactions and will reduce errors while processing incoming and outgoing payments in financial institutions. The new standard will affect the technological infrastructure of financial institutions and the National Electronic Payments System (SINPE), a process which will also be felt by the technological systems of public entities connected to SINPE.

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To make the change, the Central Bank will “disconnect” the SINPE payment platform from 12:01am to noon Sunday to make the technical changes.
What this means is that no transfers can occur during the 12 hours.

According to Carlos Melegatti, director of SINPE, the day and time was chosen because there is little traffic and no anticipated major impact on the transactions.

What is IBAN?
The International Bank Account Number (IBAN) is an internationally agreed system of identifying bank accounts across national borders to facilitate the communication and processing of cross border transactions with a reduced risk of transcription errors.

The IBAN has been us sed in 70 countries around the world for 20 years.

What is SINPE?
The Sistema Nacional de Pagos Electronicos or SINPE is a safe and efficient technology platform system created by the Central Bank of Costa Rica that can be used by Costa Rica financial institutions allowing the online (electronic transfer) of funds in real-time with other financial institutions, that is ‘interbanking’ or ‘bank-to-bank’ transfers.

Customers wanting to use the SINPE must register at their local banks. Some banks, like the Banco Nacional (BN) use a token (costing US43), while the Banco de Costa Rica (BCR) use a ‘clave dinamica’ (free), as a requirement to make SINPE transactions.

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How To Use SINPE?
To use SINPE, all you need to have is either a checking, savings, or credit card with one of the local financial institutions (private or public). Upon request, the financial institution will issue you a “cuenta cliente” (client account) which is a bunch of numbers attached to the beginning of your bank account number. It is that number that will change, currently 17 digits, that will change to the new 22 digit. There is no change to the SINPE system, only the client number is being changed starting Sunday.

Using the financial institutions online system, with your credentials (ie username, password and any other requirement set by the particular institution) you can now make transfers from your account to another persons account at the same or another financial institution.

Transfers within the your registered accounts at same financial institution does not require SINPE. That is, if you have more than one account (ie colones, dollars, savings, checking, etc) at the same bank, transfer within the accounts does not require the SINPE.

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What is the change ?
Currently, in Costa Rica, the current customer account (bank account) numbers is 17 digits.  Starting Sunday, account numbers will have 22 digits and will be made up of the country code (two letters CR) check digit (two digits), a “0” and the 17 digits of the client account.

Graphic by La Nacion explaning the change

When will the change take place?
Each of the financial institutions will have to make changes in their platforms for the use of the new account.

It is expected that during this 2017 and 2018, financial institutions in the country will switch to IBAN accounts so their users will adopt the new number that will be communicated to them. By 2018, this new account number will be used for transactions within the same bank, as well with other financial institutions.

The new number will be printed on credit or debit cards and checkbooks for customers to become familiar with the new system.

Want to know what your IBAN number will be? Click here, the Central Bank page will convert your current 17 digit account number to the 22 digit IBAN. (Look for the converter scrolling down the page)

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Paying the bills
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