Saturday 1 April 2023

PIN up, four-digit security code required for purchases over ¢30,000

Purchases greater than ¢30,000 represent 10% of all transactions made with plastic, according to Costa Rica's Central Bank

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01 April 2023 - At The Banks - BCCR

Paying the bills


QCOSTARICA – Starting last Sunday, May 1, retail purchases for amounts greater than ¢30,000 no longer require the signature of the cardholder, but the customer enter their PIN (persona identification number) at the merchant’s ‘datafono’ (dataphone), as ordered by the Banco Central de Costa Rica (BCCR) –  Central Bank of Costa Rica.

This requirement places a burden on customers who do not know their PIN, a practice that until Sunday was strictly for those who use an ATM.


Purchases over ¢30,000 colones no longer require a signature, rather the four-digit PIN to complete the transaction
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It also has placed a burden on banks that have been scrambling to meet the demand of their customers for card PIN requests.

However, that does mean a massive visit of clients to branches, since PIN requests can be made directly at the bank’s online portals. In some cases, customers do have to visit a branch to resolve any issues with their PIN request.

A controversial measure

Costa Rican consumer groups have asked the Central Bank to consider increasing the minimum amount for the PIN request.

“We feel that businesses are not so well prepared to provide privacy to the user,” said Erick Ulate, president of Consumers of Costa Rica.

The El Financiero, Costa Rica’s financial newspaper, reported last Friday that chain stores such as Walmart (and its Masxmenos and Pali), Pricesmart, for example, have adequate infrastructure to provide customers with privacy when entering the PIN, the reality of other businesses is not the same.

On January 21, 2022, the sociación Bancaria Costarricense (ABC)  – Costa Rican Banking Association – issued a press release in which it asked the Central Bank to reconsider this measure, which it described as a setback in the path that banks have led to invest in contactless information technology.

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In addition, according to the association, this change does not guarantee the prevention of fraud and could rather generate greater insecurity.

“Banks have made a great effort and investment to implement products and platforms that guarantee the least contact for users, which means a setback in this trend,” Ronulfo Jiménez, economic advisor to ABC, told El Financiero.

Jiménez also mentioned that this measure would discourage the use of cards and cause users to opt for less secure forms of payment.

What if you forget the PIN?

In cases where the user forgets the PIN of their credit or debit cards, issuers (banks) must provide their customers with the necessary facilities to receive or modify the PIN at no cost, as long as the request is made through Internet banking channels, such as online banking or  ATMs.

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However, if the procedure is carried out in person on the service platform or through a third-party ATM, the issuer may charge for the service provided. This is stipulated in the Central Bank Card System Regulations.

Banks, such as the Banco de Costa Rica (BCR), Scotiabank and BAC Credomatic have already started communication campaigns to inform their customers how they can obtain their PIN easily and immediately through the digital channels of each entity.

“This service, which has been available to customers for a year now, is part of the BCR’s efforts to have more and more self-managed procedures, without the need to go to a commercial office,” said Jose Ledezma Fallas, Manager of Digital Banking through a press release.

Foreign Cards

The measure may present issues for foreigners using their cards (credit or debit) in Costa Rica.

For instance, it has come to our attention that VISA and Mastercard credit cards issued in the United States, unlike credit cards issued by European and Canadian banks, are never issued a four-digit PIN for purchases. In the U.S., the PIN is issued to credit cardholders solely for the purpose of making cash advances at ATMs.*

American expats living in Costa Rica should contact their U.S. bank to obtain their PIN and the regulations for its use. U.S. tourists should do so before traveling.

Recommendations on the use of the PIN

  • Memorize your PIN. It may seem like a logical recommendation, but memorizing your PIN will prevent you from the risk of information theft. Writing down the PIN on the computer, cell phone or notebook makes it a more vulnerable target.
  • Be careful when entering your PIN. When you have to enter your PIN at a terminal, be sure to block the visibility of the people around you with your hands, in this way, you will prevent third parties from knowing your sensitive banking information.
  • Choose a PIN that is difficult to predict. Avoid using common passwords, such as birth or anniversary dates, or even consecutive or repeating strings, such as 1111 or 1234.
  • Never share your PIN. The security PIN for your cards must be confidential. Never share your password with third parties. Remember that no bank entity will request this information.
  • Periodically update your PIN. To avoid confusion or forgetting the secret key, this change should not be very frequent. Experts recommend changing the PIN annually in order to prevent security breaches.

*With information provided by D. Davis, editor of ‘Que Pasa Grecia‘.

Update (May 4): Mr. Davis wrote to inform that while traveling in Spain where PINs are required: “When I use my credit card, the merchant’s card reader recognizes my card as not have a PIN and does not request one…”.




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