Friday 20 May 2022

The Biggest Error You Can Make If You Choose Costa Rica To Relocate

Paying the bills


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20 May 2022 - At The Banks - BCCR

Paying the bills


On my monthly relocation tours I always tell my clients that, “the worst here is far better than the worst in the States.” In fact, after living here for almost 40 years I can categorically state that Costa Rica is not perfect but far better than most places. I have truly had a blessed life while living the Costa Rican Dream.

I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t provide advice on how to avoid some of the pitfalls of living here. Perhaps one of the biggest is dealing with Scotiabank. They take money from their customers, work with it and repay them by making their lives miserable. Frankly, I do not understand how anyone in Costa Rica can deal with the said bank.

All one has to do is to go online to see the many complaints about Scotiabank’s substandard services written by expats (se below). People think that because the mother bank is located in Canada that they are going to receive good service but nothing could be farther from the truth.

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Unfortunately, for my book and travel businesses, I have to keep a corporate account with them. It is a real pain in the neck to change this type of account to another bank because of the amount of paperwork and regulations – almost draconian in nature. On top of that, every two years clients of the bank have to update their account information, which proves to be another journey through hell. In the time I have lived in Costa Rica I have never been asked to do the same by either the Banco de Costa Rica or the Banco Nacional, only Scotia.

My latest experience came after I went to the trouble of providing the bank with all of my paperwork to update my account. It turns out that some incompetent employee in the main office of the bank lost what I submitted. Now I have to inconvenience my accountant and lawyer, at my time and expense, and go through the same painstaking and humiliating process all over again.

I have countless other examples of how myself and others have been unfairly treated by Scotiabank.

Believe me, this not a figment of my imagination or a rant.

Once, an over zealous bank employee scolded me for keeping cash in my safe deposit box and inferred that I was engaged in money laundering. I complained to Costa Rica’s bank regulatory agency called the SUFEF and the manager of my branch had to issue me a written apology for the way I was treated. I would have sued the bank for defamation of character but the process would have probably lasted decades.

In my guidebooks, tours, lectures and weekly blog my goal is to provide future residents with objective advice and information that they need to make the move successfully and with as few headaches as possible. By being aware of the situation above expats will be able to avoid similar mistakes and have a better quality of life here.

Here are some on-line complaints about Scotiabank.

  1. Be careful of Scotiabank. I have heard many foreign residents complain about unfair treatment at this bank. They complain about having to open their safety boxes for random inspections (which is illegal without a court order) and general lack of privacy at this overly intrusive bank.
  2. Here is what one resident said about Scotiabank, ”I was with Scotiabank for over a year. They were awful. And I mean bad. Their statements were impossible to read. But worse is they didn’t know how to read them and often took two months to research the problems. The worst was telling me they would have a decision for a home loan in two weeks and then take three months. In the end, they said the property was worth $4 per square meter when all other sales in the neighborhood were $25 to $35. I moved to Promerica and they have been tons better. Not to say they are perfect. But compared to Scotiabank, they are amazing.”
  3. Another local who works in the real estate business said about Scotiabank: “Atrocious service, and they outright mislead. I have seen them pull the rug out of a sale at the last minute when sellers and buyers both had their house packed up to go. No good reason. I have heard this tale from others, too. Overall, I regard them as the worst because they seem so up-to-date and modern with the fancy air conditioning and slick offices. I avoid them like the plague and have no clue why they behave this way.”
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Here is another bad experience a local resident had at Scotiabank.

“I have a good excuse to report an experience at Scotiabank from several years ago (downtown branch). I withdrew some money, which the teller gave me after opening an unusual number of drawers (not all at his window) and roaming about a lot. Within 10 minutes of leaving the bank, I discovered I had been given a $100 counterfeit bill. I returned and they wouldn’t do anything about it saying, of course, “You left the bank.” Whenever I had occasion to be in the bank, I would look at him in passing and he would duck his head and look away. I think he was just waiting for someone to pass it to. I avoid Scotiabank every opportunity I get.”

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Paying the bills
Christopher Howard
Christopher Howard has lived, worked and played in one of the most magical places on earth for more than 33 years. His love for Central America is so great that he became a citizen of Costa Rica. Howard is the author the perennial best-selling travel/retirement/overseas investment guide book (15 editions), The New Golden Door to Retirement and Living in Costa Rica. He is the only author of any of the guidebooks about Costa Rica who actually lives there full-time. You can reach Howard at

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