There are two types of banks in Costa Rica: Those owned by the state and private banks. Deposits are insured by the former and not by the latter. The only real disadvantage to public banks is that at times the lines and waits seem to be longer than at the private banks. I have accounts in both state-owned and private banks and prefer the former because my money is insured and the safety measures utilized by them.
For example, recently, the Banco Nacional, the country’ premier state-owned bank, opened a new state-of-the-art monitoring system (Centro de Monitoreo de Seguridad Electrónica) to protect its customers and facilities against robberies, fires and other potentially dangerous situations. The system receives information in real time from over 9,000 cameras at its branches and ATMs located all over the country 24-hours a day 365 days a year. In additional, all vehicles belonging to the bank are monitored by a satellite surveillance system.
Scotiabank is a Canadian financial institution and one of Costa Rica’s private banks. Scotiabank has branches located in more than 45 countries in the Caribbean and Central America, Mexico, Latin America and Asia. Unfortunately, in Costa Rica it is a private institution and does not insure its clients money as in Canada. Furthermore I once had a very unpleasant experience at a downtown branch of Scotiabank.
I opened an account there over ten years ago and also obtained a safety deposit box at the same time. On one occasion when I visited the bank I was asked to open my safety deposit box and show its contents to a bank official. Initially I refused but he showed me a contract I had originally signed which stated in fine print that the bank could inspect a client’s safety deposit box whenever it wanted. In addition, clients could not keep dangerous chemicals, firearms or CASH in their boxes. What kind of bank prohibits its customers from keeping money in a safety deposit box?
Anyway to make a long story short, when I showed the bank official what I had in my box he told me that I had to remove the cash immediately. I told him that I kept the money there in case of an emergency. He responded that I still had to remove the cash. I was really irritated and didn’t want to make a scene so I followed his instructions.
I took the money to The Banco de Costa Rica where I have another safety deposit box. While there I asked the person in charge if there were any restrictions about keeping cash in my box and he said , “NO”, another reason I prefer the state-owned banks.
To make a long story short I presented a complaint with the SUGEF, the country’s main banking regulatory agency, against Scotiabank because of the discourteous manner in which I is was treated. The bank and their rude employee ended up having to apologize to me in writing and in person. I thought about suing the bank but lawsuits take too long here.
Needless to say I never recommend Scotiabank to any of my clients, keep NO money there because of what happened to me and above all the fact that they don’t insure their customer’s funds.