A Guide to the Cheapest Way to Send Money to Costa Rica

send money to costa rica cover picture

There was a time when sending money to Costa Rica was not easy. Despite forging historically close ties with the United States in the late 19th century, Costa Rica was strictly a barter and cash-only economy for many decades. When Minor Cooper Keith of the United Fruit Company needed to make capital investments for major projects such as railroad construction, he had to settle for shipping suitcases filled with cash from New York aboard steamships that docked in Puerto Limon.

Thankfully, things have improved considerably in Costa Rica since about 2005, when central bank officials issued a new set of regulations that injected much-needed flexibility in personal financial services. 

Older expats who have lived here for a while probably remember the frustration of having to deal with long lines at Banco Nacional, just to be told that an international wire transfer was delayed, and then having to wait in another long line for currency exchange. 

This was back in the days when doing a SWIFT wire transfer was the only game. Although it’s still around, you now have quite a few other options that are not only cheaper but also a lot more convenient.

If you just want to find out the cheapest way to send money to Costa Rica, check out Monito. It allows you to compare the rates and speeds of multiple money transfer services within a few clicks.

But if you’d like a more in-depth guide, read on. Below, we cover some top tips for getting the most from your international transfers to Costa Rica.

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What to Watch Out for When Sending Money to Costa Rica

Nowadays, sending money internationally is a fairly easy process. There are many online services you can use as well as traditional wire and bank transfers. Before settling on your desired service, consider the following financial aspects: Accessibility

When the money reaches the country, how easy will it be for the recipient to access it?

About half of Costa Rica consists of rural communities; even though many of them have at least one bank branch, called “oficina del banco”, and a corresponding ATM, some towns may not have money transmitter offices, while some may be limited by the amount of cash they may have on hand. 

With this in mind, coffee farming communities with a strong presence of Nicaraguan harvest workers will have more than one Western Union and TeleDolar office that stays pretty busy. Should they run out of cash, they can always schedule delivery by armored truck the same day.

Domestic bank accounts are not always needed to receive money, but they can make the process easier because having one offers two advantages: real-time transfer and no cash shortages.

But even in situations where recipients don’t have a bank account, a branch will handle the receipt of money transfers to local residents and expats who have proper identification and the transaction code.

In short, accessibility shouldn’t be an issue in all but the remotest communities. Theoretically, this won’t be your concern as the sender, especially with the global push towards online payments for services. Even so, it’s worth considering if you plan to send a lot of money for them to use as cash.

Currency Exchange 

Currency exchange is arguably the most important factor when dealing with international money transfers. A good exchange rate works in both your and the recipient’s favor, giving you both “more” for your money.

What’s more, different online transfer services will choose different exchange rates, which are usually based on other factors. These might include, for example, their transfer fees. Domestic banks and services such as PayPal usually have the worst rates, whereas specific money transfer services usually offer favorable rates.

Costa Rican colón
Costa Rican colón is the official currency of Costa Rica.

It’s also necessary to look at long-term trends and how the Costa Rican colon trends against major international currencies, such as the US dollar or the euro. Even though it’s possible to exchange euros and British pound sterling to colones in Costa Rica, you will generally need to exchange them into USD for international money transfers; even more so when dealing with Australian or Canadian dollars. 

With this in mind, you can see the official USD/CRC exchange rate offered by all authorized financial services providers by visiting this page from the central bank, which is updated every 24 hours. 

When looking at the page, pay attention to the first column labeled “Tipo de Entidad”, and go down to where it says “Casas de Cambio” where you will see TeleDolar, a local money transmitter, and Global Exchange, which operates at the Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO). 

Notice the great difference in exchange rates between the two.  This is exactly why it’s important to research different money transfer services. Spending a bit of time doing so could save you a lot of money.

However, be sure to balance this against the earlier point of accessibility. For example, a wire transfer might be more expensive but still a better option because of how the recipient plans to receive it. Generally, this shouldn’t be a massive issue, but it’ll depend mainly on the recipient’s bank account and internet access.


Transfer Fees 

Hundreds of thousands of foreign workers, particularly from Nicaragua, send money home on a regular basis.

In addition, a few thousand Ticos working abroad, particularly in the United States, send money back to Costa Rica. Costa Rica’s status as a remittance nation bodes well for those who wish to send money because money transmitters compete for business, and this translates into low transfer fees.

You could expect to pay $9 to $40 per transaction, depending on the money transfer method you choose.  

You might not need to pay a transfer fee when transferring via PayPal to a person who already has a PayPal account in Costa Rica, a PayPal debit card, and uses Banco Nacional ATMs for withdrawals.

However, a zero transfer fee doesn’t always mean it’s the cheapest method of sending money to Costa Rica, since you still have to keep the exchange rate in mind. Services such as Wise include a transfer fee but offer decent exchange rates, meaning it usually provides overall better value than something like PayPal. Of course, this’ll depend on your specific circumstances.

There are also other fees that you might not be aware of such as the withdrawal fee. 

Transfer Speeds 

With modern money transfer services delivering cash in just minutes, there’s no need for you to transfer cash the traditional way such as via a bank wire transfer or mailing a check. 

In fact, you should completely exclude checks when sending money to Costa Rica. Checks have not been used down here for personal banking in more than two decades. 

The average international transfer speed is 3-5 days. On the other hand, transferring via Western Union may only take a few minutes, but the rate is also much more expensive than other options. 

We will also recommend other options to access cash quickly even during bank holidays, which Costa Rica has plenty of.

Transfer Options

Many people incorrectly believe that Costa Rica is falling behind in terms of personal finance due to the perception that it is a developing nation where agriculture and tourism are the main contributors to its gross domestic product (GDP). 

But personal banking in Costa Rica is not only fairly advanced, but also more flexible and less restrictive when compared to the United States. This presents certain advantages when sending money from abroad.

It would be impossible to mention every single money transfer option available for sending money to Costa Rica. However, we will discuss a few recognized as the most convenient. We will also explain why some obvious transfer options are not as desirable. 

Depending on the currency exchange rate, transfer fees, and withdrawal fees at ATMs in Costa Rica, sending $1,000 could be free or cost more than $100 by the time the recipient gets the cash.

Monito is a great tool you can use to find out the cheapest transfer option. It calculates both transfer fee and exchange rate in real-time and it allows you to see which provider gives you the best rate, i.e., the most final value for your money. 


With Remitly, you can send money from 17 countries and receive money in 100 countries – and Costa Rica is one of them.

Remitly logo

If you send up to US$49.99 to Costa Rica through Remitly, you could pay the following fees depending on the speed you opt for:

  • Express fee of US$5.99 (minutes)
  • Economy fee of US$2.99 (three to five business days)

However, the fee increases with the amount of money you send. For instance, if you transfer US$9,000 into Costa Rica using Remitly, you would pay the following fees:

  • Express fee of US$59.99 (minutes)
  • Economy fee of US$12.99 (three to five business days)

Keep in mind that banks in Costa Rica could charge a fee ranging from US$9 to US$40, depending on how much you transfer.

Also, be aware of Remitly’s hidden charges, as the online money service provider takes a percentage of the exchange rate as a fee.

If you send USD to Costa Rica, for example, they will charge a fee equal to 0.75% of your transfer. However, first-time transfers don’t have a fee, making it an economical option to send a large amount of money (provided you trust the service).


Wise is a well-known player in the international money transfer space, and it also presents an advantage with regard to currency exchange. 

As we previously mentioned, there are money transfer methods that will leave receivers shortchanged in Costa Rica, but Wise is not one of them. In fact, using this money transfer method will actually result in more CRC cash for recipients.

Wise Logo
Wise stands out because of its highly transparent fee schedules; what you see will always be what you get. But there’s more to like. 

Let’s say you want to send $1,000 to a relative in Costa Rica. With a Wise account, all you need to do is provide the recipient’s information, which should include IBAN, SWIFT, and individual data such as full name and cédula or DIMEX number, if available. You would lock in the exchange rate at the time of transfer, and the transfer fee is deducted from the funds. 

Wise combines a flat fee with a variable exchange rate. At the time of writing, its flat fee is US$7.85 along with a variable fee of 1.34%. For US$1,000, this would equate to $21.25. What’s more, the locked exchange rate applies to the money you send for the whole transfer period. Considering Wise also lets you open up numerous accounts for different currencies, it makes international transfers super easy.


Xendpay used to be another inexpensive way to send money to Costa Rica. However, it went out of business in 2023. 

If you have any outstanding balances with them, you need to visit their website to get contact details for legal representation.

International Bank Transfers

When the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) protocol was established in the mid-1970s, bank account holders from around the world were excited at the prospect of being able to receive money right into their personal accounts from abroad. 

In general, the sender needs to have enough funds in the account to cover the amount to be wired, plus the bank’s SWIFT fee.

It usually takes 3-5 business days for international bank transfers. And you might need to pay the transfer fee for both the sending bank and the receiving bank. 

Let’s say a Barclays customer in London wants to send £1,000 to Costa Rica. If the receiving bank is also Barclays Bank, the sender will have to pay £25 as a wire transfer fee. The receiver will pay £12. 

barclays bank logo
If you have an online Barclays bank account, you don’t need to pay a transfer fee when sending money to the Barclays bank account in Costa Rica.

If a sender has a Personal or Premier Barclays, doing an online transfer will waive the £25 fee. Note that the transfer fee is subject to change over time. 

The advantage here is that since the money will be in the BAC account, it can be withdrawn at a branch, from an ATM, or used to settle payments directly from the app or online banking web platform.

Western Union

With its 3-5 business day wait times, the SWIFT protocol is certainly not so swift in the present day. Western Union global money transfers are significantly faster than SWIFT, and they do not require bank accounts. 

If you were to send $1,000 from the US to Costa Rica, Western Union may be one of the quickest options. However, its exchange rates aren’t great. At the time of writing, the exchange rate is $1 US to 512 CRC. On Western Union’s site, however, it’s $1 US to 431 CRC.

Western Union Logo
Although sending internationally through Western Union is quick, it’s often much more expensive than other methods.

With WU, it boils down to paying higher fees for the convenience of speedy transfers. The sender will save a few dollars by going either the online or WU mobile app route, but the receiver is bound to get less because of the lower exchange rate.

Aside from the disadvantage with currency exchange, WU receivers in Costa Rica are known to run into issues claiming funds at local WU agents. These are mainly issues with presenting proof of identification even if they have the Money Transfer Control Number. 

In some cases, a call to WU compliance may be required by both parties. If the local transfer agent is a major bank such as Banco Nacional, and the receiver has an account, this may not be an issue. In fact, for the $4,000 amount, it is better to go to the bank since a local WU agent may need to call in an armored truck to deliver cash. 

If everything goes well, money can be in Costa Rica in just a few minutes.


There are several ways to send money to Costa Rica via PayPal; the easiest would be to send money to someone who has already established a PayPal Business or PayPal Cash account in the U.S., Canada, Australia, the UK, or even Costa Rica. 


PayPal has become a very flexible option for transferring funds around the world, but only when both sender and receiver have PayPal accounts and a means to access cash.

Let’s look at the easiest PayPal scenario in which a recipient in Costa Rica has a PayPal Business Debit or Cash MasterCard. 

It’s very convenient to send money through PayPal. However, the recipient would need to pay a lot of fees including transfer fee, exchange rate fee, and withdrawal fee.

The sender abroad simply needs to fund their PayPal account, enter the receiver’s email address or account name, and the money would be available in minutes and with zero fees involved. 

However, the receiver needs to pay a fee of around 3% to 5% per transaction. 

The receiver will get a notification, which is their cue to go to the nearest ATM to withdraw funds in either USD or CRC. Paypal charges $2.5 per withdrawal.  

You also need to pay banks the withdrawal fee. For example, the ATMs of the “Big Three” public banks in Costa Rica, Banco Nacional, Banco de Costa Rica, and Banco Popular, charge about $1 for an international ATM withdrawal, whereas a private bank such as Davivienda will easily charge about $6. 

In fact, Banco Nacional will rarely charge for PayPal ATM withdrawals.

If the receiver does not have PayPal, you will be redirected to Xoom, a money transmitter partner, and you will be able to choose between Costa Rica bank accounts or a local agent, which will likely be a bank. However, you will now pay a minimum of $5 for the transfer, and the amount you can send will also be limited. Moreover, the currency exchange rate will not be advantageous to the receiver. 

In other words, currency exchange rates across all the PayPal money transfer methods will not be as enticing as Wise.

If the receiver has a Costa Rica-based PayPal account, they can link to a local bank account and wait about three days for the funds to transfer over at a 3.5% fee plus a 625 CRC fee for withdrawal. 

If you need to access the PayPal funds faster, check with local partners Kipo and Wink, but you may end up having to pay a little more.

To summarize, it’s convenient to send money via PayPal. It’s also free for the senders. On the other hand, there are a lot of fees involved for the receivers and PayPal’s exchange rate is usually quite poor.

TeleDolar – MoneyGram

In Costa Rica, you will probably notice that TeleDolar shops look sharper than their Western Union counterparts. They also happen to be cheaper and generally better at receiving money.

Some Nicaraguan workers in Costa Rica get emergency cash sent by relatives and friends in the U.S., and they usually pick up funds at TeleDolar but with money sent via MoneyGram.

MoneyGram fees are always lower than Western Union but more expensive than Wise.

moneygram logo
If you want to quickly send money to Costa Rica, TeleDolar – MoneyGram is a better option than WesternUnion.

For this option, you don’t need to have a bank account in Costa Rica. But if you are sending more than $2,000 and don’t want to wait for the armored truck to reach TeleDolar, you can receive the funds at Banco de Costa Rica

Keep in mind that TeleDolar is a “casa de cambio” that offers competitive currency exchange rates, so you do not have to worry about receivers getting fleeced. 

Money usually arrives within minutes, but your recipient might have to wait a while to withdraw it as TeleDolar stores can be much busier than Western Union’s.

Cryptocurrency Wallets

In theory, digital currency tokens should be the easiest way to move money from one country to another because they have no physical borders to cross. 

Provided the sender and recipient have Bitcoin wallets, the process of sending money is no different than a wire transfer. Cryptocurrencies are designed to be fast and secure – these features are innate to their construction.

Crypto transactions have fees, known in the industry as “gas fees”. These are usually fairly small, but they cover the cost of powering the computer network (in the same way as any other transfer fees work). The exact price you pay depends on the amount you send and the crypto network you use.


While cryptocurrencies can make sense from an online transfer perspective, the recipient may be limited in what they can do with them. To convert crypto into CRC, they’ll need to use an online marketplace, such as OKX or Coinbase. The process isn’t too difficult, but the fees can quickly pile up.

Essentially, converting crypto involves selling it for the currency you want. Marketplaces are designed to make this straightforward, but you’ll find there are conversion fees, transfer fees, and additional gas fees. After you’ve gone through all of this, it probably makes sense to just use a traditional transfer method.

Which is the Best Method to Send Money to Costa Rica?

We could say that the best money transfer method is the one that involves less friction and the least amount of fees, but reality gets in the way of recommending cryptocurrency transfers. 

The same goes for PayPal money transfers because we know that not all receivers will have a PayPal Business Debit or Cash MasterCard in Costa Rica.

In scenarios where receivers have bank accounts in Costa Rica, Wise is a better way to go because it is a bit faster and receivers are bound to benefit from higher exchange rates.

What’s the best option when neither senders nor receivers have bank accounts? In this case, we could argue that Western Union is a sensible solution, but the fees tend to be higher, and receivers may take a bit of a bath with regard to currency exchange rates when the money arrives in Costa Rica. 

Western Union is fast, but it can be a hassle when both parties are subject to additional ID verification, which involves international phone calls. 

MoneyGram to TeleDolar in Costa Rica is a better option when neither sender nor receiver have bank accounts, but the waiting times may be a bit longer than Western Union. If the receiver wants decent currency exchange rates and can afford to wait for an hour or so, MoneyGram is a good idea.

Country-Specific Recommendations

Below are our recommendations when it comes to sending money from the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, and Australia to Costa Rica. 

In general, you should start with Monito so you can compare different transfer speeds and transfer fees for different transfer options. You usually get a good deal there. 

In certain cases, sending via international bank transfer can be slightly cheaper when you’re sending a large amount (i.e., over $10,000). 

United States

If the sender abroad happens to have a Costa Rica bank account, an instant money transfer can be done for free as long as it is intra-bank. For instance, when transferring between two Banco Nacional accounts, the sender would need to have the hardware or smartphone token to access their personal banking website. 

It is always a good idea to call the bank before doing the transfer to remind them that you will be accessing the account from out of the country; otherwise you may trigger a security system. 

Sending funds to another bank in Costa Rica is a similar process, but it will go through the Sistema Interbancario de Pagos Electrónicos (SINPE), and it will cost about a dollar. SINPE can take up to 24 hours depending on the time of day you make the transfer.

When sending money from the United States, there are a couple of things to keep in mind. 

First of all, money transfers over $10,000 will need to be reported to the Internal Revenue Service by means of Form 8300. Anything over $3,000 may also be flagged as being suspicious, and this could entail extra paperwork and potential delays.


If money is being sent from Canada to Costa Rica, it will certainly help if the receiver has a local account with Scotiabank. When this is the receiving bank, funds are usually available faster, and the currency exchange rate is favorable. Wiring from Scotiabank in Canada to Scotiabank in Costa Rica will also have lower transfer fees.

United Kingdom

When sending money from the United Kingdom, Wise is the best choice because it is a British company and is trying to get as many local clients as possible. 

With Wise, you will always get the best GBP to CRC exchange rate.


With regard to Australia, you will not be able to directly transfer Australian dollars to Costa Rica; the money transmitter will conduct a currency exchange to USD before the money reaches the bank or transfer agent. 

Australia has a similar anti money laundering system to the US. Specifically, you need to declare transfers of more than AUS$10,000 when you send it out of the country. You simply need to fill out this online AUSTRAC form before making the transfer.

Now, on to You

Thanks to modern technology, it’s much easier to send money to Costa Rica from around the world. A lot of international transfers can be done within a few days or even minutes. 

There are also websites that can tell you which financial institutes offer the best rates. You can know exactly how much money you will receive and how long it takes. 

If you have any questions or want to share your experience sending money to Costa Rica, please feel free to leave a comment in the section below. 

Michael K is originally from Florida. He moved to Costa Rica in 2010 and is now enjoying his life in a new country. He had been an official translator for the United Nations Children's Emergency Fund in Costa Rica for many years.

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