Big news in the papers today: your Costa Rican debit card will now work in the U.S. And, the rilly rilly big news, is that internet funds transfer between banks is here!!! As of today in Costa Rica, you can transfer your money between banks inside the country.
Actually, it’s been around for awhile, but it didn’t work. NOW it works. (This is SO Developing Nation!)
People don’t write checks here and you do not want to carry wads of cash. You especially don’t want to make a big withdrawal from your account, then walk out the door. A friend of a friend did that. As she left the bank, a car holding five guys pulled up, they hopped out, took her money and drove away. All in front of the bank guard who was armed to the teeth (they all are, mostly with pump action pistol grip 12-gauge shotguns*), who stayed inside the bank doors and watched. Nice. There’s a hero. Anyway, you don’t want to be in her position.
To pay a big bill, like your monthly private school expense, or to make a big purchase like buy a car, you’d go the seller’s bank with his account number and make a deposit. First, you had to go to your bank, make that big withdrawal from your account, then carry that cash to their bank for the deposit. Not only dangerous, but a lotta lines and taking of numbers, all of which could easily take hours.
Now you can instruct your bank to make the transfer of funds to the vendor’s account number at his bank, all online. The details are in an article written by Garland Baker on the front page of this morning’s A.M. Costa Rica.
In developed countries, this has been in practice for years, of course. Definitely a 20th Century convenience. In his article, Garland says international banking will be available "soon." This will make paying stateside bills much easier for expats who have their money here. Making life simpler, yes.
But I’m not sure I like all this catching up to the real world going on around here. I love the simplicity of Costa Rica’s third world-ness, the tiny bit of anonymity we still have and the privacy of undeveloped banking laws. Would I give up privacy for convenience and the inevitable transparency that comes with it? No. For me, privacy wins hands down. We didn’t realize the depth of that Big Brother IS Watching You feeling until we came here and lived without it. It’s very nice. No pervasive fear, no terror alerts, no national I.D., no RFID chips implanted at birth. Yet. Luckily, "soon" in Costa Rica could mean anything: from tomorrow to never. Although never seems less and less likely.
*I live with guys who know all about guns.