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Online Money Transfers Here Now Well Worth Doing

by Garland M Baker on February 19, 2007

Electronic banking in Costa Rica has grown up. It is now easy, fast and efficient.

Transfers from Banco Interfin last week to the national banks, Banco Nacional, Banco de Costa Rica and Banco Crédito Agrícola de Cartago, worked without a hitch. Transfers from Banco de Costa Rica to the private banks Banco Interfin, Banco San José, Scotia Bank, and Banco Cuscatlan worked just as flawlessly. All banks in Costa Rica are currently interconnected. Transfers can be made in either U. S. dollars or Costa Rican colons.

The Central Bank of Costa Rica moved its inter-bank payments and transaction system called the Sistema Interbancario de Negociación y Pagos Electrónicos to Microsoft’s .NET technologies at the end of 2002. Carlos Arraya, the CEO of ArtinSoft, a Costa Rican company, worked closely with Microsoft to migrate and improve the system over the past five years. The ArtinSoft founder and CEO was chosen as one of the most successful and respected executives in Central America by SUMMA Magazine in June 2006 for his work on this and other projects.

Making a transfer is easy. However, the various banks use different terminology to refer to the electronic transfers. And you have to know and use a 17-digit number for the receiving account.

Banco Interfin, a private bank, uses TEF, short for “Transferencia Electrónica de Fondos.” It is located under the Inter-Sinpe section of the menu that is located on the left hand side of the screen on Interfin’s Inter-Banca Web site.

At Banco de Costa Rica, a national bank, they use “Transfer.SINPE” to refer to the inter-bank transfers. Currently, they have a flashing “nuevo” symbol next to the menu item located on the left of their “Oficina Virtual” Web site.

Banco Nacional, a national bank used by many in Costa Rica because the bank has locations everywhere, even in the smallest towns, has the transfer system located under the menu item “Transferencias” sub-menu “Otros bancos en CR” on their “Internet Personal” Web site.

Banco de San José calls their system “Cheque Electrónico.” To use it one needs to read a bunch of extraneous material and sign up for the service. Banco de San José has adopted a system of “making things that are very simple extremely complex” along with governmental institutions in Costa Rica. To coax people to use the system, they are offering it free until March 31. This fact is found in very minute print on one of the information pages.

The system is fast. All transfers made took less than one hour to reach their destinations. The system can also work in real-time or overnight versus same day. Same day transactions are what are available on most bank Web sites. Calling the financial institutions regarding the other options met with “phone void,” meaning the person on the other end of the line did not know what to answer, so they became verbally paralyzed, a common occurrence in Costa Rica.

The inter-bank system works in theory from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. However, each bank has its own hours ranging from starting at 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. ending at 4 p.m. to 5 p.m.

The system is efficient. Prices to use the electronic transfer system vary widely. Banco Credito Agricola de Cartago charges as much as U.S. $20 for a transfer while Banco Nacional charges U.S. $2.

Is it worth the money? Yes, it is!

Consider sending U.S. $1,000 from a Banco Interfin account to a vendor’s account at Banco Nacional. With the Sistema Interbancario de Negociación y Pagos Electrónicos the transfer will cost $5 and take less than an hour.

The alternative is to send a messenger or go in person to Banco Interfin, wait for a teller if there is a line, cash a check, carry the cash through the dangerous streets to a Banco Nacional office, wait in another line for a teller and deposit the money in the vendor’s account. From a cost-benefit point of view, $5 is cheap, compared to spending a bunch of time in lines and risk being robbed or worse.

Costa Rica’s inter-bank transfer system is not new, but now it is working and working great. The system is worth a test drive. Soon the system will work throughout Central America and all over the world. Some banks, like Banco Interfin, Banco de San José and others have regional and international systems in place online today.

Cost of a Same-day Online Transfer

Name of bank           in U.S. dollars
Banco Nacional                $2
Banco de Costa Rica           $6
Banco Credito               $1-$20
Banco Banex                   $5
Banco Interfin                $5
Banco BCT                    $10
Banco Lafise                 $10
Banco Citibank                $2
Banco Promérica               $5
Banco Cuscatlán               $5
Banco Improsa                 $4
Banco Uno                     $5
Scotia Bank                   $5
Banco de San José             $3


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