So the Automatic Teller Machines have been when I generally use for ca$h when I travel. Travelers Checks have always been a hassle. Charging always works well too, I never seem to get any related fees (or the little fees I get are pretty minimal). And the exchange rate is usually really good on the charge or ATM cards.
But the only ATMs in the southern Nicoya Peninsula appear to Banco Nacional and they don’t like my card (but they list my network). But it might just be their machines, since those machines are pretty inconsistent: sometimes it asks me for the language, sometimes it still gives me Spanish, sometimes the network just times out and other times it gives me a useless message (like ‘you can only take out between $10 and $200 per day’, but that’s all I was trying to do).
So going inside the banco is a trip, guards with shotguns and you walk into a decompression-type chamber (closed in while they x-ray you, and then they open the second door, imagine walking into an ultra-secure government facility). Then it’s kinda set up like the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) and you wait and try to communicate what you want. They have this neat system that you can phone in for live translation for English/Spanish, and when I say “neat” I mean if it worked. So after several tries, we determined that their ATM system was so crappy no one could say if it did / would / could work with the US.
So we decided to do a cash advance instead, we didn’t know what the fees would be but we needed some more cash; not everyone takes charges and many charge premiums (and I think some discounts are because the money never gets reported somewhere down the line). This still took a while and they do everything in triplicate down there but I think it’d be hard for people to cheat the system since there are so many checks and balances.
Once we got much more north the other ATMs took our cards just fine (I had a problem in Jaco once and I think it was the same bank but I just went to a different companies machine and it worked fine).
Here’s the problem: Being curious of the fees of the Visa cash advance, we got on-line to check and discovered that the advance was done twice on the card, the fee was done twice and since it went over the card limit, tacked on another $39 fee. FYI, the cash advance fee was only $12.58 for $400 (and the back charged a dollar). The bank’s already been e-mailed and it’ll probably be fine from here.