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On the Coast Cash is King, but Not for the Community

By Wilberth Villalobos Castrillo

If you purchase a product or service in a shop in Samara or Nosara and decide to use a credit or debit card as payment, you could be in trouble because there are still businesses that only accept cash.

The merchant’s expression might change when the customer asks “Do you accept credit cards?” There are even businesses that increase the final price, eliminate discounts and even require minimum purchase amounts to consumers.


Of the seven shops VON consulted on the ways that people can pay, six accept cards as payment, but only four of them keep the price the same as when you pay with cash. One does not give discounts to people paying by card, while another location charges more for using a card.

One hotel in Nosara responded that while they accept credit and debit cards, they encourage their customers to pay by electronic bank transfer. “Our guests are encouraged to make the payment by transfer between domestic banks if they have an account in Costa Rica or they can use the electronic system Paypal.com for offshore bank accounts. That way we avoid having credit card numbers of visitors if there is any fraud or identity theft during their visit," said a hotel official who declined to give his name.

However, according to Regulation N ° 35867-MEIC, the merchant who decides to register to accept card payments can not establish surcharges for using credit cards or debit cards, a detriment to the consumer. Neither can they establish minimum purchase amounts or eliminate discounts for the use of a debit or credit card.     “The home was misrepresented as a luxury rental which upon arrival was far from that. We were forced to pay $2,400 cash, in advance, given no receipt or rental contract for the property but had an email agreement,” related Marc Scarpa.  

Bank Transfers Facilitate Tax Evasion

Peter Dufner, president of the Carrillo Chamber of Tourism, said that a practice that has become common in Carrillo, Samara and Nosara is renting luxury vacation homes, but in many cases paying the rent with a credit card is not an option.

"Some people pay up to $3300 per week to rent a house near the coast. I have seen on the internet about 30 luxury homes that can be rented in Carrillo and there are at least 100 in Samara and about 150 in Nosara", he said.

Although these businesses are located in Nicoyan territory, very little or no money is reported to the municipality, evading some or all taxes.

In this situation Marcos Jimenez, mayor of Nicoya, explained that although this method speeds up the trade process, “to date there is no regulation in the country to enable the municipality to collect taxes through these transactions between financial institutions so they are a detriment to the national finances and prevent the use of what would be collected for community works.”

Cash vs. Credit

Both cash and credit cards have advantages and disadvantages. The main advantage of cash over credit is that, in addition to faster payment, the customer can immediately show the merchant that he/she has enough money to cover the amount of the product or service purchased.

Katherine Sandoval, an official of Banco Nacional, said the main benefit of credit cards is security for both merchants and customers using the card.

“A person using a card doesn’t have to carry around large sums of money because everything is on the card; the merchant is also benefited because customers that pay by credit card reduce the amount of cash in the shop so if a robbery occurred the losses would be less,” he explained.

Despite the advantages, you can not force businesses to use credit cards because it is a voluntary option for the business, said Guisella Chaves, Director of Economic Studies of the Ministry of Economy and Commerce (MEIC), responsible for regulating the use of credit cards and debit cards in Costa Rica.

VON received a letter from a foreign couple who had problems in Nosara as a result of a business policy of only accepting cash payment. Marc Scarpa and his wife were forced to pay $2400 in cash for the rental of a luxury home in Nosara. According to Scarpa, the leasing firm prevented them from making the payment by credit card and told them that it was only possible to rent the property if they paid the full amount in cash.

“The home was misrepresented as a luxury rental which upon arrival was far from that. We were forced to pay $2,400 cash, in advance, given no receipt or rental contract for the property but had an email agreement,” related Scarpa.

Meanwhile, companies that rent vacation homes say it is not them who decide how payments should be made but the owner of the rental house, and as most of the owners do not live in Costa Rica, they do not have a credit card service. Most rental companies are legally registered and pay taxes, but not necessarily the owners of the houses.

The complaints office of the Costa Rican Tourism Institute (ICT) receives complaints and helps foreign and domestic tourists who are victims of abuse or malpractice of tourism enterprises, but its scope is limited as it monitors only affiliated businesses and those that meet certain quality standards.

If you know of any business that does not meet any of these rules, you can raise your complaint with the consumer 800 number 2266-7866.


More Regional News

Suspected Drug Dealer Arrested in Nosara

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– MOPT’s machinery was removed after just one week
– CONAVI claims bidding company will continue with maintenance works

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Starting Wednesday All Tax Filing Must Be Online

Starting next Wednesday, August 1, no more running to the bank by the 15th of each month, as all tax submissions and income statement amendments must be submitted online only.

What Was Said and Committed to by the Public Officials

For those who couldn’t be present during the speeches given on Wednesday, July 25th by public officials, VON brings you the summary of the most important commitments, comments and insinuations (you know to who) of the day. 

25th of July Celebrations
Residents of Nicoya Canton Protested the Government’s Unfulfilled Promises

The Public Force present during the 25th of July civic act intimidated Marcos Jimenez, mayor of Nicoya, demanding his identification card while he marched in a peaceful protest.

Vacationers Rescued by Local Surfers

An intense brush with tidal trouble left one American family on vacation feeling relieved Monday July 23 at Guiones Beach.

Vice Minister of Security Begs Nosara to Respect the President
– Nosarans still plan demonstration on July 25th
– Vice Minister promises new patrol car and employment fair

On Thursday, July 19th, the Vice Minister of Security, Celso Gamboa, met with representatives of various Nosara community organizations at Hotel L'acqua Viva to discuss the community’s security needs, but after the meeting ended he also made a personal appeal to the community leaders to respect President Laura Chinchilla during her upcoming visit to Nicoya on July 25th.  

July 25th Anexation Celebration
President Chinchilla Will Pass Through Nicoya But Won’t Stay

The President of the Republic, Laura Chinchilla, has now confirmed that she will be present in the colonial city on July 25th to celebrate 188 years of annexation of the Nicoya Party, but she will not hold the traditional public session.

Thieves Assault Samara Gas Station

With a romantic touch, a man wearing a motorcycle helmet approached Karol Matamoros Briones with a bunch of flowers as she was working at Servicentro Samara, preparing money for a bank deposit. Then he pulled out a gun. 

President Hasn’t Yet Decided With Which Canton to Spend July 25th

While the cantons of Abangares, Bagaces and Santa Cruz have asked the President of the Republic, Laura Chinchilla, for the honor of having her as a special guest during the Government Council session on July 25th, in Nicoya the list of people angry with the leader is growing longer.

"Pura Gate"? New Law Protects Political Secrets

Shades of Watergate! President Laura Chinchilla signed into law last week a prohibition to "procure or obtain illegally secret political information." Political espionage is punishable by four to eight years in prison.

Maintenance Starts Along Route 160 Between Nosara and Samara
CONAVI Initiated Bidding Process for Roadway

Finally, after a long wait and now well into rainy season, the almost impassable route 160 is receiving attention as machinery from MOPT initiated maintenance works over the route.

Muni Gives Until Sept. 14 to Update Property Declarations

By law, property owners should update declarations of the value of their properties every five years.  However, not everyone does. In fact, many properties are not even registered with the “Bienes Inmuebles” (real estate) office of the municipality.

Samara Security Committee Speaks Out Against Gangs

Motivated by recent thefts and resulting experiences, Samara’s security committee sent a letter on June 15th to various government and police entities affirming that two gangs are operating in the community, one Colombian and one Tico, and that the situation is now very serious.

Nosara ASADAs Might Unite or Hand Over Control to AyA

Due to various problems with the supply of water in Nosara, an effort is underway to look for options to improve the administration of this important resource.

Airport Crime
Court Gives 16-Year Prison Sentence for Murder

The Third Court of the Supreme Court of Justice finalized the sentence of 16 years of prison imposed on a man with the last names Sirias Sequeira for the crime of simple murder against Michael Eduardo Rojas Murillo, who was killed in April of 2009.  

New Venue to Attain Drivers License in Nicoya Ready in Late July

Long trips to Liberia or San Jose to renew, duplicate, or process a license are in the past. As of July 25, you can take the theoretical and practical driving tests, go through the renewal process, duplicate licenses or permits to learn to drive, with the opening of the new home of Driver Education in Nicoya.

Villas Playa Samara Denies Contaminating Estuaries

The manager of Villas Playa Samara, Phillipe Brisson, affirmed that the hotel has made so many improvements to their wastewater treatment system in the past few years that the quality of the hotel’s treated water has never been better.

Communities Organize to Receive Cell Phone Security Alerts

Security alerts can now be sent directly to the cell phones of community members through an initiative being organized by the Public Force.

New Police Chief for Canton of Nicoya Focuses on Objectives

The new police chief for the Canton of Nicoya, Omar Chavarria, purports to be a man who focuses on setting and achieving objectives.

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