Costa RicaCosta Rica

New Bills Go Into Circulation

costa rica's new billsAt the end of April 2010, the Costa Rican Central Bank announced its new lineup of national bills. The six new bills, including redesigns for the existing 1,000 CRC, 2,000 CRC, 5,000 CRC and 10,000 CRC and two new denominations of 20,000 CRC and 50,000 CRC are set to roll out slowly over the next year.

Current projections promise the 20,000 CRC bill for early August 2010, followed by the redesigned 2,000 CRC in September or October; the 1,000 CRC, 5,000 CRC and 10,000 CRC before the end of December; and the 50,000 CRC bill in early 2011. The release of the 50,000 CRC bill is delayed to give Costa Ricans time to adjust to using the 20,000 CRC bill. Currently, the largest bill in national history has been the 10,000 CRC.

reverse view of costa rica's new billsThe Central Bank promotes the new line as a family of bills, due to their similar design characteristics. For example, on each bill, the faces and numerical denominations are located in the same place; on Costa Rica's current bills, these positions vary by denomination. Additionally, to aid the blind and vision-impaired, the family of bills uniformly increases in width from 1,000 CRC to 50,000 CRC.

Each bill features a unique and colorful design, highlighting a major Costa Rican ecosystem, iconic animal, or important historical figure:

1,000 CRC (approx. $2): Tropical Dry Forest + Stag/Deer + Braulio Carrillo Colina (President 1838-1842)  

2,000 CRC (approx. $4): Coral Reef + Shark + Mauro Fernandez Acuna (Politician and Director of the Bank of Costa Rica)  

5,000 CRC (approx. $10): Mangrove + White-faced Monkey + Alfredo Gonzales Flores (President 1914-1917)  

10,000 CRC (approx. $20): Rainforest + Three-toed Sloth + Jose Maria Figueres Ferrer (President 1948-1949, 1953-1958, and 1970-1974)  

20,000 CRC (approx. $40): Paramo + Hummingbird + Maria Isabel Carvajal / Carmen Lyra (Famous Author)  

50,000 CRC (approx. $100): Cloud Forest + Morpho Butterfly + Ricardo Jimenez Oreamuno (President 1910-1914, 1924-1928, and 1932-1936)

the central bank will give classes on identifying genuine billsCosta Ricans have received these new bills with mixed feelings. On the whole, people enjoy the new designs: the colorful depictions of nature scenes, combined with extra features like the words "PURA VIDA' being woven in, play to national pride. However, many Costa Rican small business owners are concerned about guarding against counterfeited bills.

To assuage counterfeiting concerns, the Central Bank will offer courses to the public on how to identify genuine bills. The new bills have several security features built in: some are identifiable by the naked eye, while others require technology only available to banks. Among the more low-tech characteristics are the following:

  • Touch: The photo and numerical denomination are raised (have a different texture) on every bill.

  • Look: Held against the light, a second photo and numerical denomination appear.

  • Twist: Twist the bill, and you'll see that the Costa Rican map change color and the figures in the vertical security ribbon move.

Classes with the Central Bank will be offered beginning in August 2010, and will cost 2,000 CRC per participant. The first classes will cover security measures only for the 20,000 CRC bill and current (old version) bills. Interested parties should contact 2243-3648 or 2243-3672.

Despite increased anti-fraud measures and pleasing designs, many Costa Ricans and residents are concerned about using such large denominations. We all have quickly learned that many store owners are loathe to accept even a 10,000 CRC bill -- they're hard to change and many fear increased theft. In fact, several store owners, taxi drivers, and street vendors have already declared in national newspapers and on television that they simply won't accept bills over 5,000 CRC.

As Costa Rica adjusts to the new bills, your best bet will be to only use large bills for big purchases. For trips to the farmers' market or a stop by your neighborhood mini-market, always be prepared with small denominations. You can always stop by your local bank and exchange your 20,000 CRC bill for smaller ones. At the ATM, take out odd denominations --for example, 11,000 CRC or 23,000 CRC -- that will force the machine to issue a combination of low-denomination bills. And if you absolutely must use a 20,000 CRC or 50,000 CRC bill, always clear it with the vendor in advance.

New Bills Go Into Circulation in Pictures