Payment methods in Colombia

Hello everyone,

Once you’re settled in Colombia, you will need to make some basic purchases, like groceries or pay bills. Hence, it is essential to know the payment methods available in your host country.

Which are the most common payment methods in Colombia? Why would you prefer some forms over others?

Does the amount of money or the type of paid services (groceries, bills, rent, etc.) determine the choice of payment methods?

Are there any apps at your disposal which make the payment process easier in Colombia?

Can certain foreign currencies be used to make payments?

Have your habits in terms of payment methods changed since moving to Colombia?

Thanks for sharing your experience,


Hi Priscilla,

The link seems to only take you to your original posting, rather than your 'story'.

The biggest change I have seen here in Colombia is that it is much more cash oriented.  In the States in he last twenty years I rarely had more than $5.00 or $10.00 in my wallet.  Most often I had no cash whatsoever.  Here I typically have several hundred (thousand) COP typically $500,000COP or more.  I even have to pay my 'administration' fee for our apartment in cash.   When I got the cable (TV, internet & phone) I had to pay in cash.

I use my Visa at a local Colombia ATM to get cash from my US account and then pay cash for everything.

When my wife and I first moved to Colombia almost 4 years ago, we just used the atms to get our money from the usa.  Then pay bills in cash.
Then about a year later, I went to Bancolombia and opened just a debit card account. This type of card requires you to deposit money in the account first,  then you can use it as the debit card.
Every month I would deposit $1,000,000 pesos in the bank and use the card to pay bills and buy some groceries.
After around 6 months or more, I receive an email from Bancolombia offering me a Credit card with a reasonable limit.  I decided to look into this by going to the bank to open the account. I also took a letter from social security showing my income.
The bank officer looked up my account info, grab some paperwork to fill out, processed my loan and handed me my charge card and set up a pin code. I was out of there in about one hour with everything done and active card in hand.
I believe the only reason I received the Bancolombia credit card offer is because I had opened a debit account earlier and that is how they got my email info.
For the newcomers to Colombia, I recommend opening a debit card account immediately and get the ball rolling.

Great advice!

Expats can be asking for trouble down the road if they start buying stuff on credit in South America, especially if they own or plan to buy property here.

Promoting credit-cards (and by extension their obligations) on this forum is a dubious proposition. :unsure

Acquiring credit cards may be useful in this region in renting a car (which may not be allowed on a debit card), but is only advisable for those with substantial and reliable income. 

Almost all card purchases can be done with a debit card.  In my years in South America, I have never had a problem getting an unauthorized charge reversed by the banks issuing my debit cards.  I do not use credit cards, and have not for many years.


However, the card companies are not dummies and probably would not allow more than a modest unsecured amount to be charged on Expat-held cards.


Does anyone know of a USA financial institution that will allow me to open a debit card account from Colombia, so I can have my SSA direct deposit, deposited into it every month?

You might want to inquire of Chase Bank, San Antonio, Texas.   In Nov. they will be joining  Scotiabank, Nova Scotia & Colpatria, Colombia Banks with a New Bank Lobby in a new Shopping Mall near RioNegro and the Medellin Intl. Airport.  Go to for more information.  I currently have a Debit Account with Chase and expect it will become more cost-effective once the merger takes place.

Unfortunately, although several Colombian banks are owned by foreign companies, they are run wholly to Colombian banking laws and have no contacts with overseas banks. Having an account with Scotiabank outside Colombia will have no effect on your treatment in Colombia.

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