Sep 01

Problem with Credit Cards in Colombia? A Guide to Using Credit Cards Abroad Here in Colombia

Credit Cards Colombia
The root of many problems abroad

For so long a country under a dark cloud of crime and corruption, Colombia bounds proudly into the 21st Century full of optimism and undoubtedly with a bright future. This isn’t a new revelation, and people like us at See Colombia Travel have been saying it for years now. Tourist boards seem to recognise it, newspapers are recognising it and, most importantly, the general public is recognising it, too. Travelling to Colombia is no longer off-limits, it is in fact rapidly gaining popularity.

Unfortunately, no-one told the banks this. One of the only complaints I hear from people when they come to Colombia is that their bank card isn’t working in any of the machines. Please note, more often than not this isn’t Colombia or the bank in Colombia’s fault! Rather, it’s the fault of your bank back home. So how can you prevent it?

The huge Bancolombia building in Medellín

The first, most important thing to do is to tell your bank you’re coming to Colombia. This cannot be stressed enough. To be honest, I wouldn’t rest at just casually telling them, I would tell them clearly that it is Colombia you’re going to, and that you don’t want them to cancel your card. Get assurances, because I’ve had many friends tell me they warned their bank and still had it blocked, merely because they were in Colombia, not Italy or somewhere more touristy. Even after getting it unblocked, it’s been re-blocked and sometimes even cancelled. Be clear with your bank, because these processes are often so automated that they’re easily overridden.

‘The World’s Local Bank’ have branches abroad and is usually reliable

If you do this, you’ve contacted your bank from here to see what the problem is and still your credit card isn’t working in Colombia, you might want to try a different bank here. Sometimes a little change can help. Here’s a list of banks here in Colombia and how troublesome they can be. We can’t be more specific because, frankly, it’s often luck of the draw.

Davivienda: Works for about half of foreign cards
Bancolombia: Works for very few foreign cards
Servibanca: Works for almost all cards (but high charges)
BBVA: Works for European cards, most others too
Santander: Works for European cards (and with very low charges), most others too
Banco Bogotá: Works for about a quarter of cards
Helm: Works for almost all cards (and is a little like a spa when you go inside…)

We hope this helps you figure things out. It can be frustrating and scary when your card stops working in a foreign country, but remember the problem is usually solved quite simply with a phonecall to your bank. Just be firm and make it clear you’re here in Colombia using your card.


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8 thoughts on “Problem with Credit Cards in Colombia? A Guide to Using Credit Cards Abroad Here in Colombia

  1. John Pascoe on

    I think it’s also worth mentioning that, even when your foreign card does work in the Colombian bank’s ATM, sometimes the maximum withdrawal limit can be pathetically low. Although Davivienda’s ATM work for my UK NatWest card, they only ever allow me a maximum of 300,000 pesos (about 100 US$). Which necessitates another withdrawal or two, either the same day or the following day, until I have enough cash for the week. All of which adds to the various ATM and bank charges (which are per transaction, of course). So thanks for this info, I’m going to give BBVA a try. Cheers, John.

  2. Tyler Horton on

    I had ALL my bank cards blocked when I came to Colombia the first time. It was a nightmare! Ended up having to get the parents to Western Union me money…. I have been down this road and learned some lessons 🙁 thanks for the good post.

  3. Kelly on

    I’ve had our card blocked 3x on my last trip to San Andres,even after i had a less than friendly chat with the credit card company.Notified them twice before I left Canada that i would be traveling to Colombia(last time I checked San Andres was still part of Colombia).Returned to the bank(Canada) where card was issued they called the Card Headquarters & provided me a name/ph# of a real person who would personally process my request to use my card abroad.I’m going to also take out another card with
    a bank that has a branch in Colombia!


      Paul on

      It can be a nightmare. I hope you’re having a bit better luck now, I think getting a Colombian card could be a good idea!


  4. Glen Weston on


    I get it all the time…. Im British living in Bogota and I still bank with Barclays Plc back in UK and regularly, and I mean monthly my card is stopped for use in ATM`s as they only place a “Holiday Marker” on my file yet they send my statements etc to my Bogota address, then occasionally I get referred to the Banks Fraud Department and have to answer a string of questions to have the cards activated again, but its the same when I travel from here; I have to tell them at least 3 times to activate my card for the country or countries I am visiting …… seems the Colombian stigma is strong as ever in the Banking world!!!

  5. David Burlison on

    Thanks..Well done site-very interesting/informative..


    (Feel free to post on our forum)


      Roberto on

      Hi all. Good post. I was looking for something like this as I’m planning to visit Colombia on next January.
      Does anybody know about Maestro/Cirrus debit cards withdrawals? I’m interested because it is the cheapest way I can get cache. My Italian bank is a vampire when it comes to withdraw by credit cards


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