If you decide not to open a bank account, items you buy on your regular card will be converted into dollars and you will be charged by the current exchange rate when withdrawing money or paying for services and goods by card. You may also be asked to provide proof of identification when paying by card.
Banks and opening an account
When selecting a bank, it is advisable to open an account with a larger and well known bank in Colombia. The biggest banks in Colombia are, Banco de la República, Banco Occidente, Credencial, Bancoldex. There are also international banks such as HSBC Colombia and Citibank Colombia.
To open an account, you will need to book an appointment with the bank and will need to bring with you your passport, visa and Cédula de Extranjería (Foreigner Identification Card) and your address details. You will not be able to open an account without your Cédula de Extranjería.
At the bank you will be asked to complete an application form and show your identification documents. You will also need to tell the bank how you will be funding the account and also deposit the money.
It will take around a week for the account to become active and you will receive a letter confirming this. Normally, your bank card will be available for collection at the bank where you opened the account. If your Spanish is a little rusty, it is worthwhile bringing a translator or Spanish speaking friend to help you with the details.