Hacking Colombia: Paying Bills

When you decide to live in Colombia, you’ll naturally have bills to pay: rent, health care and utilities. This guide gives you the many ways to take care of these payments.

Types of Payments

Ease of payment depends on what type of payment you’re making

  • Utilities (light+water+sewage) : Many options
  • Health plan: Only where the EPS permits – very limited
  • Rent: Limited options since it is usually made to a bank account
  • Municipal taxes (Predial): Limited options

Understanding Invoices

Here are a few key words and expressions you’ll find on invoices here…

  • Fecha de vencimiento: Expiration date. A penalty may apply if you don’t pay by that date. Can also be labeled “Pagar hasta el” (Pay until)
  • Contrato (followed by a number): Your account number
  • Referente de pago: The specific invoice number
  • Total a Pagar: The amount due.
  • Aporte voluntario: An optional additional amount to benefit lower classes

Note that for utilities and cable/Internet services, how much you pay varies according to your home’s assigned estrato (strata). Estratos explained here.

The List of Payment Methods…

Here we list them, later we go into more details. None of them should charge you any service fees: they get paid by the providers behind the invoices.

  • At a bank teller wicket
  • At an ATM
  • On your bank’s website
  • At a grocery store
  • At a “corresponsal”
  • At an Efecty or similar
  • At a lottery kiosk
  • At the provider

At a bank teller

If you have to pay anything, say your rent, to a bank account number, you can do that in cash in any branch of the bank account you’re paying into. You don’t need to have an account at that bank. If you do have an account, you can also pay using your ATM card. You should take a photo of your receipt and send it to the landlord. To pay any bills, you DO need an account at that bank.

  • Pros: If your bank, you can usually pay your municipal taxes and utilities bill this way.
  • Cons: you may have to take a number and the wait might be long. If the bank can’t add a note to the deposit, the recipient won’t know it’s from you (hence the photo suggested earlier). If not your bank, can’t pay bills.

At an ATM

An alternative to paying at a bank teller, say to pay your rent. Use an ATM that is capacitated for entering cash and is from the bank of the recipient’s account. You don’t need to be a customer of that bank, just click/touch “consignaciones” then select the type of account (cuenta ahorros=savings, cuenta corriente=checking), then enter the recipient’s bank account number and put the cash in the drawer when it opens up.

  • Cons: you have to use cash. For security, better to do this at an ATM well inside a mall. Not good for paying bills.

On your bank’s website

Opening a bank account here might be difficult and we’ll be covering that process in a separate guide. However, once you have one, you can, depending on the bank, pay your bills online. Bancolombia, the country’s biggest bank, for instance, makes it easy: choose the company, enter your account number, and from there on in, you’ll be notified of new invoices from these companies. Other banks don’t provide an easy bill pay interface, for instance Scotiabank Colpatria.

  • Pros: Saves you a trip anywhere
  • Cons: Not all companies’ bills are payable this way

At a grocery store

Some grocery store chains, namely the country’s biggest Grupo exito and it’s affiliates, accept bill payments right at the checkout.

  • Pros: Convenient. Some health providers (EPS) monthly payments, like Sura’s, can be made this way.
  • Cons: Can be inconsiderate of other shoppers. Try to do this during non peak hours! Some stores have a separate booth for bill payments.

At a “corresponsal”

These are kiosks or storefronts in malls or on the street where you can pay many of your bills or deposit money in a bank account, even your own. They’re usually affiliated to a major bank, most likely Bancolombia, so any bank account you deposit money to will have to be of that bank. If your account, you can also withdraw funds.

  • Pros: Usually much faster than using a bank itself
  • Cons: Safety concerns if the location opens onto the street

At an Efecty or similar

Independent chains of stores that handle bill payments, and often have Western Union services as well. Efecty is the biggest but not the only “servicio de pagos“.

  • Pros: Convenient and fast
  • Cons: Safety concerns if the location opens onto the street

At a lottery kiosk

Kiosks or shops in malls or on the street that sell lotteries but most often also handle bill payments. Example: Gana.

  • Pros: Convenient and fast
  • Cons: Safety concerns if the location opens onto the street. There have been many armed attacks on such locations.

At the provider

Almost no bills can be paid at the company that issued the invoice. Some major TV/Internet/cellphone providers like Claro and Tigo have wickets where you can pay their invoices, but not all their locations have them and long lineups are possible


There’s no real mail service in Colombia. Some companies like utilities will have your paper invoices hand delivered, but almost everything is through email and phone message now and if you want a copy of the invoice you’ll need to download it online in your user interface with that company.

Tips on best times to pay your bills in person

  • Avoid going when it’s a quincena which is usually on the 1st and 15th of each month, which is when people get paid and long lineups are to be expected. These dates can vary due to statutory holidays and one day before and a couple of days after a quincena can be heavy as well.
  • Before 8 Am, midday, and after 5 pm from Monday to Saturday can also be heavy as more people aren’t at their jobs and rush to pay their bills.
  • Some locations are much busier than others. For example, a mall with a metro station next to it tends to see much more foot traffic
  • Some payment services operate on Sundays, which is generally the quietest day of the week
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