The Real Deal Report on Banking in Panama

Panama was once recognized as one of the world’s safest places to move your money offshore. Its tight banking privacy kind of unraveled with the signing of the tax treaty with the U.S., which made things in Panama a lot more transparent. Since then, horror stories and scare tactics have been popping up everywhere, claiming that Panama banks are no longer accepting American clients. Watch this video to see The Real Deal Report on Banking in Panama. 

 

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22 Responsesso far.

  1. Brus says:

    Thanks so much Chris for this informative and factual report. I have been doing research on the internet on Panama for relocation since March 2014 and other than internationalliving.com,I found your writings and especially videos the most informative and reliable. The main thing though for me is that I can see you are not trying to sell anything unlike internationalliving.Your facts are not bent to please.
    At last I have landed in Panama City just over a week ago.
    Just wanted to supplement and update (my writing is on F 27iii2015)the info on some of the banking stuff. Yesterday I went to Citibank opposite Place Marbella (the head office,I believe) and they told me what you reported here. You need to have an account in the USA with Citibank to open an account in Panama.They also told me that the IT system is not connected.The Panama and USA Citibanks are operating completely separately and they don’t have access to each other’s clients’ accounts. The receptionist also told me that Citibank (just like Banistmo next door(was HSBC till 2014))is closing all of its branches in Panama by October 2015.Another as yet unknown bank will take over.
    Another thing I like to write here to help out other people like myself who are in Panama. I had run out of cash.Had Canadian
    $130 emergency hidden somewhere in my wallet.Went to a few banks to exchange it to Balboas(US$). The responses that I got shared only one thing in common – we can’t exchange it here go to that bank or this bank – and the common recommendation – go the cambios or exchange offices. Went to three cambios.Two of them did not accept Canadian dollars.One of them,which was more of pawn shop than an exchange office(on Cuba Avenue) gave me US$80 for the C$130 at the exchange rate of 60c for 1C$.The market rate yesterday was about 80c for 1C$ that is about 20 to 25% lower.
    Keep up the good work and the documentation – thanks to you people can save themselves a lot of headaches.

  2. […] The Real Deal Report on Banking in Panama […]

  3. keith says:

    Do you have a list of american banks in Panama?

    • Chris says:

      Hey Keith,

      I saw you asked this in the Youtube comments too, but didn’t get the chance to reply until now. I don’t have a list of all the banks here, but I found this link, which has a pretty good list. I’m not sure how up to date it is, but at least this list tells you each bank’s country of origin, the bank website, and a phone number. So it’s a mix of all the banks, but you can pick out the U.S. ones form the list if that’s what you’re looking for. Hope it helps. http://banksofpanama.com/

      Chris

  4. shellmcc1106 says:

    Hi Chris,

    Just watched your video. Great job as always and it was nice to see Michael with you.

    Question on the reference letter from your bank. I asked my bank for one last week and they asked me what did I need it to say?

    Can you tell me the type of wording the banks in Panama are looking for? I want to get the reference letter organized before we head down there next month.

    Thanks again for all you do.

    Shelly

    • Chris says:

      Hi Shelly,

      When I opened my account here a few years ago, I just had to present a letter from my previous bank stating that my account with them was in good standing, how long I’d had an account with them, and that I was basically a good customer without any issues. I’m not sure there really is an exact wording they want. It’s just to prove that you’ve banked somewhere else before and maintained a healthy relationship with the bank. Your bank will probably know what to do. If any other readers have experienced something different, please let us know. I know this is probably obvious, but you want the letter to be as official looking as possible, so make sure it’s given to you on bank company letterhead, signed and all that.

      Chris

      • shellmcc1106 says:

        Thanks for your help! Hopefully a standard letter will work. Hope to meet up with you when we get to Panama! We are moving on August 12th.

  5. Mike Carlson says:

    Thanks for taking the time with CAn Pan to accomplish and clear this up some, just mysterious to all those on the “outside” in the US. Just come prepared, positive and proactive to make things happen, right?

    It’s Panama. Nit the US

    We’re pampered here in the states, instant gratification. My opimion.

    • Chris says:

      Hey Mike,

      Yes, exactly. Just come prepared and then expect the unexpected. I’ve had Panamanians tell me that they’ve walked into a bank and asked questions about opening an account. The very next day they went to the same bank, approached the same exact attendant, and got a different answer. When they brought up the inconsistency, the attendant denied saying what he’d said the day before. One of our other readers said he was given a list of requirements, showed up with everything on the list, and was still told that he needed to provide some other piece of paperwork. I’ve heard from at least two people who’ve told me that you don’t have to have an account at Citi in the U.S. in order to open one here. Yet, Michael Drouillard can verify that we sat in this guy’s office at the Citi in the banking district and he insisted that you must have an account in the U.S., that has been open for at least a year before you can open a Citi Bank account here in Panama. So it’s all baffling, but I hope my video can at least help people prepare a little better for the banking requirements here.

      Thanks for watching, Michael, and for commenting.

      Chris

  6. Dennis Smith says:

    Chris, I got tired of the offshore uncertainty and banking hurdles for Americans and Canadians here in Panama. So after years here, I packed up my offshore presence and moved it to Mauritius. The results have been great and I didn’t even have to physically go there.

    If you want to know more, I blogged about the move at http://dennisdeansmith.wordpress.com/2014/05/19/mauritius-offshore-corporations/. If you oranyone has questions, just let me know.

    • Chris says:

      I’ll check it out, Dennis, thanks for filling us in. Sounds like you seriously got sick of things here, lol.

      Chris

  7. Michael H. says:

    Hello Chris,
    Thank you very much for that video (Episode #1) on the real deal on Panama banking.

    It appears as if Panamanian banks will only willingly open accounts for US Citizens (or Canadians) who are really serious in obtaining residency in Panama.

    I just wish their immigration did not require an attorney to process.
    Mike

    • Chris says:

      Hi Michael,

      Yes, most of the banks here require that you’re going through some part of the process. I’ve heard that many Immigration lawyers send people to Banco Azteca, so that might be worth checking out. A buddy of mine said he walked in and got an account very quickly. He was told to go there by an Immigration attorney. Hope this helps, Chris.

  8. RANDY L. GRIFFIN says:

    My question is, if you have an bank account in the US, and want to maintain that account, after you open an acount with a Panamanian bank, will they allow you to transfer or receive funds electronically through their banks?

    • Chris says:

      Hi Randy,

      Yes, you can transfer funds, but you’ll have to pay a transfer fee. If you’re talking about direct deposit, that might be more of a problem. If you’re a veteran, I know there’s some sort of form you can fill out to have your disability funds deposited in a Panamanian bank, but I’m not sure about regular deposits, like social security or any other kind of pay. You’d have to check with the bank you’re considering opening an account with. I still have my U.S. account open and money direct deposited into that account (and I deal with the ATM fees and stuff, but to me it’s important to keep a U.S. account open).

      Chris

  9. Kris says:

    Thanks for another very informative report! We have an account at Scotia Bank. We had a list of paperwork and requirements but once we submitted all the documents everything went forward without a problem. We aren’t residents (yet).
    I thought I recognized that music https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-IahNIyRN9k

    • Chris says:

      Thanks Kris. Yeah, I heard Scotia Bank was a good bank to work with. They require like a $500 deposit right? Something like that? Checked out your link. Ha, I’ve seen some of his videos in the past, but not that one. I guess he uses Dan-O’s music too. That was a cool video. Now I want to go for a swim. Looks refreshing.

      Chris

  10. sarge says:

    Tax Situation seems to be Resolved for North American ex pats

    Panama Now has Agreement with U.S. Over FATCA – CentralAmericaData :

    Mon Jun 23, 2014 8:47 pm (PDT)
    Posted by: “Tom Beard” tombeard2

    http://www.centralamericadata.com/en/article/home/Panama_Now_has_Agreement_with_US_Over_FATCA

    Here is some info about the 30% withholding that has been tossed about recently on this and other groups.
    The 30% withholding is a penalty that the financial institutions would incur if they do not comply with the reporting requirements of the IRS, not the individuals with bank accounts. Not to say that the Panamanian banks would not attempt to recover their losses from the individuals bank accounts. But now that they have agreed to the reporting requirements all one has to do to stay out of trouble is to file a complete income tax statement with a list of all assets .

  11. sarge says:

    Thank You Chris, this was a much needed Factual Report to dispel the Wild stories and Myths put forth by some. Those ‘some’ were Not Panamanians but Other ex pats with something to gain from the confusion caused by the new reporting requirements. THANKS Again

  12. Guest says:

    I really like the concept of this presentation but it would be nice to go beyond the surface of what banks claim are their requirements and opinions. My personal experience so far has been that banks in Panama permit a ridiculously subjective process.

    When greeted at the door with a smile, they might say that it is easy, but there is no mention to the “committee reviews” and actual workflow of approving and setting up a new account.

    Of the banks mentioned, I have personally dealt with three:

    BAC. I have had a personal account with them for the past three years. Setting it up was actually fairly easy at the time. As with all banks here, having a few contacts helped in certain aspects. Fast forward to the current state of Panama, I am having great difficulty opening a business account because I do not yet have my cedula. I was point-blank told that they are shying away from Americans without residency. The application is still under review and I am hopeful that it will go my way, but this really showcases how much things have changed in only a few years.

    Banco General. A few years ago I applied to open an account. They were worst paperwork nightmare ever. They asked for all of the documentation mentioned in your presentation and it was given. The account review process dragged on and on. Every 30 days they requested new reference letters (all originals, of course). Eventually it went to a committee that rejected it. Having friends that work there, I was told that it is the norm to reject applicants without a cedula.

    Banesco. They really opened my eyes to just how much opinions can very and how little quality control processes exist here. It took about a month, but my account was approved. It was open and active for just over a year. Every time I did a wire transfer into my account from my US bank account they requested extensive documentation. The account was eventually closed for sending larger than expected wires. The manager of the branch told me completely off the record that they are concerned when an American transfers money.

    • Chris says:

      Hi (?),

      I’d like to call you by name, but for some reason this came in under a guest account. Yes, it would be nice to go beyond the initial requirements, but the only way to do that and show some of the experiences you’ve encountered, would be to open an account at all of these banks and work with them for over a year. BAC, now, openly states that they’ll only work with permanent residents. So it sounds like you got caught up in that switch. A lot of Americans (and other foreigners) who aren’t planning to stay here permanently (or who have plans to do so then change their minds) open an account, move some money around, then disappear. I personally had an account with Banco General and the only issue I had was with the referral letter from my previous bank (and that was my previous bank’s fault). Everything else was fairly easy. Then again, I was going through the Immigration process (didn’t have a cedula, but was working on it so I had an Immigration ID card).

      The only real issue I’ve had with BG is that they closed my account without notice, because I had a $0 balance for too long, which was my own fault for not keeping money in the account. I was assured that all I need to do is bring in my cedula and $50 to deposit, and reopening it won’t be a problem. However, I was told by a woman at a different BG branch that I needed to bring in the bank reference letter again. I argued with her stating that they were now my previous bank so the idea of bringing in a letter from them to give to them is just ridiculous. This new lady I spoke with just laughed about it and said I don’t need to do that. Sometimes it’s just the person/branch you’re dealing with and that’s Panama wide. You can go into one restaurant and have awesome service and love your meal, then go into the same restaurant on the other side of town and have the worst experience ever. I’ve gone into one government building to get my social security card here and was told I needed copies of my passport (and all pages in it), which I didn’t have on me so I had to leave. The next day I went to a different social security branch with the copies of my passport and they told me they didn’t need that. So the Banco General issue could have possibly just been the branch you were working with. I dealt with the one in Costa del Este and never had an issue.

      Sorry about your experience with Banesco. That doesn’t sound good at all. Like you said, it would be great to dig deeper than the surface, but I honestly think that, unfortunately, each person might have a different experience here for whatever reason. Not much in Panama is consistent. I think people need to know ahead of time that these are the requirements for opening an account, but don’t be surprised if you’re asked for more later on. Just have bank reference letters, employment/income verification, tax documents, birth certificates, Immigration paperwork…basically anything important with you when you arrive in Panama. That should make the process easier.

      Thanks for commenting,

      Chris

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