The banking system in Panama

Opening a bank account in Panama
Updated 2021-07-20 12:51

Opening a bank account is natural part of the process of living in a new country. It provides convenience, simplifies matters and may even save you money. Panama has a sophisticated banking sector and while things may not be done exactly as they are where you are moving from, it is easy enough to get up and running in a way that allows you to conduct your financial business without the occasional headaches associated with having all your money based thousands of miles away, and different time zones.

This article is concerned mainly with setting up personal banking facilities and if you have a business to take care of too it is vitally important to talk to a Panamanian accountant about it.

Choosing the right bank

Choosing a bank may, depending on your location, be influenced by which ones have branches convenient for you. There are plenty to choose from, including names you may recognise. Santander and Scotiabank are here, for instance, along with names common in South and Central America . Not all will be appropriate, so it is worth having a preliminary chat, preferably in a branch rather than on the phone. While some, particularly those with a global reach, may have staff who speak English, others will not, and it is easier to hash things out face-to-face rather than on the phone.

As ever, word of mouth and personal experience can point you in the right direction and help avoid pitfalls, so talk to other expats about it, particularly those whose circumstances are broadly similar to your own.

One Panamanian bank that some people find easy to deal with (and its website is in English) is Multibank, but individuals must find out for themselves.

Opening a bank account in Panama

Once you have chosen a bank that ticks all the right boxes, you will need to take in all your documents: passport and a second form of identification, proof of income (even a contract if you have one but have yet to start work) and recent financial records from your existing accounts. They will also need a reference from a bank elsewhere and a personal reference from someone in a recognised official capacity. A Panamanian person would be ideal, but the bank will understand that if you have only recently arrived or established a relationship with the country, that may be impossible.

You will also need to be able to deposit at least $1,000 to open an account.

Once the formalities have been completed and the setting-up process accomplished (which can take several weeks) you will be able to operate normally, with a debit card, credit card and the local credentials that make doing business in the country so much easier.

Good to know:

You are, of course, free to retain banking facilities in your home country or wherever else works for you, and your accountant will advise you on any tax implications that involves.

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