Among the many conveniences life in Panama has to offer, one of the most relevant for expats is the country’s advanced banking system. Foreigners in Panama can expect all of the banking services and benefits they are accustomed in their home country, such as online bill payments, extensive ATM networks, credit cards, and wire transfers. In fact, Panama has the most sophisticated international banking system in Latin America, on par with international standards for precision and regulation. But because of these strict regulations, opening an account might seem like a complicated process, especially for those accustomed to banking in North America. However, the process is not as troublesome as it might seem initially. The trick is to have all of your paperwork in order and approach the process with patience and good humor. Popular banks include Banco General, Global Bank, and Multibank, which have very good branch networks. There are also international banks such as HSBC and Citibank, as well as two state-owned banks: Banco Nacional de Panama and the Caja de Ahorros. Requirements vary from bank to bank, so it is a good idea to find out as much as possible about your future bank before initiating the application process. Generally speaking, you will need to provide the following documents: A notarized photocopy of your passport, including the photo page and recent exit/entry stamps. You will also be asked to provide a photocopy of a second form of ID, such as a driver’s license or a Panamanian ID card. Most banks also ask for two financial reference letters, from either your current bank or banks you have dealt with in the past. These letters need to be written on company letterhead, addressed to your prospective bank, and signed by your existing bank’s manager. The letters do not have to be long or overly elaborate. A simple statement such as this one will do the trick: “This is to confirm that [Your Name] is currently a client of our banking institution, and has maintained a satisfactory banking relationship with our bank since [date when account was opened]. This reference is issued for the interested party, and does not impose any responsibility to the bank”. You will also be asked for two or three reference letters from professional or commercial contacts, like your doctor or former employer, also printed on letterhead. You should also be prepared to provide photocopies of income tax returns for the past two years, proof of income (your pension documents should work just fine), and an opening deposit that ranges from $150 to $500. Banks will also want to confirm that electricity, water, or cable bills are in your name and listed at your current address. The entire process can take anywhere from two business days to a week, depending on the bank. Any person opening a bank account in Panama should be aware that Panama does not provide deposit insurance. However, in the event of a bank liquidation, there is an order of precedence (Article 167 of the banking law) that increases your chances of recovering your deposits if they are $10,000 or less. It is best to check with individual banks regarding specific policies. Confidentiality is another concern about banking in Panama that many foreigners share. The good news is that, according to Article 111 of Panama’s banking law, banks can only divulge information about clients with their consent. There are situations, though, where consent is not required, such as when authorities are lawfully requesting information, when banks must comply with laws related to the prevention of money laundering and related crimes, when rating agencies require information for conducting risk analyses, and when the bank needs to supply information to data processing agencies or accounting offices. In any case, most people with checking or savings accounts can rest easy that their personal information will be kept private. This reference is issued for the interested party, and does not impose any responsibility to the bank”. You will also be asked for two or three reference letters from professional or commercial contacts, like your doctor or former employer, also printed on letterhead. You should also be prepared to provide photocopies of income tax returns for the past two years, proof of income (your pension documents should work just fine), and an opening deposit that ranges from $150 to $500. Banks will also want to confirm that electricity, water, or cable bills are in your name and listed at your current address. The entire process can take anywhere from two business days to a week, depending on the bank. Any person opening a bank account in Panama should be aware that Panama does not provide deposit insurance. However, in the event of a bank liquidation, there is an order of precedence (Article 167 of the banking law) that increases your chances of recovering your deposits if they are $10,000 or less. It is best to check with individual banks regarding specific policies. Confidentiality is another concern about banking in Panama that many foreigners share. The good news is that, according to Article 111 of Panama’s banking law, banks can only divulge information about clients with their consent. There are situations, though, where consent is not required, such as when authorities are lawfully requesting information, when banks must comply with laws related to the prevention of money laundering and related crimes, when rating agencies require information for conducting risk analyses, and when the bank needs to supply information to data processing agencies or accounting offices. In any case, most people with checking or savings accounts can rest easy that their personal information will be kept private.

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What about Scotia Bank? They all speak perfect English and are very courteous. Been with them 8 years without any problems

Just opened an account with Global Bank. Very easy. Took a little time to do the paper work but the process was smooth.

We opened late 2014 an account with Scotiabank within 48 hours. No FATCA as we are Europeans. Scotiabank owns Citi Bank in Panamá. The only bank where one can open an account in US$, as well as in Euros or Swiss Francs is Multibank. The Euro gaines about 15% vs the US$ since last December.

HSBC has not been in Panama for a few years.  The Colombia bank Banistmo bought their operation here, I believe.

 "Among the many conveniences life in Panama has to offer. . . ." This gave me my morning chuckle.

Me too Amanda but I won’t go there LOL.

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