Practical Life in Panama City

Bank services in Panama City

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Currency in Panama

Panama's official currency is the balboa,noted with B/. The balboa is subdivided into 100 centésimos. Panamanian coins are split into 1, 5, 10, 25, 50 cents, as well as its own $1 coin. For paper money, only the US Dollar is used. Because of this, $ is often used.

It's rate of exchange has always been linked to the American dollar, thus one balboa is equal to one US dollar.

ATM and Credit Cards in Panama

Panama City has a plethora of ATM machines, which are called cajero automático throughout Latin America. Machines are very reliable and often provide menus in Spanish as well as English and other languages.

Be sure to check with your bank regarding international bank withdrawal and transaction fees as they add up if you are withdrawing money a lot. If you want to keep fees to a minimum, it is best to withdraw in advance as much cash as you feel comfortable carrying before you make another withdrawal.

Exchanging Money in Panama

One can exchange money at the airport, but airports are notorious for taking bigger cuts from the amount you want to exchange. Check the exchange rate online before you arrive at the airport.

The best rates are by taking money from an ATM. This depends on your home bank, but this continues to be the safest and cheapest way to exchange.

There are also many money exchange offices in major cities and tourist towns, but again be sure to carefully check rates and fees.

Electronic Transfers in Panama

International transfers can be done over the internet. However, they require sensitive information which can make the process tedious at times. You will also incur fees that will be higher as you transfer larger amounts of money.

Necessary Information:

  • Complete name of the bank
  • Name of branch and/or branch number
  • Address of the branch
  • Branch's SWIFT number (this is an internationally used system of numbers which identifies each branch of each bank, in each country)
  • Name on the account
  • Account number that the funds should be deposited into (IBAN for European transfers)

Depending on your transfer service and country, some of the information above won't apply to your specific transfer situation. The easiest way to complete an international transfer is if you have a dual-currency account.

Open a Bank Account in Panama

Panama has over 90 national and international banks. The process of opening an account is similar to that of most Western countries. Most of these banks have online banking as part of their services.

One can open a bank account in Panama or abroad, although each bank has individual procedures. You will need to prepare the following information and documents:

  • Passport and another form of identification
  • A bank reference
  • A personal reference letter
  • A brief explanation of the purpose of the account (personal or business)
  • An estimated sum (annual/monthly) of the funds likely to be deposited in the account
  • In some cases, you will have a personal interview

The opening of a personal bank account will include the following as part of the procedure:

  • Original bank's original reference letter.
  • Original personal reference letter (from a lawyer, accountant, etc.)
  • Full Photocopy of the passport.
  • Information as to the origin and use of the funds.
  • Work Visa or Immigration Visa.
  • Special power of attorney.

If you use ATMs with a Panama bank account, you will only incur withdrawal fees when you don't withdraw from one of your own bank's ATMs.

Banks in Panama City

Here are some major banks that allow foreigners to open an account:

Update 23/06/2018


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