Expat Banking: Tips for Expats in Panama
By Joshua Wood, LPC
Expats in Panama face unique challenges in managing their finances while living there, and that always starts with settling on the right expat financial services. Here are some basic tips from expats living in Panama - their insights are based on their actual experiences managing their finances while living there.
Learn what members have to say about living in Panama.
Talk with other digital nomads and expats in Panama on our Panama forum - meet people, get advice and help others.
An index of all of our site's Panama information.
Help others in Panama by answering questions about the challenges and adventures of living in Panama.
Best Places to Live in Panama
Panama is a great place to live or retire with easy residency laws, warm people and lots of expats. Whether you want to live by the beach in Bocas del Toro or need to live in Panama City for work and schools, there are many places to explore.
Pros & Cons of Living in Panama
Take off your rose-colored glasses and learn what digital nomads & expats have to say about the biggest challenges and the greatest rewards of living in Panama.
Cost of Living in Panama
Expats in Panama enjoy a relatively low cost of living. However, it's important to do your research to make sure you'll actually enjoy those saving while creating a high quality of life as an expat in Panama.
International Schools in Panama
Expats with children who explore the possibility of moving to Panama first and foremost want to know what educational options are available there. Here is a great start on exploring the options in Panama City... and beyond.
Pros and Cons of Living in Panama
Expats in Panama talks about the pros and cons of living in Panama. Topics include the lower cost of living, bureaucracy, friendly people. Expats in Panama seem to agree that you'll have to come down and explore the country to find out if it's the right place for you!
8 Important Tips about Healthcare and Health Insurance in Panama
Expats in Panama offer 8 important tips about healthcare and health insurance in Panama. While the quality of healthcare varies, there are world class doctors and facilities throughout Panama. Health insurance is much less expensive in Panama. Doctors visits (with and without insurance) are very affordable. The one negative seems to be that medications can be more expensive that in the U.S. Despite these pros and cons, many expats.mentioned that people have healthier lifestyles in Panama - cleaner air, cleaner water, fresh produce and less stress.
Having just opened a Savings account with a:debit card at Isla Colon's Banco Nacional, one of two government-owned banks in Panama, and the only bank in Bocas Town, I have some insight to share.
First, a $5,ooo deposit was required to open a simple savings account with a debit card. I asked if there was a minimum balance required and they to me no and that I could access the funds the next day, and I did a small withdrawal.
I also quickly discovered that the "debit" card was not like what we're used to in the U'S, It's a "no-name" generic debit card, not like VISA or Mastercard and apparently cannot be used like debit cards in the U.S.
From there I also discovered the fine print of debit cards (at least for government-owned Panamanian banks) and that the usage is limited to within Panama's borders.
Because I have a Pensionado (retired) Permanent Residency Visa, the paperwork was surprisingly simple and quick.
However, I soon also disc0vered more quirks of Panamanian banking: (1) a 15-day minimum for non-bank checks to clear, and the only way to get money in or out of Panama is by wire-transfer, even between international branches of the same bank. I've already determined, that as a light user, paying ATM fees in Panama for rent, utilities, and cash for the few places I need it, is cheaper than paying for wire transfers.
So I'm left with wondering if I need a local bank at all and am still considering it. I plam om meeting with MulitBank and Scotia soon in Changuinola.