Have you ever thought about how to open a Panama bank account? If you’re looking for a reliable and well-regulated banking system, Panama is the place to go. In this guide, we will walk you through the process of opening a bank account in Panama . We’ll explain the benefits of having a Panama bank account, and how it can help with residency visa applications and starting a Panama corporation.
Whether you are interested in setting up a personal bank account in Panama, or are looking to create a Panama corporation with a corporate bank account in Panama for doing business, we can help make the introduction to a number of different banks in Panama that we have relationships with, and help you through the due diligence paperwork and process, which can be extensive depending on what type of account you need and what bank you choose to go with, as well as what type of business you are in.
The Basics of Panama Banking
To get started, let’s go over some of the basics of banking in Panama, and the Panama banking system. Panama has a well-developed and modern banking system, with plenty of options for foreigners looking to open a bank account. The banking sector is highly regulated by the government, yet not as restrictive as many other countries in the region, therefore ensuring financial safety without too much debilitating red tape.
Panama has strict laws in place to prevent money laundering and financial crimes too, which is an incredible incentive for both investing in Panama and protecting your wealth in Panama as well. The financial sector and government have worked diligently over the years to ensure safe banking, while simultaneously incentivizing foreign investment with better returns than funds kept in many domestic banks in North America and Europe.
There are approximately 100 banks operating in Panama varying from global banks, private banks, local banks, and investment banks. The government owns two banks which are popular with the locals which offer the same services as the other banks, however, they are quite difficult to open accounts at if you are a foreigner.
Most banks are open Monday through Friday from 8:30 am to 3 pm and on Saturday 8:30 am to Noon or 1 pm.
Choosing the Right Bank
When it comes to choosing a bank in Panama, you have a few different options. There are large international banks with branches in Panama, like HSBC and Citibank. There are also smaller local banks, like Banco General and Banistmo. Each type of bank has its own benefits and drawbacks, so it’s important to do your research before deciding which one is right for you.
Many banks in Panama are subsidiaries or partners of larger international banks, and as a result will share a lot of financial tools with them, which can streamline multi-banking needs for foreigners who want to keep their bank accounts at home.
We also can help you make the right choice and provide introductions to make the process easier. We’ll even make the appointment for you and accompany you to the bank so that everything goes smoothly. Our local know-how and history in Panama with both banking and investing gives us an edge that we can leverage to help you get what you need, without long waits or exorbitant red tape from regulation.
Opening a Bank Account in Panama
The process of opening a bank account in Panama is fairly straightforward. You’ll need to bring your passport (or Panama residency ID card if you have one), as well as your Panama work permit (if applicable). You’ll also need to show proof of Panama address, which can be in the form of a Panama utility bill or Panama rental agreement. This process is very important, as all banks will do significant due diligence to ensure you’re eligible for a Panama bank account before accepting your application. It is good to speak with a lawyer first to find out which banks are best for your current needs and situation.
Most of the major Panama banks that we can recommend require clients to be either citizens or residents of Panama (or in the process of obtaining residency in Panama) in order to open a personal Panama bank account. The majority of our clients who open personal bank accounts in Panama are either residents of Panama or are in the process of applying for residency in Panama, and they naturally need a bank account in Panama in order to qualify for residency, pay their local Panama bills, and do business in Panama.
To open a bank account in Panama, you’ll first need to decide what type of account you want. The most common types of accounts are personal accounts, business accounts, and joint accounts. For personal accounts, it’s usually best to go with one of the large international banks, like HSBC or Citibank. For business accounts, it’s usually best to go with a local bank like Banco General or Banistmo.
When you have all the required documentation ready to share, you’ll need to make an appointment with the bank of your choice. At your appointment, you’ll open up your Panama bank account and deposit the minimum amount required (usually around $100).
To open a Panama bank account you will need the following:
- A copy of your passport photo and information page and Panama immigration entry stamp page, and a second ID such as a drivers license;
- One or two bank reference letters, as well as proof of income such as your last few years tax returns, financial statements, or letter from your employer;
- A reference letter from a professional (lawyer, accountant, etc.); and
- Proof of address such as a utility bill showing your personal residential address.
All documents must be recently dated (usually within three months).
Different banks may require more information such as the source of funds you intend to deposit. Every bank has its own application forms.
- If you are residing in Panama on an immigration visa, you will need to provide copies of the immigration visa and immigration identity card (carnet). If you are already a resident, then you would provide your Panama ID card (cedula), or if you are in the process of obtaining residency, then our law firm would provide a letter certifying that you are in the process of applying for residency.
- If a business account is being opened, most banks will require copies of your income tax returns from the previous two years for the company opening the account.
The banks in Panama are very conservative and highly formal when it comes to opening bank accounts for foreigners, and they place a great deal of importance on due diligence of each client to ensure that they are following correct compliance procedures in accordance with the “Know Your Customer” (KYC) laws of Panama.
All documents must be translated into Spanish.
Panama Bank Account Benefits
There are many incentives and benefits associated with opening a Panama bank account, and these can fluctuate depending on personal and financial needs. In a general sense, the benefits are:
- Panama has a well-regulated banking system that offers safety and security for your money.
- Panama banks are able to offer better returns on investment than many domestic banks in North America and Europe.
- With a Panama bank account, you’ll have access to investment and business opportunities in Panama that you wouldn’t otherwise have access to.
- Panama’s tax laws are very favorable for foreigners, and a Panama bank account can help you take advantage of these benefits.
The Panama Banking System is regulated by the Superintendencia de Bancos de Panama (SBP), which is the equivalent of the Federal Reserve in the United States. The SBP ensures that all banks operating in Panama follow strict guidelines and regulations, which provides a high level of safety and security for your money.
With a Panama bank account, you’ll have access to business and investment opportunities in Panama that give you more of a strategic and financial advantage than you would have with foreign capital operating out of a foreign bank. For example, if you’re interested in starting a Panama corporation, a Panama bank account is required. A Panama bank account is also often required when investing in Panama real estate. P
Panama Bank Products
Every Panama bank offers savings and checking accounts along with time deposits (CD’s), ATM, debit and credit cards, and many offer full online banking. Panama banks will require a 125% of the monthly maximum credit limit deposit to obtain a credit card. If you want a $1,000 monthly credit limit, you will need to deposit $1,250 before obtaining the credit card. Credit card rates and fees vary for each bank so it is recommended that you shop around for the lowest fees. ATM cards can be obtained using the Clave (Latin America) or Plus (worldwide) logo systems to use at the many ATM machines in the country.
Personal Panama Bank Accounts
The minimum deposit required to open a Panama bank account will range from $100 to $10,000 depending on what bank in Panama you choose to go with, and whether or not you decide to bank with a Panama private banking service (offers more personalized Panama banking services usually with certain premium investment or deposit options), or if you prefer to go with the standard banking service.
The process of opening a personal Panama bank account can take from 1 hour to a few days, depending on whether or not your documentation is complete, and the banks compliance department has approved your account, or if they require additional due diligence documentation or have additional questions about your banking needs, etc.
Learn more about setting up a personal Panama bank account.
Corporate Panama Bank Accounts
The required documentation for a corporate bank account will differ from a personal account. It is common for banks in Panama to require each client to appear at the bank for an interview, and provide the following documentation for each signatory, company director, and/or shareholder or final beneficiary:
- Two forms of identification: Passport & Drivers License or national ID card, for example.
- Proof of source of funds or source of your income: This could be copies of your last few years of tax returns, audited financial statements, etc.
- Proof of your residential address: This could be your utility bill showing your name and address, for example.
- Proof of residency in Panama or application for residency: If you are already a resident, then you would provide your Panama ID card (cedula), or if you are in the process of obtaining residency, then our law firm would provide a letter certifying that you are in the process of applying for residency.
- Business plan: A short business plan explaining what products or services your company provides, your primary target markets, your financial projections, and your estimated business banking activity.
- Company documents: Articles of incorporation, new certificate of incorporation, corporate resolution authorizing the opening of the account, declaration of shareholders or beneficiaries, etc.
- Letter of reference from your law firm.
The minimum deposit required to open a corporate Panama bank account will range from $1,000 to $10,000 or more, depending on what bank in Panama you choose to go with, and whether or not you decide to bank with a Panama private banking service (offers more personalized Panama banking services usually with certain premium investment or deposit options), or if you prefer to go with the standard banking service.
The process of opening a corporate Panama bank account can take from 4 to 8 weeks, depending on whether or not your documentation is complete, and the banks compliance department has approved your corporate account, or if they require additional due diligence documentation or have additional questions about your business banking needs, etc.
Learn more about setting up a corporate Panama bank account.