Banking in Panama: How to Use ATMs & Open Bank Accounts


Banking in Panama as an American or Foreigner is a bit complex because you are exposing yourself to foreign transaction & ATM fees. If you plan to spend a week or so in Panama, you can use your Visa/Mastercard to obtain money from ATMS located all over Panama City.

Using ATM Machines in Panama

The best ATM machine to use is BAC (The Red Lion). Bac CreditoMatic Machines accept international credit & debit cards and only charge you a fee of $5.95. They accept Visa & Mastercard so I recommend brining a VISA card because Visa is generally accepted everywhere.

ATMs in Panama are listed in both English and Spanish so you can still get money if you don’t speak any Spanish. However, I had to use the Spanish settings to get money once because the English settings weren’t working.

How to Use ATMs in Espanol (Spanish)

Here’s how to get money using the Spanish Settings:

  1. Select Espanol
  2. Enter Your 4 digit pin
  3. Select Credito (for Credit Cards) or Debito (for Debit Cards)
  4. Select Retiros (Withdrawals)
  5. Select Corriente (for Checking)
  6. Select The Dollar Amount You Want
  7. Accept the $5.95 Transaction Fee – Press Acceptar (to Accept)
  8. Take Your Money!

If you need assistance, ask a security guard or bank employee for assistance. Go inside the bank for help; Do not ask a random person on the street under any circumstances.

Panama City is the best place to get money so I recommend loading up on cash before you head to places like Bocas del Toro, Colon or Boquete. There are far fewer Banks in these cities so do most of your banking in Panama City before exploring the rest of the country.

Open a Offshore Bank Account in Panama

When one considers opening a bank account in a foreign country, the aim of opening the bank account should be brought out clearly. In Panama, opening bank accounts for foreigners particularly American citizens is a long process, requiring one to identify the type of bank account they wish to open, why they have chosen to open the bank account in Panama and provide documents that can be used to identify them.

Americans who possess a cedula ( a Panama residency citizenship card), are in a better
position of opening a bank account in Panama as compared to those who do not.

Some of the requirements to opening a bank account in Panama include:

  •  A photocopy of your passport (which includes your personal details and your photograph)
  • Your driver’s license, cedula or any other form of identification that you may have.
  • Two financial reference letters from either your local or international bank which must be recent, that is less than 60 days old. These letters should be signed by an official at the firm from your previous banks. For Americans who already have other personal or corporate bank accounts in Panama, they can obtain these letters from those bank.
  • Two official commercial reference letters. This can be from your financial consultants or a lawyer.
  • A photocopy of your last two years income tax returns. This will show the bank that you intend to open an account with your adherence to filing your tax returns.
  • A letter from your employer, your pension status statement or any other evidence of income
  • Your bank statement for the last three months
  • Original signature. For a corporate account or a joint account, all parties involved in opening the account will be required to provide their signatures.
  • Signed account application forms.
  • Own property in Panama (This acts as an added advantage, though is mandatory in some of the banks)


Having in mind some of the requirements that you will need to open a bank account in Panama, let’s now look at the steps that you will go through in order to open your bank account.

1. Choose the right bank.

Some of the banks in Panama that easily accept Americans include: Banistmo, Banesco, BAC, Unibank, Scotia, Banco Azteca, Multibank and Banco National. A stable bank that offers good interest should be a consideration while choosing a bank.

2. Prepare your documents and ensure they are up to date.

Your income tax returns should be up to date in order to show your compliance in paying tax. Preparing your documents early will ensure that you do not keep taking back and forth flights from Panama to the US.

If you are unsure of which documents to prepare and carry along with you, you can look up some of the common documents required by most banks. Most banks in Panama consider tax evasion a very serious offense.

If you already have another bank account in Panama, they will run a cross-reference to ensure to you are compliant with FATCA (the tax compliance act that ensures all American citizens earning money outside the country, pay their taxes).

3.Decide on the type of account you want to open.

Whether it is a saving or checking account. A foreigner who intends to open a savings account, in most banks, is required to have a minimum of $1,000 monthly average earnings while a foreigner who intends to open a checking account should have at least $250 monthly wages. The checking account is meant for daily activities such as shopping while the savings account is meant for long-term saving.

4. Apply for a Cedula.

Americans who have a cedula or those applying for a cedula, have a higher chance of being accepted in most banks than those who do not have a cedula. For those who are planning to make Panama their new residence, they can apply for this identification card.

5. Schedule an Appointment with the Bank Manager

Making an appointment with the manager or having your attorney do this for you. A bilingual attorney can be an added advantage for American citizens who do not speak Spanish.

6. Open Your Account with At Least $150

A minimum account opening fee ranging from $150 to $300 is required for account registration. This amount can be paid through cash deposit or bank wire transfers. After paying these amount, your account will take about two weeks to be fully functional.

Additional cards like your debit and credit cards will be provided after activation of your account.

Need Help? Contact Us For More Information

We can assist you when opening your offshore bank account in Panama. Contact Us for free private consultation.


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