|ARTICLES & INFORMATION SECTION : OFFSHORE BANKING in PANAMA|
What does it mean to bank offshore? What type of banking services are available? Is my money safe with a Panama Bank?.
There are certainly the most common questions we hear, and surely you may have many more. This article was written to answer some of your questions about opening and operating a bank account in Panama. Should you have some additional questions not covered here, please use our reply form below.
When the topic of banking in another country comes up, one concern that some investors have centers around the operation of their account and if they can maintain an account in US Dollars. Since Panama does not print it's own paper currency, but instead uses the US Dollar as it's official currency, all banks certainly offer US Dollar accounts by default. Such being the case, investors certainly may maintain either a US Dollar checking account or savings account as a result..
Keep in mind however that having a local checking account in Panama does not mean that one may find it easy to write checks against such an account for payment in the US. Instead, many commercial banks offer what is known as an International US Dollar checking account whereby all checks are in fact cleared through the US banking system automatically. If it is your intent to write checks for presentation outside of Panama, make sure to ask about an "International" checking account and not a regular local checking account..
Minimum opening deposit amounts will vary from bank to bank. Generally speaking, most savings banks will allow for a savings account to be opened with US $ 100 or less. Commercial banks may ask for a $ 500 or $ 1,000 minimum..
In the case of International checking accounts, some banks do require $ 3,000 as an opening balance. Check with your bank in Panama about minimums required for a certificate of deposit, also known as a "Plaza Fijo". Some banks may permit you to establish a "Plaza Fijo" for $ 1,000 while others may require a higher amount. Regardless, all banks offer the facility of having your monthly interest automatically deposited into your savings or checking account..
Both savings accounts and certificates of deposit are readily available in any local bank in Panama. One advantage of banking in Panama is that all interest earned is 100% free from local taxation. However, bank account interest rates tend to be slightly higher than what is offered by US banks, but will follow closely to current rates in the continental US. This is directly because of the fact that the US Dollar is the currency of Panama.
One of the most common questions we hear is, "Can I access my money from outside of Panama"? The answer is YES ! Just about every bank in Panama offers what is known as a "Clave Card" or account debit card. The annual fee for such a card will vary from bank to bank, but the lowest we have seen is $ 15 per year, and the highest annual fee $ 35. Such as card may certainly be used any any store, resturant, super market or merchant displaying the red "Clave Card" logo in Panama for your purchases. In addition, this card may be used at any ATM machine within Panama and at any ATM machine world-wide that displays the PLUS, CIRRUS or similar network logo. Ask the bank or check the logos displayed on the back bottom portion of your card to determine which ATM machines you may use.
The bank account may be titled in the name of an individual or that of an incorporated company (or Panama Foundation structure). Most banks in Panama will ask for at least one to two letters of reference when establishing an account, so keep this in mind. Also, most banks will not permit an account to be opened by mail and do require that the account holder visit the bank personally. However, maintaining your money with a local banking institution is a far better idea than turning it over to many of the "offshore services firms" operating in Panama. This is because banking in Panama is strictly regulated and controlled, where as "private" investments are not..
While Panama does not have an "FDIC" program as found in the US, Panama does have some of the strictest banking regulations in the world. Investors often are surprised to learn that banking deposit requirements held in reserve by the Central Bank for those banks operating in Panama, are often higher than what is required in the US (by the Federal Reserve). Keep in mind that Panama is a major banking and business center, and that local Panamanians bank with the same institutions you may be banking with. It is in the government's best interest to ensure the safety of the banking system at all times..
Some so-called tax havens, such as the Bahamas, claim they have banking confidentiality laws in place, but there are some major differences as to just what is "secret" or confidential. In the case of Panama, there are a number of regulations codified into law that protect the personal business of the depositor on a number of levels. Investors will find that personal confidentiality is guaranteed under law in Panama, both with respect to who may have an account and with respect to sensitive financial information as well. Bank employees that violate this confidence are subject to both stiff jail time and monetary fines. This is an important contrast to the Bahamas, whereby confidentiality only covers your account balances, but not a general inquiry regarding who may maintain an account at a particular bank..
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