How to open a bank account

I am hereby covering the procedure to open a bank account in Panama on my readers request. This post may also be very much interesting for all the new comers who visit the Panama City. In order to open a bank account you have to be very much patient.

The procedure may be tiresome, but being an expert with this I know that it is not quiet unusual. The Panama City just wants to confirm with all the details regarding your money like from where it came and if all other information provided by you are correct. Once you have managed to open an account, then it would be much easier for you to do all other business in the city along with opening any other new bank account as you have already produced your paperwork. Most of the bank also offers mortgage services.

It may not be certain that you may be satisfied with banks in Panama as most of them are not up to international standards in terms of service and employees. They sure are safe as having multiple accounts in other banks may be added advantage. As the services are very slow, so you may need more to live in the city. So, try choosing the most convenient bank with some of the best services like ATM facility, online banking and international banking along with providing a facility to link with your bank back at home.

Documentation required
Most of the banks in Panama would ask documents that may differ from other banks. So, it is always advisable to choose a bank before organizing your trip and check in advance with the documents required for opening account. This would help save some of your time, as these documents required may vary from one bank to other. Most of the banks in Panama may ask for a number of documents that usually a bank in your country may not be asking for. This is takes as a precautionary measure. TIP: It would be better if you make a list of all your preferred bank and draft a letter for them in advance. If you don’t carry a letter addressed to a particular bank then you may have to draft it again. Make sure to carry current documents written within the period of six weeks from your planning date.

Here is a list of all paperwork that you may require in order to open any bank account. A few more may be required but that can be handled at that time.
•    You need to carry a photocopy of the passport of all account holders, including photo and personal details with a verified signature along with visa entries. Some of the bank may also ask the passport to be notarized, but that can be done in Panama.
•    Second ID copy.
•    Financial reference letter by two references. One can issue these letters from any bank or credit union along with any brokerage firms who may have dealt with you. Make sure they are on company’s letter head and duly signed by the concerned official. It should include the contact details and has to be addressed to the bank. In case you may be having another account in Panama then you may also have to furnish their letter.
•    You may also need to professional reference letter including of an accountant or financial consultant.
•    Try including a photocopy for last two income tax returns.
•    Letter stating your pension status from your employer.
•    Original copy of account application duly signed. Please do not include zerox.

Application Guide
You can follow the following procedure to set up your bank account in Panama. They may not be similar with every bank, so you can expect a few changes.
•    Try making an appointment with someone who can speak English in case you may not be speaking Spanish. Most of the main branches do have an interpreter. You are expected to carry all of your documents. You may require them at the time of filling out the forms.
•    You have to make a minimum deposit of around $150 to $ 300 as may vary from bank to bank. They may keep it as deposit until your account has been approved. One can also deposit the money after approval of the account but it may take some extra time.
•    You can deposit money by bank transfer, USD check or even cash. All US bank checks can be expected to be cleared in 3 weeks time. Wire transfer may also take up to a weeks time.
•    Account should be approved within 7 to 10 working days.
•    Note: One is supposed to make a request for online banking at the time of account opening or else it may take some more time. You can also request for an ATM service or credit card facility or even check book facility at this time. Most of the banks would also allow you to make payments of certain bills online. You can also pay your bills at most of the markets by checks or debit card.
•    TIP: In case you come around some good customer service who can speak good English try to stay in touch with them through mail or cell. They can really be helpful later.

Credit Cards
You can choose from a number of options, including:
•    Silver
•    Gold
•    Platinum
•    Air Miles/ Point Card
You may have to keep a certain fixed deposit to get this service or even to increase your credit limit, at least at the initial time. All of them differ in the membership fees that has to be paid and their limits.

Debit Cards
Most of the banks will offer a debit card. These cards bear a Clave logo so can be used in any ATM machine or even interlinked symbols. Most of the cash registers would also accept them as plastic form of payment. There may be certain charges of use that may differ.

Saving accounts and fixed deposits
These accounts pay the best interest rates. The rate of interest may vary depending on the amount you kept as fixed deposit.

Checking accounts
These accounts are still popular in Panama. Most of them would be having different benefits all depending on the account type. One can always check on international and local checking accounts.

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