I had several banks in the U.S., but I really like the online features of Bank of America. Several months before my move I called Bank of America and asked if they had branches in Panama City. They said yes. Great, one less thing on my list. I moved all of my main accounts to Bank of America and thought the detail of moving money into Panama was checked off my list.
When I arrived in Panama, I quickly used the little cash I'd brought with me and asked my American friend to take me to Bank of America so I could pull out some cash. He laughed so hard he cried. "Honey Bunny," he said, his voice dripping with derision, "There's no Bank of America in Panama City."
"Of course there is. The customer service rep at Bank of America told me there was."
Not wanting to argue with the Green Gringa, he ended the conversation with, "If you give me the address, I'll drive you there."
I then spent over an hour on the customer service line to Bank of America in the U.S. only to discover that the customer service rep I'd spoken with months ago was mistaken. She had probably looked up Panama City in FLORIDA. (sigh) Nope, indeed my friend was right; there was no Bank of America in Panama.
Although I could withdraw money from any ATM using my debit card (paying the international transaction fee, of course), I needed a bigger chunk of cash than I could pull from an ATM machine.
To save you from having to live off of credit cards or pawn your Rolex, I've outlined the exact process of what you need to do to bring your money to Panama. Notice that some of the items need to happen BEFORE you arrive in Panama.
Documents Needed to Open a Bank Account in Panama
Photocopy of Passport. The photocopy of passport should include the photo of the person, the personal details (name, date of birth, passport number, etc.), the date of the last entrance stamp into Panama, and the signature. The photocopy should be clear and legible.
Photocopy of a Secondary ID. This can be a drivers license or ID card issued in your home country and state.
Two (2) Financial Reference Letters. The financial reference letters can be from any established bank, brokerage firm, or credit union. The letter should be on the financial institutions letterhead, and should include the signature of an official, and the contact information (address, telephone, fax, email, etc.).
Two (2) Years of Tax Returns. You just need the first two pages with your signature.
One (1) Personal or Professional Reference Letter. The personal or professional reference letter can be from any friend, business associate, attorney, accountant, or any company you deal with personally or professionally. If from a professional or company, the letter should be on letterhead, and should include the signature of the representative issuing the letter, and the contact information (address, telephone, fax, email, etc.).
Proof of Address. This can be a utility bill, phone bill, insurance bill, bank statement, or any bill or statement showing your physical address.
Cash. The amount of cash necessary to open an account varies by bank. Be prepared to deposit $1,000 to $5,000 per account. It's your money and you can pull it out after the account is open, but they may not accept a future wire transfer as the opening amount.