credit unions in panama

Credit Unions have been legal in Panama since 1948.

  • In October of 1948 Panama’s National Assembly passed a law creating a new corporate license creating 4 banking cooperatives outside of the U.S., in the Panama Canal Zone. Since that time,  more than 500 cooperatives have been created  including more than 250 Credit Unions. 
  • The Federation of approximately 100 Credit Unions today was established in 1961 with 13 Credit Unions, and is one of the few Co-operatives left in Panama to open an expat account
  • Unlike banks, Panama Credit Unions are probate free. If you  die, your accounts are handed over to your beneficiaries. You do not have to go through probate where much of your money may end up with the Panama Government.   
  • Panama Credit Unions have strict bank secrecy laws making it a crime for any Panama Credit Union employee to divulge any  information about a depositor’s account.  
  • Known as “Cooperativas”,  Panama Credit Unions are licensed and Government registered financial co-op institutions, regulated under Law 17 of 1997 which granted them  non-profit, tax free standing. Since credit unions are tax free non-profit organizations allowing profits to be paid back in the form of interest to depositors, they are able to pay higher interest rates than regular banks can. 
  • Retirees seeking a secure fixed sum return will find that Panama credit unions offer higher interest rates than banks. The earned interest from Panama Credit Union savings accounts, including CD’s and Factor Notes, is tax free in Panama. 
  • Panama Credit Union depositors do not have to report their interest income to the Panama government
  • Credit Unions are for saving, not commercial activity. No checking accounts, no merchant Visa accounts, just the basics. A credit or debit card is the best you can find, and online banking is available only at the high end Credit Unions.   
  • Panama credit unions are considered by some industry  professionals to be safer and less risky than banks. 
  • Every Panama Credit Union is regulated by the Panama Government agency known as "Instituto Panameno Autonomo Cooperativo" (IPACOOP). Since the Foreign Account Tax Compliant Act (FATCA) became a reality in Panama, almost all Credit Unions have decided not to allow expats to open accounts. 
  • Membership in most Panama Credit Unions is restricted. This prevents most foreigners from becoming members. The Federation is one of the few remaining who still allow accounts to be opened by expats. 
  • They have a MasterCard, a  website, and coming soon, online banking.   

This interest rate is great.  Perfect for my retirement savings.  Rob S.  Las Vegas, Nevada, USA  

My agent helps me with everything.  I get spreadsheets and emails all the time to help me understand how it all works.  Best help that I have ever had in banking, and all in English........Ron B.  California, USA