Panama - Country Commercial Guide
Trade Financing

It covers payment methods and information on, banking systems, foreign exchange controls, and U.S. and correspondent banking.

Last published date: 2021-10-13

As Panama is an international banking center, there are several payment options for Panamanian importers.  The local banking system readily provides irrevocable letters of credit. The banking sector is modern and efficient and payments have not represented a big issue for Panamanian importers, but it does happen. U.S. exporters may gain a competitive advantage by using open account terms coupled with export credit insurance. The terms allow Panamanian buyers to take receipt of goods and sell them to obtain the needed cash to repay the U.S. exporter. In the event of default, the export credit insurance would make the U.S. exporter whole. The U.S. Commercial Service recommends using credit insurance and offers two helpful videos on payment methods and financing options available to U.S. companies. To see the videos, visit  https://www.trade.gov/how-export-videos 

Several banks operating in Panama have longstanding relationships with the Export-Import Bank of the United States, which is the leading issuer of export credit insurance to U.S. exporters and can help you assess the creditworthiness of a Panamanian buyer.  The CS Panama office can also conduct background checks on Panamanian buyers before deciding to offer financing terms.

Foreign Exchange Controls

There are no foreign exchange controls. The U.S. dollar is the national currency and there are no restrictions on capital flows into or out of the country.

Banking Systems

Since the U.S. dollar is Panama’s currency and there is no central bank, the National Bank of Panama has specific functions of a central bank and serves as the clearinghouse for the banking system.

Panama opened its banking sector to foreign competition in 1970 under legislation that prioritized banker-depositor confidentiality. The banking legislation establishes three classes of operations: general license banks operate full-service banks in Panama and compete for domestic and foreign deposits and loans; international license or “offshore” banks can only accept deposits from persons or organizations located overseas; representative offices can only perform representational activities. There are also two state-owned deposit-taking institutions. Foreign and Panamanian banks compete on equal terms. Banks are organized in the Panamanian Banking Association (both Panamanian and Foreign Banks) and are licensed and regulated by the Banking Supervisory Authority (Superintendencia de Bancos). Panama’s banking system does not have a deposit insurance scheme.

US Banks & Local Correspondent Banks

For a complete listing of banks operating in Panama, visit the Panamanian Banking Association’s website, where you will find a comprehensive and up-to-date list: https://asociacionbancaria.com/