Things Just Got More Expensive

I went to get money from the ATM today and learned that Clave is now charging $3.00 for each transaction that is for banks outside of Panama.

I still think it is better for me than having an account in a Panama bank, but it does cause one to think about it a little more. Up until now, I was having no charges using any ATM. Oh well, nothing is forever.

I should add that none of the three different ATMs I tried today gave any money even though I authorized the transaction. This change in policy may be causing other problems as well.

23 thoughts on “Things Just Got More Expensive

  1. The big question is, did you get money? I couldn’t make a withdrawal, and ran into two other gringos who also couldn’t, at several different ATM’s……

  2. No, I was unable to get money today. I tried three different ATMs. I assumed it was relative to my account, but guess it is more universal.

  3. Wow. I thought the ATM fee was universal. I get charged $2 here in the US if I use an ATM from another bank. $3 is way too much.

  4. I wonder if we can still just take the card into the bank (HSBC, for instance) and get a “cash advance” without the additional $3. The international service fee is already enough!

  5. I can’t answer that. Are you using a debit card or credit advance. I use a debit card for my credit union in the US and have only used ATMs.

  6. So far I have not encounter any ATM fees using my stateside debit card…..but as of June 2nd my state side credit card (which I have used in Panama for many years) started charging a 3-percent foreign transaction fee (FTF). I have made written complaint to BOA regarding the FTF that previously did not exist. So who knows perhaps it is time to start rethinking how I do business in Panaman.

  7. Hi Jack. Yes things they are a changing. I think some of this can be a result of Obama’s putting new regulations on the credit card companies. This will have ripples world wide and the result will be that the users will pay more.

  8. I have taken my debit card into HSBC and got a cash advance from a very polite, English speaking man. The amount was for double what I could get per day from the ATM. They charged the 3% international service fee but not the $5 that I was being charged for using the ATM. That $5 has now evidently turned into $8 ($5 for my US bank, $3 for the Panama bank). So tomorrow I shall try the cash advance thing at the bank and see what happens. If the ATMs are saying “no money” even after a person approves the $3 charge, as I read earlier, I imagine there will be some hungry gringos within a few weeks!

  9. Hi Jan. Obviously the new system Clave is implementing is not going in transparent to the users from a technical point of view.

  10. “I think some of this can be a result of Obama’s putting new regulations on the credit card companies.”

    If I’m using a Debit Card with no Mastercard or Visa logo or affiliation, how is this tied into the new US credit card regulations?

  11. Don’t think it has anything to do with Obama or any new policies or regulations, just business. It also depends on your bank – mine charges no ATM fees AND credits my account for any fee another bank may charge for my ATM withdrawals in Panama. My credit cards charge NO foreign transaction fees. Pays to shop around.

    Take care

  12. Capital One Bank in the states has a variety of card choices but the one I have is a cc that has no transaction service fees in international usage. I don’t get airline miles with it but also there is no charge for the card and I only use it when traveling internationally. I believe this to be a win-win for me and them. They get their part of the charge fee that is charged the retailer and I get a good deal for using it. You might check them out at .

  13. Hi Lenny. because the regulations are causing the banks to jump through hoops and it is costing them money and they are going to get their fees how ever they can. Clave is one of the major transfer arms between banks in foreign countries.

    Steve and Ed. I believe all credit card fees will change in the next year. The Clave fees are in addition to any fees charged by the banks. I can almost guarantee that if banks have to start paying Clave fees for use in banks other than theirs, they will drop the service to their own customers.

    I may be wrong, but time will tell.

  14. This is one of the reasons why we maintained Panamanian savings,
    checking and credit card accounts; first with Banco Continental and then
    with Banco General after it took over BC.

    We kept a “working fund” in the bank that was refreshed monthly by an
    automatic pension disbursement via wire transfer. That cost about $250
    a year and we looked at that as just part of the cost of living in a
    different country.

    We never had crazy fees, we never had problems accessing our money,
    we got as good and possibly better interest that we could have back
    in the US, etc., etc., etc.

    Don’s right; the landscape is changing as the government cracks down
    on some of the outrageous, (but highly profitable) practices of these
    companies. “Standard” fees will proliferate and increase dramatically
    over the next year and it would be well to take a hard look at your
    current financial practices to identify and hopefully eliminate these
    sorts of vulnerabilities.

    If you take out $2,000 a month from US accounts via ATM with a 3%
    local fee and possibly a 3% US fee for a “foreign transaction”, then
    $15 a month wire transfer fees suddenly start to look very reasonable indeed.

    If I were still in Panama and did not yet have local banking, I’d start
    working on it right away…


  15. We use Capital One credit card for reward miles when we travel, too. There are no transaction fees when charging for items abroad. Since we will be retiring abroad, soon, we searched for a bank that will not charge us for ATM transactions. Again, Capital One Direct Banking came up the winner. We opened a Capital One Money Market account. We can transfer our money from a local bank to Capital One and withdraw it through ATM transactions abroad with no fees from Capital One. The only fee we will encounter is from the owner of the ATM. It earns a little interest (more than we get in our local bank), so the interest will make up for a monthly withdrawl of cash.

  16. Hi Debbie. Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment.

    Hi Mike. Yes, I will have to re look at things. I used to have a pension check deposited in Banistmo and finally decided to move the deposit back to the US when HSBC took over Banistmo and after the law suit that was precipitated by HSBC shutting down a Foundation account and the individual’s assets were frozen. If I do it again, I will most likely open a savings account (since they have lower balance requirements than checking accounts) and just deposit a monthly personal check in the bank. That will only cost the time the bank holds the money before releasing it to the account. At most, I will just need to be a month behind.

  17. Hi, Don;

    I don’t blame you for wanting to avoid HSBC like the plague. It’s not
    just one individual who’s had lots of problems with HSBC, it’s many.

    FWIW, we dreaded the Banco General takeover of Banco Continental
    but it was as seamless as a normal US bank acquisition. A bit more
    paperwork to go through to get the new credit and ATM cards
    issued, but no problems of any kind. Given the inconsistent nature
    of anything in Panama, I hesitate to recommend them, but we had
    no complaints.

    A number of expats are using Capital One or Schwab accounts as
    you have mentioned, but I would still advise establishing a local
    account as I doubt that these US accounts will remain charge free
    much longer. It’s like the airline baggage fee scam; after a while
    they all jumped on it because there was just too much profit to
    ignore. I’m sure the same will happen with “foreign” fees.


  18. I used Banco General in the past and found them to be a good bank. That would most likely be where I would open an account if I decided to do so.

  19. I’ve also read somewhere how this is the first recession where banks have gotten greadier in uping their fees and so forth

  20. To be fair, US banks have always charged at least $3 for international transactions on my ATM card from Panama, whenever I go to the US to withdraw money, they always put a fee of between $3-$6 depending on which bank, so it only seems fair to do it here too! In Europe they dont have this charge, so I guess thats why its only applied to US accounts… my two centavos..

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