Things Just Got More Expensive – Part 2

This is the second part of Things Just Got More Expensive. Today I tried to get money from the ATMs. HSBC’s ATM had a problem, but a different problem than the other day. Then I tried the two ATM’s in El Rey, The first ATM said the account didn’t have sufficient funds. I had asked for $500, since I didn’t want to pay $3 for less. Then I tried the other ATM. It said that the amount was too high. I changed the amount to $300 and it gave money.

So, that implies to me that the new programming change implemented by Clave has also limited the amount that can be withdrawn to $300.

The effect is that if you typically get $1,500 a month, it will not take 5 withdrawals vs 3 before. That will cost you $15. I am confident my credit union didn’t change my withdrawal limit, but I am going to send them an email anyway to verify it.

Want more – costs more. Want same – costs more. Want less – costs more.

14 thoughts on “Things Just Got More Expensive – Part 2

  1. Don, I used the machine at Pricesmart yesterday, and it gave me five hundred. I had the same worry as you, but it gave me what I asked for. It’s an HSBC machine, I believe.

  2. Hi Mary. I have sent my Credit Union an email. Maybe they changed my limit, or the ATM didn’t have $500. At any rate, you have eliminated the other possibility.

  3. Don; I used the ATM at the HSBC in Volcan and requested $500.00 yesterday and it spit out $500.00

    You have been in Panama longer than I have (2 years) maybe you can help me understand why everyone is so paranoid about the banking institutions. In those 2 years dealing with HSBC I have had no real problems, so you don’t get a bank statement for 2 months I do not think it is some kind of a CONSPIRACY as all the expats would believe. The $3.00 charge, I believe is all part of doing buisnes not another way to stick it to EXPATS. My bank in Canada was charging a large monthly service charge, here I pay nothing other than a $.10 cent charge when I write a cheque (which they give me free) or if I use an ATM that is not HSBC ($.75 cents)

    The way banks are going under in the USA is your money any safer than it is in Panama???? Just a thought.

    PS don’t be a Peter Gordan and I think your money will be safe here. Ha Ha


  4. Here’s a link to a WSJ article on banking fees and how they are slipping
    back into play…

    Government oversight of Panamanian banks is spotty at best which
    is actually a Good Thing / Bad Thing situation… Good because the
    government is almost totally inept in everything it does but also Bad
    because banks DO fail in Panama and depositors DO loose their
    money because their is no equivalent of the FDIC guaranteeing the
    deposits. So to answer the question..

    Hell, yes your money is a lot safer in US banks.

    The argument has been made that Panamanian banks have little
    risk in the mortgage / construction loan area because they are so
    innately conservative that they’ll never make anything but the very
    safest loans. Considering the amazing degree of cronyism and
    generally inept decision making in every aspect of Panamanian
    business, I’m not so sure. Do your research.

    Also be aware that if you wish to open accounts in corporate or
    foundation names, the fees can become massive, instantly.

    For example, we wanted to open foundation accounts to separate
    our personal finances from the foundation that “owned” our
    apartment. These accounts were functionally identical to our
    personal accounts, no extra bells or whistles, but when we went to
    actually complete the paperwork after the “review committee” had
    waved it’s magic wand and decided to let have such accounts, we
    found that there would be a several hundred dollar a year fee just
    to have them, that every transaction including deposits would be
    charged fees and that high minimum balances would be applied.

    This was a complete shock to us and NOT ONE WORD had been said
    until the papers were under our noses. When we asked why was
    all this crap being layered on, we were told that our foundation
    was a “commercial enterprise” and that Banco General charged
    these on all commercial accounts. An hour of heated discussions
    followed, but there was absolutely no give.

    So we tore the papers up and just kept our personal accounts.
    Screw it.

    Friends had a similar experience with HSBC which on top of all sorts
    of fees and restrictions, wanted to charge $100 per month per
    account for the ability to conduct online account inquiries, a
    completely free service for personal accounts.

    Our friends figured that going commercial with HSBC would have cost them an additional $3-4,000 a year in crazy fees for exactly
    the same services that they received free or at minimal cost with
    their personal accounts.

    So make sure you are either able to read all the Spanish language
    documents very carefully yourself, or better yet, have a good,
    English speaking lawyer go over them with a fine-toothed comb.

    I stand by my recommendation that expats should have local
    accounts, but you need to always be aware that you are NEVER
    a “valued customer”, you are a cash cow and at the very first
    excuse, Panamanian banks will milk you dry.

  5. Hi Glen. I will have to check again and see if my #300 requirement was a ATM problem or what. Still >$15 a month ATM fees may push me back to opening a savings account. U am still studying it.

    The Peter Gordon event that you referenced, I consider to be a HUGE deal.

    Hi Mike. Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment. And thank you President Obama.

  6. Hi Don,
    It’s even worse if you visit the U.S. and want to withdraw cash from here. You get hammered twice as hard. Be really careful when you get an error message on an ATM machine as well for instance,”Unable to process transaction” and you don’t get the money. Go home and check your On-line bank history. I have had the money deducted from my acount but did not actually get the cash!!

  7. Hi Bob. That is obviously a problem as opposed to a procedure. I have had that happen in David once, but when I contacted my credit union, they put the money back into my account, which is what the David bank had said would happen.

    I hope you got your money back as well. Since all ATM transactions are on camera, your loss should have been recorded.

  8. “You have been in Panama longer than I have (2 years) maybe you can help me understand why everyone is so paranoid about the banking institutions.”

    I can’t answer for everyone, but I was here for the banking crisis of ’88/’89 when many people had their accounts frozen, some never to be unfrozen. That made a lot of old-timers and Panamanians nervous about banks.

    Political nitwittery, of which Panama has an abundance, can deny you access to your money faster than you can say “give me my money”.

    I consider banks to be as much a necessary evil as a useful tool in today’s world.

  9. Thanks Don, Mike and Henry

    Like I said I have only been here 2 years and had no problems with HSBC other than 1 time the ATM also never gave me the money I requested but withdrew it from my account. I informed the bank and the money was back in my account within the week. Thanks again for all the information about corporations and foundations.
    Good luck in PC Don

  10. Hi All. As an update, I withdrew $500 from the ATM at PriceSmart. That eliminates my credit union from having a problem and says it was that the two ATMs at El Rey had insufficient funds and were limiting the withdrawal.

  11. I’m from Texas and have been thinking of retiring to Panama, after the comments about the banking system, not so sure, tell me something good—ill keep monitoring the comments

  12. I would not make a decision on moving to Panama based on the banking system. The banking system would not be one of my high priorities.

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