Saving $10,000 A Year With Panama’s Pensionado Discounts

I hate articles that have a sole reason for being written to entice people to move to Panama. I am writing this post after reading Richard Dietrich’s recent article titled “Saving $10,000 A Year With Panama’s Pensionado Discounts”.

I can’t totally fault Richard because he was merely using material from a Real Estate For Profit site. I would never use this type of site for information. I do fault Richard for thinking this is a site that should be promoted. I didn’t check if Richard is advertising his property on that site.

I tried to find the original article, but was unsuccessful in doing so.

However, if you want to read the contents pf the article, I trust that what Richard posted is correct and what I will refer to in this post.

There are some caveats in the article and some information on requirements to get a Pensionado card that have value.

I consider the $10,000 nothing but bait for those who are on the edge of making a decision to move.

Following is my analysis of the contained sheet totaling $10,000.

Let me start by saying that the amounts used in the article are based on prices in Panama, which may be less than in the U.S. or possibly more than in the U.S. Remember you can make numbers look any way you want them to look.

With that, let me take the numbers in the article and add my comments.

Movie Tickets $2.75/person x 2 per month 50% $66

In David, the price is around $3.50 for an adult so 50% would be $1.75. Yes, it is a savings and I would take it. However, don’t confuse yourself thinking that the David theater compares to a U.S. theater. It is fine for the price, but the sound system is mediocre and I personally have gone to the David theater about 6 times since I have lived here. Now if I lived in Boquete or Volcan, I would need to tack on another $6+ to cover the gasoline to and from David.

Dinner Theater $20/person x 2 per month 50% $480

This must be for Panama City because there are no dinner theaters that I know of outside Panama City and I have never been to one in Panama City. For people living in Chiriquí I would drop this savings from the list.

Three Night Hotel stay $375 for 6 times a year 30% – 50% $1,125

I have no problem with the calculations, but you should know that these are based on Rack Rates and allows the hotels to game the number. My cousin is coming to visit and got cheaper rates booking on the Internet than I am getting using pensionado discounts. This may or may not be an actual savings depending on how you look at it and how well you negotiate with the hotel. Often they will negotiate.

Bus Ride $6/person round trip x 15/year 30% $54

Yes you do get a 30% discount. Natalie’s recent bus from David to Panama City was $15.20. For me I would have saved about $4.50. The trip would have taken me about 7+ hours and not a good enough deal for me to want to do that more than once or twice a year. If you go from David to PC make sure you take a coat because the only setting on the AC seems to be MAX.

In-Country Flight – Don’t know where his flight is from and to, but a 30% discount is correct. My cousin, who is coming to visit, booked her flight online through Cheap O Flights or something like that. I am meeting her in PC, so I made my flight arrangements in David at COPA for the same flight. Her price was $114 from PC to David and mine with discount was $150. Go figure.

Flight To U.S. Again I have no qualm with the numbers, other than with all airline flights, it depends on when you fly to get a base rate. I will say this. I have never been able to beat my own reservations over the Internet compared a Panama travel agent with discount. Others may have different experiences.

Dinner For Two $30 total x 2 per week 25% $780

The numbers work.

Mid Range Meal $12/person x 4 per week 25% $1,248

The numbers fit.

Fast Food $7/person x 2 per week 15% $218.40 This all depends on the fast food restaurant as to how much effective discount you get. McDonald’s takes the discount off the entire bill. KFC has a different system and the effective discount is less. Still, I take the discount for any franchised restaurant. The reason I qualify my statement is because I never ask for a discount in any mom and pop business. If you take the discount, you are taking money from the owner and many are just getting by,

Home Phone Bundle $70/month 25% $210 I have no idea what the numbers are based on. I pay $69/month for Internet (6Mbps), Family plan cable TV, and minimum phone plan. The only part that is eligible for a discount is the phone and I think my cost about $9, so my savings is $2.25 a month.

Water $7/month 25% $210 My water bill, including trash pickup is about $20. I don’t have the breakout in front of me, but whatever it is, it is a bargain. My savings based on the discount would be nowhere near $210.

Electric Service $80/month 25% $240 My monthly payment is around $69, so working backwards my bill would be about $92. Sorry, I am too lazy to look for the last bill. Electricity is more expensive per kilowatt usage than the U.S. Therefore, you should assume that if you were going to use the same amount in Panama as in the U.S., then you would be paying more.

Doctors and Dentists These calculations are correct. The specialists I have used have charged a minimum of $45. For some reason, I have had doctors that came up with a different charge applying the discount than I compute. I pay what they ask, because it is not worth arguing.

For GP practice – for colds etc., I typically pay around $6 a visit.

Medications $7 each x 2 month 10% $33.60 My pharmacies give 20% discount. Don’t know why the article uses 10%. What should be known about medications is that not all meds are on the list of medications allowed to be sold in Panama. It will be worth checking to see if your needed medication will have to be sent from the U.S. before getting a big surprise.

Vehicle Import 18% of value of car (eg $25,000) 100% $4,500

You can also buy a car tax free in Panama with a pensionado visa. However, if you sell the car, someone will have to pay the tax that wasn’t paid. I have bought two new cars in Panama and never found it worth the hassle to use the discount.

I consider this a worthless discount.

Bringing a car to Panama is seldom a good idea. What seems like a good deal may disappear later.

Anyone that moves to Panama because of Pensionado discounts has overvalued them. They make good topics to talk about, to sell books or motivate people to move, but the actual value is little.

23 thoughts on “Saving $10,000 A Year With Panama’s Pensionado Discounts

  1. Ray, you said: “Anyone that moves to Panama because of Pensionado discounts has overvalued them.”
    ……………….Yes ~! absolutely. In fact financial motive should not be the primary motive.
    To say that the $10,000.00 savings figure is a come-on is an understatement. It’s a spin on truth as you so well demonstrated.

  2. I can’t imagine using most of the discounts as often as he assumes. The discount for electricity applies only to the first 400 kwh, so the actual discount is about $20.00.

  3. I fully agree with Don. The jubilado-status offers some nice discounts, nothing spectacular. Another thing, systematically ignored by promoting sites etc., is that normal life in Panama for sure is not cheap. Sure, if you are willing to live the simple life, but who wants that? Our budget exceeds the amount we did spend in EU. That is, without housing and taxes, which is a personal matter and varies per individual. Sure, clothing is cheap, but who needs much clothes in this sunny country? Some other items may surely be cheaper as well, but por lo general we do spend much more in supermarkets here than we used to do in EU. You should come to Panama for the nice life, (relatively) security, friendly people and great climate. If you expect to save a bundle of money, you are in for a disappointment. Or am i not doing things right?

  4. Dinner for two x 2 times / week
    Mid-range meal x 4 times / week
    fast food x 2 times / week
    Do these people have a kitchen at home?

  5. People should look at other savings. A good example is I pay $210.00 a year for my property tax for a nice home. The list goes on and on. I do make a savings on some of the pensionado discounts. I don’t believe it is $10,000 a year. I fly quite a bit, so that is a big savings. The electric, and medical, etc. discounts do add up after a year. I didn’t move here primarily because of savings. I got fed up with the government up north. I do still pay federal taxes.

  6. Skipping the obvious fact that Mr. D has probably never spent an entire year in Panama, I still think $10,000 per year is doable. Of course, you must spent $200,000 per year or ~$16K per month. I doubt that “normal” retirees would be in that category.


  7. very well put jim. that is exactly right. it is a pity that most websites (international living a.o) forget to make that simple math.

  8. Thanks Don. As always, you provide valuable information for those of us who don’t and really can’t know the real truth.

  9. In addition, quality private education costs over $1,000. per year and is inferior to public education in the U.S. Gasoline/Diesel fuel costs more here. Security measures to protect your home are additional costs. I’ve been here 16 years and every major appliance I’ve ever bought had some kind of defect (I think they sell the used rejects from the U.S. as being new). But the mountain fresh air and beautiful beaches and the Panamanian people make it all worthwhile.

  10. We live in the small village of Pedasi, many of these just do NOT compute. There is no dinner theater anywhere closer than PC, Movie Theater is Chitre, dinners are much cheaper with no discount, no franchise restaurants closer than Chitre, so most is not applicable. Just another case of hype!

  11. The pensionado discount was a huge incentive for us, however, after calculating the cost to get it and what our lifestyle is, we concluded it would take us several years just to break even. It just wasn’t worth it to us. After three six month long trips, we realized Panama wasn’t for us. Boy, are we glad we didn’t spend all that money on visas, or move our belongings down!

  12. Hi Don
    did you check lately Copa’s prices for David/pty and back? You may get a surprise.

  13. The pensionado discounts for someone who rents a house where the electricity bill is not in his name, who does not pay the water bill, who does not go to restaurants, movies, and rarely takes the bus and is not flying anywhere is zero. I have saved consistently about $1.25 every time I go to McDonalds. That is it. I love Panama and am here not to save money but to enjoy this country and away from the dangers and daggers of the USA. I am not complaining except that folks should be told the truth about the discounts and not come here with the idea of saving $10000 a year. It is bull manure.

  14. I know, it is only few days. This was after the AirPanama lowered his rates. As usual competition is good for consumer.

  15. When we built our house, and reading the info from Patrick I thought I was nuts. NO. Bought a stove — didn’t work and had to get another…..Bought clothes washer and leg was not attached….Now, our refrigerator has a $$ problem I think the US is sending all what they don’t want to Panama and Panama reps that sell to us will not take care of anything…..soooo, our neighbor, just bought a new clothes washer and is under guarantee but he called 5 people and they made appointments. for repair. Didn’t show up. DUH. Now, our leaks under the sink are new…and we can’t afford anything else for what we are buying here.

  16. Which is what I should have done and normally do. As I said, normally you can buy off the internet cheaper than over the counter with jubilado discount.

  17. How do I buy off the internet cheaper? Where do I log into? OR contact? Here? US? Is anything I order shipped from the US? Who do I contact to buy? DUH

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