Once you relocate to Panama, you’ll need to navigate how to complete your basic tasks in a new country. One of those oh-so-important bills that has to be paid is your rent for housing.
Many people who move to Panama opt to rent rather than own their home. Rents are much lower than those in other countries. and are generally very cost-efficient. Additionally, if you have just moved to Panama, and are still feeling out different areas, renting is the way to go. You don’t want to commit yourself to one place by buying a home before you’re completely ready!
We strongly advise that you rent for at least a year before making a buying decision. Many who move to Panama make the decision to rent indefinitely. You do not need to buy real estate.
Paying rent in Panama is easy! So, let’s check out some rent-paying best practices and tips to make sure you have no issues when paying that monthly basic need.
It’s common for landlords to want one month’s rent and a security deposit (equal to one month’s rent) before you move in. Some landlords ask for the first and last month’s rent plus a security deposit before you move in. This article will teach you how to pay your initial rent payment and monthly rent payments.
Cash is King!
This saying remains true for most Latin American countries. But, when coming from the U.S. or Canada, where almost no one pays cash for anything anymore, it may take some getting used to. However, it’s always good to have some cash when going out for anything in Panama: groceries, restaurants, movies, etc.
Of course, that’s not to say you can’t pay for many things with a credit or debit card in Panama. Many places do accept payments via cards. However, to be safe, it’s always best to have some cash, especially for markets or if buying from street vendors. The likelihood of being able to pay with a card in those situations is low.
Keep in mind that Panama uses the US dollar. So, you will need to pay rent in US dollars which could involve an exchange rate if you’re not from the United States.
Cash is one way that you may be able to pay your monthly rent. If your landlord lives nearby, you can pay cash to them directly. If you pay cash for your rent, get a signed receipt showing when you paid rent and how much.
It’s also very common for a landlord to give you their bank account information so you can deposit directly into their bank account. The bank will give you a receipt to share a photo with your landlord via WhatsApp.
Either way, cash a hassle-free way to pay rent each month. This will, of course, depend on your landlord’s preference. While some might be happy taking cash, others might opt for a different payment method.
If paying in cash isn’t an option, you can pay your rent by doing an online bank transfer. This will be a simple transaction if you have a Panamanian bank account. You will transfer from your Panama bank account to the landlord’s account using the information provided. It works like an ACH transfer. There is no fee for online bank transfers from a Panama bank to a Panama bank.
However, if you’ve recently settled in Panama, you may not yet have a Panamanian bank account. Transferring internationally between banks is an option. You can transfer from your foreign bank account to the landlord’s bank account, but expect to pay $50 or more for transaction fees.
Another solution is to use a third-party transfer platform. One of the safest and most well-known platforms is Wise. Wise is safe, easy, and cost-effective with a low transfer fee. You can even program your account to make the monthly payments automatically, so you don’t have to do so manually each month.
No Checks, No Credit Cards
So, you can pay for your rent with cash (in many cases) or via transfers (bank or third-party platform). These are basically the only ways in which you’ll be able to pay rent in Panama. You will not be able to use a check. Unless you are renting an AirBnb, you cannot use a credit card to make rent payments.
Additionally, consider that using a foreign debit card to get cash to pay rent it can be expensive when living in Panama. These cards have high ATM fees and a low cash withdrawal maximum. When using a foreign debit card at an ATM in Panama, you can only get out $250 at most and will have a $6.50 fee each time you take out cash.
Certain banks and cards, such as Charles Schwab, will reimburse these fees; however, the whole process can be costly. And, with such a low maximum withdrawal amount, getting out money for rent can be quite a hassle.
What’s the Best Way to Pay Rent?
The best and easiest way to pay your rent in Panama is via a direct bank transfer between two Panamanian banks. Of course, if this isn’t an option cash or a Wise transfer are also plausible options.
If you have a residency visa, opening a Panamanian bank account is easy! Having a bank account in Panama is quite helpful. You won’t have high foreign debit card ATM fees, and you can easily transfer money within Panama.
The Panama bank will also issue you a debit card when you open an account so you can easily access your cash anywhere there is an ATM machine in Panama. When using a Panama debit card, if you are at a branch of your bank, there is no fee to withdraw cash. You can get up to $500 per transaction. If you use your Panama debit card at a different Panama bank, the fee is usually $1 to get up to $500 in cash.
You may think that getting a Panamanian bank account isn’t necessary because the currency most widely used in Panama is the U.S. dollar. However, you’re mistaken! You’ll still have to pay ATM fees and cannot transfer money directly to other accounts without costly fees.
Remember, with a foreign debit card, you will be limited to $250 for each ATM transaction plus a $6.50 ATM fee each time you need to get out money.
If you relocate to Panama, you should open a Panamanian bank account. It will make paying for everything easier!
You will have three ways to pay rent in Panama: cash, direct bank transfer, or third-party platform transfer.
Watch this video about the easy ways to get money into your Panama bank account.
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Pro Tips for Renting in Panama