What Money do They Use in Panama?
The other day I had a conversation with a gentleman from the United Kingdom about money and currencies. We were talking about Bitcoin and how to convert currencies in a financial crisis. He said, “you do know that the Panama Balboa (PAB) is a fiat currency?” The young man did not know who I was with my background in the Gold and Silver community so I politely replied yes and finished the conversation. Then today I saw a Facebook conversation in the Expats in Panama community about Visa and MasterCard acceptance in Panama. These two instances have prompted me to write this post about Panama money.
First and foremost Panama is on the Dollar standard and circulates the American Dollar (USD). The confusion lies in that the American Dollar is not the official currency of Panama. The true money of Panama is the Panamanian Balboa (PAB). Currently the Panama Balboa is pegged to the American Dollar. Meaning that whatever value (USD) has (PAB) also has. The other confusing aspect is that the money circulating in Panama is a mixture of Panama Balboa coinage and American Dollar notes plus coinage. The Panama Balboa coins are minted to American coinage standards so they have the same shape, denominations and colors of American coinage.
Panama Balboa Coins
The Panama One Balboa Coin or Martinelli.
In 2011 Panama’s former President put into circulation the one Balboa or One Dollar coin. The coin is affectionately called, “The Martinelli”. The coin was put into circulation but the people of Panama are not fond of the one Balboa coin. People tend to save them up and cash them in at the bank. Cashiers will often do their best to give them out to customers. Personally we save them up since they are denominated in Panama Balboa’s rather than US Dollars.
In 2012 former President Martinelli was even talking about adding the European EURO as a third currency in Panama to offset the US Dollar. That never happened but as an experienced expat I know that this is the wild wild west and your life can change overnight with a simple stroke of a pen or at the end of a gun barrel.
What About Visa and MasterCard in Panama?
One of the most common questions that visitors ask about Panama money is, “can I use my Visa or Mastercard in Panama?” The answer is absolutely and they are both universally accepted across the whole country. When you leave the main towns don’t be surprised to find that Mom and Pop restaurants and stores don’t have credit card machines. Even in the towns you might find that restaurants and stores accept only currency, “Solo Efectivo”. One frustrating aspect of Panama is the gas stations, the machine might have credit card capability but it is not working.
How We Manage Money in Panama.
I never use my Visa or Mastercard unless I am at a reputable establishment. Go to an ATM and withdraw the necessary cash for the day. This way you minimize your risk of having a credit card cloned or overcharged. If you are planning to stay in Panama I recommend a Visa or MasterCard that has lower fees. For example I use my PayPal MasterCard Business debit card for my cash needs in Panama. I am never charged more that $4 to withdraw money from the ATM.
Bitcoin in Panama
For those of you who do not know about Bitcoin it is time to start learning. Bitcoin is not widely accepted in Panama yet but it is a great way to transact business. We now have a Bitcoin ATM in Ancon. This means for just pennies you can transfer money from anywhere in the world then withdraw at an ATM (Bitcoin MasterCard now Available) or transact with a local Bitcoin user. Imagine transferring $1,000 of Bitcoin for just 0.1 mBTC (0.0001 BTC). This could mean just pennies for the transaction. We are currently accepting Bitcoin as a form of payment for all of our companies. To learn more about My Bitcoin Story click the link. Open a Bitcoin wallet today at Coinbase which is a US based Bitcoin wallet.