What US Credit Cards should I Keep/Cancel

Discussion in 'Living in Panama' started by pam, Nov 10, 2011.

  1. pam

    pam New Member

    Hi, I want to know which US credit cards I should keep and which accounts I should cancel? I have Discover Card, Amex, Visa and MasterCard. I will be keeping a US bank account into which my pension and SS checks get deposited. I will have a physical US address through my mail forwarding company. My lawyer in Panama will assist in opening a bank account there. Should I (or can I) get a debit card from our Panamanian bank and just keep one (which) US credit card for online purchases?
    I hope to be in Panama by the first week of December and am trying to tie-up any loose ends. Any info on what I should do about my current credit cards would be helpful. I know my credit score is affected when they are cancelled but that is not a concern at this point.
  2. adamruns

    adamruns New Member

    I would think discover. Probably depends on which banks are issuing the the visa/mastercard.

    I would not pay a lawyer to help in opening up a bank account.
  3. Contrail

    Contrail New Member

    Panamanian credit cards are pretty much useless. To get one you have to setup a long term term deposit which might pay 3 % interest at this point. Then chargebacks will not work well and they charge quite a few fees every month and also usually a mandatory annual fee.

    The best is to continue using your US cards here in Panama. Discover card is pretty much useless and also Amex, but maybe I have stopped looking for acceptance at this point. You want to test all cards in Panama and see which ones charge a foreign transaction fee. Capital One is great. Chase miles cards are fee free for USD transactions in Panama. I would recommend you hang on to your oldest account (card) to save credit score and a Capital One since it's the best travel card.
  4. pam

    pam New Member

    I figured that Discover would be the one to cancel. Unfortunately it is the one I use the most for the rewards I would use at Borders which went out of business. So I will cancel Discover and Amex, call Visa and MasterCard and see what transaction fees they might impose and get a Capital One card as soon as possible.
    My lawyer in Panama is charging me such a low fee for the bank account plus an additional bank account into a credit union for my solvency visa at a great interest rate. I will gladly pay for the help I need to get us situated in Panama. I am just learning Spanish and feel that I can't do these things on my own. I will have someone help my purchase a car, get insurance, etc. My paying for these services is a personal choice but I appreciate everyone's opinion.
  5. bicar

    bicar New Member

    Pam - Please keep updated on your adventure. American Express is not a bad choice for use out of the US/Canada. I agree with the Capital One recommendation as well. Both AE and Cap1 will cover car rental insurance in Panama.
  6. pam

    pam New Member

    bicar - I have always used the Amex special insurance in the caribbean for rentals of 4x4's so I could decline the rental car insurance and saved a ton of money. I will get the Capital One and cancel the Discover. I just have heard that Amex is not very popular in Panama. I will primarily be using the credit cards for online purchases and emergencies and didn't want to come to Panama with a wallet full of cards.
    I will be staying in Panama City for approx. 2 weeks to start the visa process and see to some other legal issues. During that time I will be in the process of purchasing a small 4x4 something like a Suzuki Jimmy. I just want an inexpensive as possible automatic 4x4 with A/C. The high ground clearance is important to me so I hope to have some luck in finding something.
    After that I don't have anything definite lined up as far as a place to live. I had wanted to find something in the El Valle area for the cooler climate. For the first year while we get acclimated to our new country I will have to make trips into the city for legal matters and wanted to be in a 2 to 3 hour radius. I am getting a bit nervous now because things are happening so fast when before they were dragging. I am losing my hair from the stress!
  7. Contrail

    Contrail New Member

    You really should do a pensionado visa instead of a solvency. Do you know for sure that credit union deposits are acceptable for the solvency visa type?
  8. qwe123

    qwe123 New Member

    If you have a capital one, keep it. This is one of the few cards that does not charge for international transaction fees.
  9. nakedguydb

    nakedguydb New Member

    why ?
  10. Romeo

    Romeo New Member

    Pam, cancel AMEX. In the entire country only one Atm machine will give you cash advance(only Credomatic bank's Marbella branch).
  11. Contrail

    Contrail New Member

    It doesn't seem like Pam uses credit cards for cash advances since she is sitting on 300,000 dollars cash, actually goes to a book store and gets a handsome cashback for doing so!

    Here are the pensionado benefits: Benefits and Discounts having a Pension Visa

    A cooperativo is not a bank so make fkn sure your attorney double-checks with migracion on the deposits they accept for solvency.

    Probably what is going here is that your attorney is fkn nutjob AND an asshole. He gets a 1 % referral bonus from the credit union (I know they get this so don't even bother asking) which puts your fees + $3,000 in his pocket. Then you get a solvency visa which is complete garbage and the worst recommendation an attorney can give you. Fire that cocksucker immediately.

    When you get down to Panama shoot me a note and I will hook you up for free with everything you need plus a pensionado visa for $500 ($250 up front and $250 when done). Torture your asshole attorney for what you need to bring and pay him zero dollars then tell him to fuck off.

  12. Romeo

    Romeo New Member

    Investing $300k in the economic solvency visa is not such a good idea. The only advantage it gives you is exempting you from going to Costa Rica or elsewhere every 180 days to renew your visa.And having a local driver's license. Is it really worth it? I don't think so.
    Your $300k can disappear overnight, nothing is insured over here.
    But if you absolutely want that visa, at least invest a very large part of that money in real estate, much safer than $300k uninsured CD in a bank or cooperativo.
    If you don't want to buy real estate, at least invest it in a big bank(like HSBC or ScotiaBank),where the risk of bankruptsy is lower.
  13. bicar

    bicar New Member

    I'm really interested in hearing about the vehicle purchase. I want to do the same thing and will as soon as I can sell my house in Wisconsin. I'm dropping the price 5k a month so it is going to go eventually. My plan is to get out in the boonies somewhere and rent a place for a few months while I look around but need to buy a SUV to get around. I'll start the pensionado process after I get there and go from there. I've also thought about climates and have been to El Valle but just don't know yet.,
  14. pam

    pam New Member

    Hi all this is Corinna, Pam's daughter using her acct as my own is having an issue so until I can find the time and energy to figure out the problem I am posting under her name. My mom is 62 gets SS and a pension and qualifies for the pensionado visa. I am 42 and don't want the hassle of having to reset my visa every 180 days and only be allowed to legally drive the first 90 days of every "reset". Believe me, I am not "sitting on $300k". I have busted my ass for 22 years as a nurse and paramedic and my back has quit. So, instead of fighting a loosing battle with disability which won't cover the cost of living here regardless if I qualify or not, I have chosen to cash out of everything, was lucky enough to sell my house in this sh*t economy, and will follow my mother to Panama and regain my life and health and everything else that I have lost in caring for others and not myself. My lawyer, despite the obvious that I am paying for her services, I trust to look out for my and my mother's best interest in all that I am asking of her. I appreciate your generous offers to help us get the visa and bank acct. situation taken care of but I've got it covered.
    I will cancel the Discover and Amex after getting a Capital One and then decide what to do about Visa and MC. I just want additional peace of mind in having ready funds in case of emergency.
    Just got off a 14hr shift and am ready for bed. I will definitely respond to any and all private and public post to me just forgive me if it takes a few hours. I need to crash for a bit.
    Best wishes,
    Corinna (Pam's daughter)
  15. pam

    pam New Member

    NakedGuy - I know a few months ago you were in the process of a solvency visa. How did that work out for you? I know many expats in Panama have this type of visa and it has worked for them and get anxious when it gets slammed on the forums. Especially when I make reference to putting the money into a CD in a credit union for a higher interest rate. It's a "damned if I do, damned if I don't" situation. My 401k (like everyone else's) took an fatal hit when the economy tanked. How much more should I let it drain when I can invest in Panama and actually recoup some of me losses. I am fully aware of the risks involved, it would just be nice to hear something positive from someone who has already tread the path I plan to take.
  16. Contrail

    Contrail New Member

    Sounds like you should have slept first and posted after.
  17. tompoker

    tompoker New Member

    I have been travelling to PC for over 10 years and have just decided that I will go for the solvency programme, travelling every 180 days is not that big of a deal.I started the process sometime ago so far so good
    I deposited my 300k into the HSBC because its the safest thing I could do Credit unions are not offering that much more interest, however the risk is much, much bigger.
    Lawyers are a neccessary evil in PC If you trust yours and get charged small I would use them to open you up a bank account of course make sure you go down to the bank and sign everything yourself as for buying a vehicle good luck it can really be difficult to get a used looked after cheap suv.
  18. nakedguydb

    nakedguydb New Member

    tom , why do you feel or want true knowledge do you have that Credit Unions are more risk ? i have read somewhere that there has never been a CU go under in panama , and that there loans to there member are usually small , as in under 20 g , which in my mind would make it a lot safer if it someone defaults as opposed to places that lend jumbo loans .
  19. nakedguydb

    nakedguydb New Member

    Corinna , it has worked super for me and also for the others that i hang with that have the same visa , the pension visa is also good but some of us are not old enough for that , people who slam it are most likely to be those that dont have the means to do either type . getting you loot out of the states is the most import thing you can do now .owning gold and silver would be the next thing that you might want to look into .
  20. nakedguydb

    nakedguydb New Member

    Tom , here is that article i had seen earlier .....
    a good story from the vistor newspaper .....From The Visitor, Panama’s largest tourist newspaper:PANAMA CREDIT UNIONS OFFER HIGHER INTEREST RATES THAN BANKS

    Every Panama credit union is regulated by the "Instituto Panameno Autonomo Cooperativo" (IPACOOP).

    There are over 150 credit unions in Panama, some of them over 50 years old. The larger credit unions have as many as 100,000 members, and each member pays a monthly minimum deposit towards the credit union capital, which is generally from $5 to $10.

    Since credit unions are tax free, non-profit organizations allowing all profits to be paid back in the form of interest to depositors, they are able to pay higher interest rates to their depositors than banks can.

    According to some professionals in the industry, credit unions are considered to be more secure and less risky than banks for several reasons. One reason is that credit unions are limited to borrowing up to a maximum of four times the amount of their capital while banks can borrow up to 10 times their capital. This means credit unions have less exposure to lower economic cycles or high debt obligations. A second reason is that credit unions are regulated in the type of loans they can offer, so they are limited to loans within the parameters of their intended purposes, with the majority of loans under $10,000, and they usually require direct debit payments from the member borrowers’ salary, with collateral guarantees and multiple loan co-signers. Banks are generally more exposed to economic cycles due to large high risk commercial loans, international currency movements & global interest rate changes (LIBOR, etc.), many variables of which have bankrupted many banks around the globe in the recent global economic crisis. There has never been a credit union which failed in Panama while few Panamanian banks have failed, although not in recent years.

    Currently, many credit unions are paying as much as 4% interest on basic savings accounts, up to 6% interest on educational savings accounts, up to 8% interest on 5 year time deposits (CD’s) of at least $100,000, and as much as 9% interest on retirement savings accounts. They can afford to pay higher interest rates to their depositors because they earn higher interest on their loans, and most credit unions have a very low loan default rate since they make small loans, require co-signers, and require direct debits from borrowers’ salaries for payments.

    Although most Panama credit unions restrict membership to Panamanian residents that work in specific industries, such as educational professionals, medical professionals, or shipping professionals, there are some credit unions that do accept outsiders, and foreigners are often permitted to open accounts with those credit unions. The due diligence requirements are generally a valid passport, a second ID (like a drivers license), proof of address (utility bill), personal or professional references, financial references, documented proof of origin of funds, and a minimum deposit. Unlike banks that usually takes weeks to process new accounts, credit union accounts are usually opened the same day all documents are received and reviewed by the credit union compliance officer.

    Many credit unions will also open accounts for Panama corporations or Private Interest Foundations. The corporate documentation requirements are generally a copy of the articles of incorporation (or foundation charter), certificate of incorporation, resolution of the board of directors authorizing the opening of the account and naming the authorized signatory(s), and photocopy of the directors and officers ID’s.

    Similar to Panama banks, credit unions abide by the strict banking secrecy laws of Panama. The earned interest in credit union accounts and CD’s are tax free in Panama, with no necessity of reporting of interest income to the Panamanian government.

    The only disadvantages of credit unions as compared to services provided by Panama banks are that most credit unions generally do not offer checking accounts, merchant accounts, credit cards, or online banking, so they are not setup for commercial business activity. Credit unions are generally intended and designed for personal savings and making personal loans to members, so they are generally limited to various types of savings accounts, time deposits (CD’s), and personal loans.

    Panamanian credit unions are an appealing alternative for foreigners experiencing extensive and exhaustive documentation requirements and long delays attempting to open accounts in Panama banks. Credit unions are especially attractive to retirees who are seeking a safe, fixed income investment, since credit unions offer more competitive interest rates for savings, CD’s, and retirement accounts. ​

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