Panama’s Pensionado Program: Everything You Need to Know

Many people don’t realize that Panama’s famous Pensionado discounts are by law given to all who qualify by age—expat or Panamanian. When women reach the age of 55 and men 60, they can automatically start using the benefits that the Pensionado provides. The law also covers anyone who has been given permanent residence in Panama no matter what visa they have.

Age in Panama is revered. Help and priority are given to the those who are considered older. Panamanians look forward to taking part in the program and receiving preferential treatment and discounts. To receive the discounts allowed under the program, just present your permanent cedula (residency card) and graciously ask for a “jubilado descuenta” (retired discount). Until you get familiar with benefits of the program, it is a great idea to carry a list of the discounts with you.

The discounts cover three areas: services, medical, and entertainment. Let’s go over them.

Discounted services:

  • 25% off your electric bill up to the usage of 600KWs. Anything over is billed at the regular rate. You can only use this if you are the named person on the account and have set up the discount when the account is opened or later when you qualify. This is the same for all discounts allowed under the program.
  • 25% off basic residential phone service. This covers one phone only.
  • 25% off your primary water bill if it does not exceed $30.

Medical benefits:

  • 15% discount for services done in hospitals and private clinics.
  • 20% discounted fees for doctors’ visits.
  • 20% discount for prosthetic devices.
  • 15% discount on optometric examinations.
  • 15% discount on dentist fees.
  • 10% discount on prescription medications in pharmacies and some over-the-counter medications like aspirin. Always ask, you never know.

Entertainment discounts:

  • 50% off tickets for movies, theaters, and sporting events. This does not include tickets for charitable events.
  • 30% discount to ride city buses, trains, and boats.
  • 25% on airfare. This covers all flights within Panama. The discount also covers international flights if they originate in Panama and there is a return ticket purchased at the same time. You cannot get this discount by applying for tickets online. The discount can only be applied by a Panama travel agent or at a local airline office. Also, note that from my personal experience, I was charged a larger fee by a travel agent to process my reservation than my discount was for. So ask the fees that a travel agent charges when booking through them.
  • 30 to 50% off hotels. Hotels are supposed to give a 50% discount on rates for Monday through Thursday and 30% off for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Some hotels do not like to give this discount, but it is law. Again, to get the discount, you must contact the hotel directly when making a reservation and request the discount. Also, beware, hotels will say they give discounts on their rack rates, not the rates you see online. In many cases I have found that the online rate was lower than using the discount on the rack rate.
  • 25% discount on food eaten in a restaurant.
  • 15% discount in fast food restaurants. If you are intending to use your discount in a restaurant make sure to let them know you want the discount when you ask to pay the bill not after it is brought to your table. Often in restaurants the wait staff will take your ID card to the cashier who will quickly check your birthdate to see if you qualify, record the number, and you may be asked to sign for the discount. Also, your tip should be given based on the full amount of the bill before the discount.

Using the program can really save money. Many times, I find that a discount has already been applied without my having had to ask or show ID. I have also seen nonresidents receive the discounts at pharmacies and restaurants, so it pays to ask.

In addition to the discounts, you can also use the shorter lines appointed for jubilados (retirees). Basically, any business that requires you to stand in line to get waited on will have one line with signage that says jubilado. Whenever anyone is in that line, they are given preference over anyone else in any other line. I usually only see very old people use this line, who have difficulty standing and waiting; however, it is available to anyone who qualifies.

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