Sending Money

Someone sent an email to me asking about opening a bank account here in the Philippines.  Great topic for a post so I’m going to answer it here.

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Many expats living in the Philippines receive a retirement check every month.  Actually sending that check to the Philippines would be scary for me.  Not that something would happen to it, it could but its not likely.  Your check will probably make it to you but it may not make it to you on a timely basis.  I had a Christmas card take two months to show up when I mailed it from the USA in early December.  Boy, was I being overly optimistic.

If you did get your check mailed and managed to get it deposited, the bank here would likely put a three week hold on the check.  If you’re here on a tourist visa, it may be hard to get a bank account.  Recently I learned from a fellow expat that one can get an ACR card, even if your a tourist.  The only catch is you have to go to Manila Immigration office to get it.  When you’re a tourist, you can get a voluntary ACR card.  If you go to a bank to open an account they are going to ask for this card.  Without it, they probably wont open an account for you.  Its not law but all the banks use that as policy.  I know of some expats that managed to open an account.  Usually, you wont be able too.

So how do you get to your money? Direct deposit to your US Bank and use a remittance company to get your

Send Cash To The Philippines
Send Cash To The Philippines

funds sent to a bank here in the Philippines.  Then go to the bank and pick it up.  You may be in an area where the remittance company will deliver your cash to your door.

If you are in the USA, I highly recommend that you use RemitHome.com  I have been using this company for about three years.  I’ve never had a problem with them.  At one point, the bank I receive the funds from had become very slow.  I was waiting several hours at the bank.  When I let Remit Home know this, they resolved it quickly.

Their fee is $10.00 per transaction for one time transmission or $8.00 if you set it up as a recurring transaction.  The funds will normally be available the next business day.  If you have it delivered it may take 2 or 3 days.

If you are able to open a bank account here you could always transfer it by wire but that will likely cost you between $25 to $40.

If your bank account is not in the USA then I would recommend that you use Xoom  to send your cash to the Philippines.  I have used them once, but they were slower and the fees where higher so I didn’t use them again.  I’ve heard others talk highly of them.  I would only use them if Remit Home is not available for you.

You can also use ATMs to get your money.  There are some problems with it and some advantages.  The main advantage is that you may be able to withdraw funds as you need the money.  That’s actually the only one I can think of.  The problems I’ve run into

  • Sometimes all the banks are off-line. This use to be a big problem in the city I live in.  Now one of the banks has a backup generator so it is not as much of a problem.  Still the network they use can go down.
  • Long lines.  At times the lines at the ATM are very long.  If several of the banks go offline, everyone will be at the one bank that is online.  It is not uncommon for all of Northern Cebu Province to be without electrical power.  If you need money during that time, you’ll need to get in line at the one bank in town that has that generator.  Even when all is working right, there can be long lines under the hot Philippine sun
  • It is often expensive.  It depends on your bank but my bank charges $5.00 per withdrawal.  Worse, the ATMS in Cebu, limit the amount I can withdraw in one transaction to P10,000 or about $200.  The over all limit is P25,000.  If you need more than that, you’ll have to wait until the next day.  There are two banks that will allow you to withdraw up to P20,000 per transaction but they don’t have office in Northern Cebu Province.
  • If your card gets lost or stolen, you’ll wait weeks for a replacement card.

This will give you some of the important issues regarding getting to your cash.  I learned some of these the hard way.  Shortly after moving to Bogo City, we had a power outage that lasted all day and I had no cash.  There was no way to get to that cash.  We had times when the ATMS were down for two days or more at a time.  Its been around a year since that happened though.  Other parts of the Philippines, probably still experience these kind of issues.

If you have additional tips that you can share, please do or additional question for things I didn’t cover please share them.

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Filed under: Cost of living in the PhilippinesExpat Finances

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