May 14, 2016 by Stephen Bentley
Banking in the Philippines
Money Money Money!
You have now made your move and decided to relocate to the Philippines. You will obviously want to have easy access to your money which is almost certainly paid into your bank back home. To do that, you will want to open a bank account here in the Philippines. Which bank should you choose here? A large, reputable bank is preferable.
All the major banks here all have slightly different rules and processes to open that bank account. There are many types of bank accounts including foreign currency deposit accounts. It falls outside of my expertise to advise you on which type of account you need so I suggest you research that and seek professional advice.
Opening an Account in the Philippines
The general principles in opening an account are that you will have to show proof of ID and provide residence details. Many banks will refuse to open an account if you are on a tourist visa without the ACR card. Once you have that card, then there should be no difficulty opening an account. The process at the bank can take as little as 30 minutes or so and you usually have to wait several business days before you revisit the bank to collect your new debit card. Again, the rules differ from bank to bank, but generally you have to be a customer of the bank for at least 6 months and have a landline in your name before you can apply for a credit card. I would suggest checking the web sites of all the major Philippines banks before you go visit your local branch in order to open your account.
Keep your Bank and Credit Cards Back Home
The solid advice from the experts, which I endorse, is to keep your current primary account back home. It’s also a good idea to keep one or two of your home country’s credit cards active too. What about your address back home? Find a good friend or family member who is willing to receive your bank and credit card statements at their address. You can always check your statements online.
So what are the reasons for keeping a “financial footprint” back home? Simple really! You never know what the future holds in store. What if you decide to move back home, or are forced to because of reasons totally out of your control? Your accounts back home, whether bank or credit cards, will ensure you maintain your credit score. It’s a good idea to use your cards now and again for say online purchases, as it doesn’t matter where you now live but shows you are “financially alive and kicking”. In the event of a repatriation, voluntary or otherwise, this should ensure you encounter no problems with items like mortgages, car loans and almost anything else that requires borrowing money.
One of the advantages I found with retaining my home country issued cards was when I was dealing with the Apple Store. I discovered that using a Philippines issued bank card, whether debit or credit, locked me out of certain features of the store. Purely as an aside, it’s also worth considering a VPN to change your location to your home country to further ensure you benefit from features with online retailers that apply to citizens of the United States and the U.K. for example, but not to citizens of other countries. Yes, I know that’s discriminatory but please accept that I don’t make the rules!
A further consideration is this: there will be occasions you need to send money to friends or family back home and it’s far easier and cheaper to do this if both parties, you and the recipient, have accounts in the same country. Forget checks! A check drawn on foreign banks can take a long time to clear and it’s not unheard of for such checks not to be accepted at all by banks in America or the U.K. Yet another advantage is that your U.S. or U.K. card also has a far greater chance of being accepted at any ATM wherever you travel in the world.
It’s not difficult to track and manage your home based accounts in this digital age. The days of trusting a close friend or family member to take care of your finances back home in your absence have long gone. Using any established bank or other financial institution, enables you to pay any kind of bill from your home country online and schedule money transfers to any individual or organization you wish in the same country as you home account. All it takes is a few clicks on the bank web site after you go through the security log in procedures.
But to return to your Philippines bank account – the best advice is to keep sufficient in your new account for your regular payments in your new country. It’s also wise to have a separate savings account with the same bank as your “rainy day” money or “slush fund”. However, it’s also the wise man that keeps the substantial part of his savings in the financial institutions of his home country owing to the enhanced stability of the banking system in countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom. There are better protective measures in place for savers in the more financially stable countries of the world. Another reason to keep more of your nest egg back home is to do with stable currencies and interest rates. Historically and over the long term many western currencies have been far less volatile than some third world countries. Many savings vehicles back in your home country pay a rate of interest even some checking accounts.
International Money Transfers
You still need to transfer your home based money to your Philippines account. By far the easiest way to do this is by using one of the many companies that specialize in international currency transfers. Like your online banking, this is also done by a few clicks of the mouse. If you shop around you will find out which are the most reliable, speediest and cheapest. You should closely examine the fees that are charged in conjunction with your actual rate of exchange. It’s no good transferring say $1000 for only a flat fee of say $2 then finding out you are not receiving a competitive exchange rate. Of course, these companies have to make a profit but make sure it’s not at your expense!
I’m sure these tips will save you a few dollars if implemented correctly. If you bump into me and that is the case, then buy me a cold beer!
This article written by me first appeared on Retiring To The Philippines.
Since my own retirement to the Philippines I have used several different methods to transfer money from my UK bank account to the Philippines.
By far the cheapest and most reliable is TransferWise. They don’t rip you off on either the flat fee or the currency exchange rate.
I use them. I recommend them.
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