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Banking in The Philippines

For me, the Banking System in the Philippines is a little bit outdated. Even in the age of computers and Internet, it is not possible to make a money transfer from one bank company to another. If you enter a bank, you will usually receive a number which tells you how many people are already waiting to be serviced and how long you have to wait.

Once I had to make a simple money transfer of 2500,- Peso to our daughter and it took Five Hours(!) before we could hand the voucher to the lady behind the counter. We entered the bank at 10:00 am, drew what I call a “lucky number”, and noticed, that we had 120 or so people waiting before us. So we went shopping first and came back at 2:00 pm and still had to wait another hour before our number appeared on the sign board. In the end, the service charge for this simple transfer was 50,- Peso(!). Even back home in Germany a money transfer like this would cost a service charge of only 0.13,-€ (8 Peso).
No wonder that other private companies likeWestern Union Bank or the Lhuillier Pawn Shopstook over those money transfer services and doing well on it.

This situation has gotten a bit better now, after the major banks opened up branches in most shopping malls and the people now have more options to do their banking business. The waiting time was clearly reduced.

Traveler Cheques” seem to be another unknown word to bank employees. You can exchange Traveler Cheques only at some rare Travel Agencies or maybe in some foreign owned resorts or at some smart Indian Money Changers but not in a bank.
Some bigger Banks offer Online Banking to their customers, like the PNB, Philippine National Bank or the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI). But what can you do there with your online banking? You can view your account balance and make a money transfer within the company and that’s it. At BPI, if you want to pay some bills or load your cell phone over your bank account, you’ll have to register that companies or cell phones in your account first.
Instead of paying interest for your positive balance, most Philippine banks will charge you service charges of up to 300,- Peso per month, if your balance drops under a certain amount like 2500,- Peso or so…

You can easily open a bank account as a foreigner in the Philippines and they will also give you an ATM Card, that allows you to pick up money at ATM machines nationwide. Some banks will ask you now an “ACR” (Alien Certificate of Registration), before you can open an account. You can get that at the nearest Immigration Office.

If you have a monthly income from abroad, I would recommend to look for a Free Online Account with a free VISA Card that enables you to withdraw money at Philippine ATM machines free of charge. We have some online banks in Germany which offer that service but you have to look in your country.

If you want to withdraw money at ATM’s in the Philippines with other credit cards which are not free of charge, be aware that the maximum payout per transaction on most machines is 10,000,- Peso or less. So you will have to pay your service charge for every transaction you have to do.

28 Responses to Banking in The Philippines

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