2009-09-30 22:05:26

My experience of opening and maintaining a bank account in the Philippines

If you are a intending to become a permament resident here in the Philippines you will certainly need a local bank, ATM card or whatever. If there is a branch of a Filipino bank in your home country you can apply to open an acount before you leave. To satisfy the moneylaundering regulations you will be required to provide the usual proof of address and relevant personal ID before an account can be opened. But once this has been done making transfers within the bank you have chosen should be very straightforward.

After you arrive, at all times only keep sufficient cash on you for your immediate needs and if you need larger amounts obtain a managers cheque for a very small charge. Filipinos think every foreigner is a millionnaire. Oh how I wish this was the true, but you have to be aware of this lack of reality and consider your personal safety at all times, so never carry large amounts of cash around. Conversely, except when you service your car at a main dealer, at just a few supermarkets, and of course at hotels and major shopping retailers in Manila, you will have little need for a credit card as very few businesses accept them.

Ideally, open a savings or cheque account with a Philippines bank that has a branch in your home country so that when you want to make transfers into the Philippines you will get the best exchange rate and the funds will be available here considerably quicker than using a UK bank. Only HSBC has any kind of branch network here and then really only in the Manila area. Conversely PNB and Metrobank have European branches, and so may others. You will see published lists of the top banks in the Philippines. BDO and Metrobank are well up most lists. Rural banks are by reputation less secure. The Philippines government only protects 500,000 pesos of your money if a bank goes under and I read stories about the lack of confidentiality regarding the contents of bank of accounts, so all-in-all you are probably well advised to continue to maintain a bank account in your home country and only bring into the Philippines what funds you need to live on.

Routines for bank visits may vary but some if not all banks in Isabela distribute a numbered ticket at the entrance which dictates when you will be served. Monday's and Friday's are by far the busiest as only a few banks open on Saturdays. so you may spend half the day waiting to be served if you have not bothered to turn up half an hour before official opening time to collect a ticket from the security guard outside. So unless you have something better to do always arrive at the bank before it opens. Banks with more than one branch in a town tend to be the fastest at serving you. Needeless to say, if you know any of the staff that's even better as you can bypass the whole system and get the VIP treatment, going straight up to the counter to be served.

Other observations are: ATMs usually have a full-time security guard watching over them so clearly when using an ATM take great care and again avoid being seen to draw out large amounts of cash. If possible use an ATM inside the branch rather than outside. When paying a bill by by managers cheque, if the recipient is not in the same town, make sure that the name of their local branch is entered on the cheque, otherwise the recipient will not be able to cash it. On public holidays and even less official national and local provincial special days banks are closed so this again impacts on how busy they are when they re-open. Some banks offer internet banking to enable you to settle bills online and access statement etc.

 

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