As an American living in the Philippines and drawing a military pension from the US, I’m obviously concerned about how to get my hands on my money every month. There are several ways to do it, but I’ll tell you how I’ve banked with US dollars in the Philippines so far.
The one thing you have to understand is there are very few US banks in the Philippines and none of them are within a reasonable distance from where I live.
Prior to Arrival in the Philippines
When my wife and I decided to sell our house in the US and move to the Philippines, I did an Internet search for all the banks in the Philippines. I needed to open a “dollar account” since I would be depositing a large sum of money (from the sale of the house) in US dollars and because my monthly pension is in US dollars.
I found two branches for the Philippine National Bank and they both allowed a person to open dollar accounts in the Philippines from locations in the US. One was in New York, New York and the other was in Los Angeles, California. I couldn’t find branches for any other banks from the Philippines, although the first paragraph on the banking page for the Retired Activities Office said there were several. After I sold my house, I deposited more than 90,000 dollars at the branch in Los Angeles.
After Arrival in the Philippines
A day or two after I arrived, I went to the Philippine National Bank branch in downtown Olongapo City. My savings bank passbook was already available for me to pick up and it showed all the money in the account. Since then, I’ve continued to use Philippine National Bank because the other choices don’t seem any more attractive.
There is another branch at the Subic Bay Freeport Zone. Unfortunately, they don’t deal with US dollars and it’s a shame. There’s never a line there and there’s always plenty of nearby parking.
At first, I hated going to the downtown branch because there was never any nearby parking and because there was always a line of people. The wait could be up to two hours.
These days, I use the bank’s parking lot behind the building. Unless they’re shorthanded, one of the managers will personally take care of my US dollars withdrawal each month. The longest I’ve waited in the last year or so is 30 minutes.
I don’t know the requirements other local banks. The minimum balance for a dollar account at Philippine National bank is $500.00, $200.00 if you send direct deposit payments to it.
Using US Dollars in the Philippines
Most places in the Philippines won’t accept US dollars, naturally. That is, except for banks, foreign currency exchange brokers and some other specific places.
I haven’t tried to pay for anything in US dollars anywhere but the Royal Subic store at the Subic Bay Freeport Zone, but I’m sure there are more stores there that will accept them. I don’t know which ones they are and it doesn’t matter. I usually change all of my US dollars into Philippine pesos soon after I withdraw them from the bank.