RT Cunningham

Banking with United States Dollars in the Philippines

banking dollars

Banking is an issue every American deals with. Banking in the Philippines with dollars instead of pesos is more than an issue. American military retirees get paid in United States dollars from the United States. The dollars then have to be converted into pesos before they can be used in the Philippines.

Direct Deposit

There are multiple ways to get your pension dollars into the Philippines. Some of those ways are more trouble than they’re worth. Of course, that’s just my opinion. Some people write checks from American banks, deposit the checks in Filipino banks and then wait for the checks to clear. I don’t know how long they take to clear but I wouldn’t like having my money a month’s pay in limbo all the time.

Some people keep their direct deposit payments with American bank accounts and then transfer their money to the Philippines in some way. They may use a service such as Western Union or Xoom, or they may have allotments sent to Filipino bank accounts. I prefer having direct deposit payments going to a Filipino bank account and allotments sent to an American bank account.

I moved to the Philippines in 2006 and banking has improved somewhat since then. My first bank there was a bank I wouldn’t recommend to anyone these days. Are there American banks in the Philippines? Perhaps, but not within 150 kilometers from my home.

Banking with Philippine National Bank

When my wife, Josie, and I decided to sell our house in the United States and move to the Philippines, I did an internet search for all the banks in the Philippines. I needed to open a dollar account in advance to deposit the nearly 100,000 dollars we made from the sale.

I found two branches for the Philippine National Bank, and they both allowed people to open dollar accounts in the Philippines from locations inside the United States. One was in New York, New York and the other was in Los Angeles, California. I couldn’t find anything for any other banks in the Philippines.

I chose the Philippine National Bank branch in Los Angeles because it was the one closest to me in Phoenix, Arizona. Driving for around six hours was better than flying anywhere. When Josie and I arrived in Olongapo and visited the bank there for the first time, they had a passbook waiting for me.

Direct deposit accounts are very strict in the Philippines, especially when they’re funded with United States dollars. The account was mine and mine alone – joint accounts are not allowed. The minimum balance that had to remain in the account at all times was $200. The monthly fee for receiving any amount in dollars from any other bank was $7.

Switching to BDO for Direct Deposit

After more than 10 years of dealing with Philippine National Bank, I switched my direct deposit to BDO (formerly Banco de Oro). BDO doesn’t have a minimum balance requirement for direct deposit and the monthly fee is only $5. I reclaimed my $200 from Philippine National Bank and closed my account there. My mother-in-law, drawing a social security pension, is still banking with them.

There are only two Philippine National Bank branches in Olongapo and the Subic Bay Freeport Zone. Only the branch in downtown Olongapo City works with United States dollars. BDO, on the other hand, has multiple branches in the city and at least two at the freeport zone. BDO is easier to get in and out of and isn’t nearly as crowded. Parking at BDO isn’t an issue like the other place.

Banking in Both the United States and the Philippines

When Josie and I moved in with our older son and his family in 2018, I opened a bank account with USAA. I then set up a financial allotment using MyPay. Most of my money is available from any ATM in the United States. A small amount still goes to BDO, just to keep it open. I don’t plan to stay in the United States all the time. After all, I own both a house and a car in the Philippines.

Here in Hawaii, I draw my money from ATMs owned by Schofield Federal Credit Union. The fee for each withdrawal is $3. Thankfully, USAA gives all the fees back to me once a month. That’s only because USAA doesn’t have any ATMs of their own.

I don’t have access to the money still going to my BDO account in the Philippines. I suppose I’ll have a small nest egg when I return, hopefully sometime in late 2020.


RT Cunningham
May 26, 2019
Personal Finance