I don’t want to switch from PNB to BDO because of poor customer service or anything like that. I want to switch as a matter of convenience. Getting in and out of PNB once or twice a month is just short of a nightmare situation and I’m not getting younger.
I have no way of knowing whether BDO is better or worse until I start using it. If what I suspect is true, then it will be a lot more convenient.
BDO is actually incorporated as “BDO Unibank” but the BDO part stands for “Banco de Oro”. That was the original name of the bank before it started its rapid growth spurt. It’s now the largest bank in the Philippines, a member of the SM Group of companies (including the SM City malls).
I’ve heard and read that their customer service leaves a lot to be desired (probably tied to the rapid growth) but I can’t say anything about it yet.
It wasn’t a problem until tourism started picking up in Olongapo City in 2012 (after two new malls opened). I spent some months away between the end of 2012 and the end of 2014, so I missed a lot of the nonsense when it started.
It’s difficult to park anywhere near the PNB downtown branch. I have to go to that branch because it’s the only branch that works with United States dollars. The PNB Subic branch only works with Philippine pesos.
I park in PNB’s private parking area, behind the building, because they let me. Getting in is easy but getting out is hard because there’s little room for backing up to turn around. Backing completely out is out of the question. You’d have to see it to believe it.
And then there’s the senior citizen thing. A Filipino aged 60 and up is a senior citizen. They can get special cards. I think PNB started catering to the senior citizens separately in 2016. If there are two tellers available, one will take care of the senior citizens. If three are available, two will take care of the senior citizens. Ordinary citizens just have to wait – what used to take about 15 minutes now takes about 40.
I’ve read some horror stories about BDO customer service. They don’t sound any worse than some the things I’ve had to deal with at two other banks. How good or bad their customer service happens to be is something I’ll have to discover for myself.
There are at least five BDO branches in the Subic Bay and Olongapo City area. There are two branches at the freeport zone, a branch at the SM City Olongapo mall and two more in downtown areas that I know about. I need to find out which ones (or one if there’s only one) will allow me to withdraw my money in United States dollars. I don’t need to withdraw dollars but I want to make sure it’s an option. You never know what’s going to happen next in a country like this.
I don’t need an ATM card, or a VISA or MasterCard credit or debit card. I already have a VISA debit card from UnionBank of the Philippines and I’ll receive a MasterCard debit card from Payoneer when it gets here.
I’ll soon be going (sometime in the next week, I hope) to the Subic Bay BDO branch to ask a lot of questions. I’ll already have the items with me that I need to open an account, if I decide to open one with BDO.
Based on what other banks need to open a dollar savings account, I’ll be bringing copies of my passport and my driver’s license. I’ll be bringing two 1×1 inch photos and two 2×2 inch photos (you never know) The last item is a printed copy of my online military retiree account statement. I have to prove I get money every month before I can open a bank account.
If I go with BDO and because BDO requires no minimum balance, I can finally get back the $200 that’s been sitting in PNB for more than 10 years, solely to keep the account open. I really hope it happens that way.
The timing couldn’t be better. Christmas is around the corner and $200 (9600+ pesos), if nothing else, can pay for a lot of holiday food.
By: RT Cunningham
November 5, 2016
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