RT Cunningham

US Dollars and Banking in the Philippines – From 2006 to Present

US dollars money As an American living in the Philippines and drawing a military pension from the United States, 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 United States banks in the Philippines and none of them are within a reasonable distance from where I live. Even then, I’m pretty sure they don’t offer personal accounts.

Prior to Arrival in the Philippines

When my wife 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 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 US dollar accounts in the Philippines from locations in the United States. 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 (that link is dead as of November 2018), I couldn’t find more. 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 (in April of 2006), 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.

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.

The minimum balance for a dollar account at Philippine National bank is $500.00. It’s $200.00 if you send direct deposit payments to it. I left that much in limbo for more than 10 years.

Switching to BDO

Sometime in November of 2016, I decided to move my direct deposit to a dollar savings account at BDO. I wrote that it was what I wanted to do, but I don’t always get to do what I want to do. This time I did. No amount of money is necessary to open a direct deposit dollar account at BDO. There’s no minimum balance necessary either.

Earlier today, I made my first withdrawal at one of the BDO branches at the Subic Bay Freeport Zone. A short time later, I closed by account at Philippine National Bank in downtown Olongapo City. It took them about 45 minutes to do the paperwork but it was worth it for the $226.04 still in the account.

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 more stores will accept them. I don’t bother getting US dollars (anymore) when I make my monthly bank withdrawals. United States dollars are almost never needed.

Originally published in August of 2013 — I’ve updated it after moving from PNB to BDO.


RT Cunningham
December 1, 2016
Personal Finance