US Dollars and Banking in the Philippines

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.

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 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. 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 withdrawal each month. The longest I’ve waited in the last year or so is 30 minutes.

I don’t know the requirements for 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.

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15 Responses

  1. Richard Hall says:

    I’m Moving To The Philippines This Year And I Draw A V.A. Disability Check How Do I Get That Sent Over There. Thank You AMS1 Richard Hall

    • RT Cunningham says:

      I’m not familiar with those checks. Do you receive a physical check or direct deposit?

    • Simpleview123 says:

      The VA will not direct deposit to a Philippine bank in the Philippines.(the va wants a bank routing number) They will direct deposit to a branch located in the US. All transfers to Philippine banks from the US are done by using the local Philippine banks swift code. I just do an international bank to bank wire transfer once a month.

  2. jack martin says:

    I would like to travel to Manila & bring my first 3 , SSA retirement checks with me & deposit in a US bank in manila,, is that possible? & while there, look into retiring there,, thanks jack

  3. Joe says:

    RT, I have an account at PNB in NYC and I don’t recall them having a dollar account (account opened over 10 years ago). I will check next time I’m up there. I’ve always deposited in USD and PNB would convert to PhP and drop it into my account. I would then pick up PhP when in the PI. I’m also drawing a military pension and planning to retire in the PI. Do you have your pension directly deposited to PNB? How did dropping $90K affect your taxes as anything greater than $10K in a foreign bank would need to be reported to the IRS?

    • RT Cunningham says:

      Hi Joe. I didn’t have to report what I made from the sale of the house because it was well under the threshold for whatever that tax is called (I honestly don’t remember). Banks automatically report anything over 10K in the US and since I deposited into a US branch, I’m sure the IRS knew about it. I opened the account in PNB Los Angeles, but I was given the PNB New York address for direct deposit after I visited the bank in the Philippines. I don’t know how PNB does things in the United States, but nothing is automatic in the Philippines. Dollar and peso accounts are separate.

  4. silmer says:

    I don’t understand Americans obsession with the Dollar. It’s fine when in the US, but here in the Philippines, we use Php Pesos. My UK pension is obviously paid from the UK in Pounds Sterling, but when it’s transferred to my bank here, it’s automatically converted to Pesos. It’s that simple.

  5. Harold says:

    This is how I banked while living in Quezon City, I brought $1500 cash and after 2 months applied for my ACR I-Card, I was then able to open a Dollar Account at BPI and received a call to pick up my atm card a week later. Going forward I deposited a check from my US bank account once a month to cover expenses. There is a 14 day hold on the funds, the 14 days include weekends and Holidays. So if you deposit a check on the 1st of the month the funds will be available on the 15th. You can use the atm card at Pure Gold or any SM Mall store as well as atm machine at no fee.

    Overall there isn’t any cost to deposting a check once a month and retrieving the cash after hold period. You can either receive dollars from a branch and exchange at a Money Changer or use ATM to receive local currency. The exchange rate will probably be a peso less using the bank but will save you the time and hassle.

    Last, I would never recommend leaving a large amount of money in any Foreign bank. Besides SSI & SSDI can only be deposited into a US bank account and then from there you have options. Also you can go online and for a $12 fee send yourself up to $1,000 a month via Western Union.

  6. Ivan Simms says:

    I’ve been Living in the Phils. for over Four years now , Exclusively out of the A T M on Disability-Fixed from the V.A. ,,& each Withdraw , though Limited to 10,000 PHP costs about 10% of the U.S.D. ,,I Bank at “Bank of America”, But I don’t mean that as a Bragging point, , or an endorsement,,BoA Has only ONE Branch office in Metro Manila-PhilamLife Tower,, But FORGET ABOUT IT, They Don’t Service ‘Personal accounts’,, only Corporate,, I’ve Been Searching for an “AMERICAN” bank with Affiliates in the Philippines for 4-Years and and discovered that for all intense & Purpose THERE ISN’T ANY,, Just a Few Philippine Banks with Branch offices in the U.S. & That’s it… MY issue is the OTHER WAY Around though,, I’m Having Difficulty WireTransfering Money from My Account in the States To My Son’s Account ALSO in the States because When I try to Do this via ‘Online Banking, the Bank’s ‘Compliance’ division Stops it with a O.F.A.C. Hold since I’m initiating the Transfer Through an “Overseas” connection,, Perplexed,, I’m STILL Searching for A Better Bank and A better Way, Unfortunately, most OTHER English-Speaking Foreign-Nationals are TOO STUCK UP to TALK To or get any advice from,,,

    • RT Cunningham says:

      I feel your pain.

      • Harold says:

        Why not do a cash advance at the teller window on your debit card. There is NO fee
        inside the bank, only at atm. Also have your bank send you checks (Fed Ex or DHL)
        or go to Western and send yourself up to $1k for $12 fee.

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