How BDO Fixed Our Dollar Account in the Philippines

BDO, Banco de Oro, is the largest bank in the Philippines. It belongs to the SM Group owned by billionaire Henry Sy. In previous comments to a post regarding a dollar account my asawa and I were trying to open with Banco de Oro, I had threatened to close our account with the banking giant and go to BPI, Bank of the Philippines. But there’s a possibility that BDO has fixed our dollar account in the Philippines. Maybe. How? Let me tell you the story, O True Believer (as I borrow heavily from Stan Lee.)

The Bonehead & the bank guards

Hanging out with Metrobank guards. I’ve never hung out with BDO security yet.

Let it be known that I am a man of very limited patience. I’m an American male. An expat that has lived in the Philippines for over five years with my much more patient wife. I used to refer to her as The Sainted Patient Wife. While my asawa does have a ton more patience than I do, she also has been going through menopause the last couple of years.

Throw her elderly Father, who lives with us, into the mix, and who is suffering from dementia and routinely sings to himself all hours of the morning and  talks to dead people and you might understand why my wife’s stress levels have risen. The fact that we are building a new home in Guimaras, the island province we live in, doesn’t help either. The fact that she has been married to me almost 15 years is also a contributing factor.

The Healer takes Lolo's hand

Lolo, on the right, with the healer. That didn’t work out well.

 

My wife and I have to transfer large sums of money for our bank account in the United States in order to buy a new truck and to build the new digs. We have used the remittance service from XOOM over the past years since my debit card from our U.S. bank expired. XOOM has worked fine for transferring smaller amounts but while they charge only 4.99 per each $2,999.00 transaction, they sock you for almost a peso per dollar on the exchange. That’s not practical for moving large amounts of money.

So when the teller at BDO had set up a BDO Kabayan Savings Account for us, instead of a BDO Dollar Account, and told us we would not be able to deposit checks from our U.S. bank, we were going to close the account and go elsewhere.

But we had to make a trip to Iloilo the other day and I decided to pop into the bank and speak to a different teller than the one that set up our account. When I told the employee that we would be unable to deposit our U.S. checks she advised us that all my wife, who did not have two valid ID’s to open up a BDO Dollar Account, would only need a Barangay Certificate from our home in Guimaras along with an attached Community Tax Certificate, in order to deposit our checks. Our funds would still take 21 business days to clear, but we could use the Kabayan Account for the same purpose as a Dollar Account would serve.

I also expressed my concern to the teller over a problem one of my readers had with BDO. I explained to her that one of my expat friends had wanted to withdraw 1,000 dollars from their account but were told they would have to wait ten days. The employee expressed surprise at this and did say the bank does not carry that much U.S. currency in stock on a daily basis. We would need to call the day before to be sure the bank would have the cash on hand.

Philippines.

 

So after a brief ten minute stop to our local barangay where the new Barangay Captain signed my wife’s certificate, which only cost 60 pesos, $1.33, we were on our way. Did  I mention that one of our local trike drivers took us to the hall at 7:30 am and then told us it did not open until 9:00?

“Why in the hell didn’t he tell us that in the first place?” I asked my wife, in my usual grumpy tone.

“I didn’t know what time it opened!” she exclaimed and had the driver take us to our former home at “The Compound” in the meantime to wait, where her sister, brother-in-law and nieces and nephew reside.

So we will return to Banco de Oro later this week and try to deposit our check from the States and wait for it to clear. From the vast research I have done online regarding the topic of transferring funds from the States to the Philippines, writing a check to yourself and depositing it in a dollar account in the Philippines is the most economical and best way to go.

Has BDO has fixed our dollar account in the Philippines. Maybe. We’ll have to see.

12 comments

  1. Yes, their answers vary from day to day depending on who you talk to. I would be truly amazed if the bank did not have at least $1,000 USD on hand at all times….

    When we moved from San Jose, Antique to Roxas, Capiz we tried to update our bank mailing address and personal info. We were told that we would have to travel back to the BDO branch in Antique to do this. This was prior to the withdrawal incident, which took place a few days later 🙂

    Just curious Dave, BDO’s online “banking” system used to never allow you to exchange money between a BDO USD and BDO Pesos account or to even check status / balance consistently online. Does’t that work these days? Or do you still have to go stand in line with bad customer service to do those tasks? Liza and I rarely have to go stand in line these days. Only when we deposit a USA written check for the most part. We even pay our rent and many other bills online.

    1. Hi, Rease, Got your FB message. Sorry,don’t know why your comment went to spam, something I never look at.

      Well, I don’t know yet if BDO online will let me exchange between USD and Pesos. Once our first check clears, I guess I will have to find out. My guess is that we will have to stand in line once our check clears. I don’t enjoy standing in line so I will have to check out what bills we can pay online, like Sun and Globe. I paid everything online back in the States but haven’t set up anything yet here. I’ll let you know once we get our cash.

      It took two hours for the man who we bought our property from to set up his account and that was with me standing behind him to hopefully nudge the teller to work a little quicker. If you get to BDO after the opening time, be prepared to wait a very long time.

  2. Isn’t it sometimes just irritating how calm and forgiving Filipinas are when dealing with other people, lol. I think I am much more like you, and go ballistic at times also.

    Do you know Dave, if they have safety deposit boxes in banks there.

    From my reading I also came to the conclusion that writing a personnel check to cash is currently the way to go as far as fees are involved, but I read it takes about a month for the check to clear, so I must plan one month in advance at all times it sounds.

    From all the bad comments others have made about BDO, I will go elsewhere I think, but sounds like they all have some crazy rules there.

    1. Yes, Bill S., some banks do offer safety deposit boxes but require a minimum amount of pesos to be deposited in your account in order to acquire one.

      I’ve researched other options, Western Union FX, for amounts up to 10,000 USD, but WU has lousy exchange rates. Yes, XOOM and Western Union are quick but will gouge you on the exchange. MoneyGram? Forget them. They wanted 52 bucks to send 3,000 US. So hopefully our check will be deposited with BDO without any problem and we will wait the 21-30 days for it to clear. We wanted to buy our new truck but want to have cash on hand. We don’t want to mess with any truck payments.

      There does seem to be more rules and regulations regarding banks in the Philippines. One of the reasons I’m sure why the Philippines is rated as one of the worst countries when it comes to “red tape.” Check out what Tony Lopez at The Manila Standard Today has to say in an opinion piece:
      “The 2015 World Bank report on Ease of Doing Business Rankings shows the Philippines No. 95 out of 189 nations in competitiveness. That is both good news and bad news.

      The good news is that the Philippines improved its ranking by 13 rungs, from 108th out of 189 countries in the previous 2014 report to 95th this year.

      The bad news is that the Philippines, despite the dramatic improvement in its competitiveness over the past many years, by 13 rungs in 2015 and by 53 rungs in the past four years, is basically still a very uncompetitive country for one to do business in.”

      Btw, the Manila Standard Today is the BEST ONLINE SOURCE FOR FINDING OUT THE TRUTH in regards to the Philippines. MST doesn’t pull any punches and gives you the real story on what going on here. I read their online version every day.

      1. Dave,

        I called my credit union yesterday to ask them a few questions about wire transfers from here to Phil. They said there charge is a flat $30.00 fee, regardless of the amount transferred, and once I set the account up for living there, its only a matter of making a free phone call and answering the security questions. She said it typically takes up to 48 hours to actually complete it, and the funds should be avail. there in Phil., but no idea how long it might actually take before the Phil. bank will release the funds, and no idea if the bank there has a separate charge also. Thats the way Xoom works except for the peso they take for each dollar transferred. I also asked her about writing a personal check to cash in the Phil. and she said that all that is also now done electronically and could not believe when I told her that it takes a month there to actually get the money from the bank there, she said ,worse case checks are cleared in 7-10 days max and most were cleared in 3-4 days internationally. She also said that all transfers in excess of $10,000 are noted to the IRS, like when a deposit here is also if it $10,000 or more.

        I am not totally sure if I understand yet how a dollar account works for sure after reading a couple responses. Say you write a check in your bank there for $100,000 doesent that mean that once everything is cleared and completed, the bank there will have the funds to pay you in US dollars. I saw Scott H said they had to call the day before so the bank would have it on hand. Thats why I was asking about safety deposit boxes, I figured it might be a good idea to just keep a fair amount of actual dollars in it and go and get it out of the box whenever I needed money, rather than going to the teller and them not having any dollars on hand at the time. Am assuming the vaults there are safe though, and the guards actually have bullets in there guns, and are not Barney Fife style.

        1. Well, Bill S, 21 business days or more for the checks to clear seems to be the norm, as far as the research I’ve done. I personally would be leery of having a safety deposit box but that’s my own opinion. I have trust issues. We will probably do what Scott H has done. Have the nearby money changer come over to the bank and deposit our exchanged cash in our peso account right away. As in the States, or anywhere else I imagine, it’s not the wisest choice to carry around large sums of cash, even if you have a well-concealed money belt. Our local car dealers have told us they deal with BDO and we can we easily do a funds transfer to the dealer once we buy our new truck.

          Yes, we would have to call the bank ahead of time to make sure they would have enough dollars on hand to handle our transaction. As far as Barney Fife style guards go, I’ve spoken to some guards here who only have three bullets apiece assigned to them. I’ve heard some guards do not have a loaded weapon. I do not know if the guards keep their three bullets in their shirt pocket like Barney, who I believe was only give one bullet at a time by Andy.

  3. Dave,
    Hopefully you’ll be able to use your check with the Kabayan Account. You don’t need any delays for the house building. I still don’t know if i trust BDO, we will see i guess.

    1. I don’t know if I trust BDO yet, either, Papa Duck. Hopefully the check will be deposited without any problems and we can collect our funds in three-four weeks. We could have gone to BPI or China Bank but they both want a minimum 500 USD to be deposited. I figure we will give BDO another chance and see what happens. Hopefully, I will not regret my decision.

      Btw, Joery and crew are digging the septic tank today. They’ve laid in the hollow blocks for Lolo’s nipa hut. Melinda is going to Guimelco to attend the four hour lecture for new customers. There is NO WAY I was going to sit through a four hour long boring session when I don’t have to. As soon as Guimelco hooks up the electricity and we get the new truck, Melinda and I will be staying in the hut. Lolo is driving me absolutely crazy and I assure you that’s a short drive for me.

  4. Dave, we had the luxury of having an account at Citibank both in the states and the Philppines before we started our build. Even though they are only loosely affiliated we could electronically transfer funds. No we have both a USD and Peso account at BPI. Like you we deposit our check, wait for clearance, call the day before with the amount of USD we wish to take out (for our monthly expenses) and go pick it up. What we did while building the house though was to ask the bank to have a money lender come to the branch when we exchanged LARGE amounts of USD into pesos. Our branch was nice about it and had there “favorite” changer. That way we didn’t take the hit using the banks low exchange rate.

    1. That was a good plan, Scott H. We do not have any Citibank outlets available in nearby Iloilo, to my knowledge, and I didn’t really have a good plan in place before we moved over five years ago, as far as doing large money transfers. However, we have deposited our check and we will wait for 21 business days and see how it goes. The tellers at BDO were extremely helpful during our last two visits and hopefully we’re on the right track.

      There is also a money changer right across the street from our BDO and we checked out his rates. Much higher than what BDO was offering that day. I would urge anyone to consider doing what you did and set up an account beforeheand with a bank from the States (or whatever country you’re from) that has branches in the Philippines.

  5. Just a note….we have had our dollar account at BDO in Roxas City for 2 years now. We have wired transferred large amounts for home building and the funds were available approx 5 days later. In addition we deposit a personal check monthly for expenses with no fee. We always withdraw $1000 plus monthly and have never had to wait a few days for cash…they have plenty of money on hands. Just our experience.

    1. Thanks, Ron, good to know. I have checked with our bank in the States but it was their policy at the time not to do any international money wire transfers where the funds would be available more quickly. I imagine every bank has their own set of rules. I wish our bank would have offered that service but we will just wait for our deposited check to clear.

      I do not know if you have been to Iloilo City yet but my asawa and I had to make three trips in a row there. We checked out the American Legacy burger joint, and with apologies to Rease, were disappointed. The outlet uses local beef and did not have the taste and texture neither my wife and I care for. The burger was not served hot. We were told it would take 15 minutes to char-broil it but we got our burgers only a few minutes after we ordered it. We both got the Uncle Sam burgers. I will have to check with Rease to see what he ordered from there but sadly my search for the best burger in Iloilo City goes on.

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