Leading business publication, FinanceAsia, named BDO and Citi as the best banks in the Philippines for 2011 according to a report in philSTARcom. Although the article came out in late June of this year, I thought this topic would be appropriate due to some recent queries I've had from readers regarding personal banking in the Philippines.
Finance Asia, based in Hong Kong, annually recognizes the best banking institutions in each country.
BDO was named the best domestic bank and best foreign exchange bank. Citi won the award as the top foreign commercial bank category. BDO Capital Corp., also earned the top rating for investment banking and bond issuance. My asawa and I have an account with BDO which we opened this past July.
USB was recognized as the best foreign investment bank while First Metro Investment Corp. of the Metrobank Group took the best equity house title.
BDO, posted a net income of P10.5 billion in 2011. This was up 19 percent from P8.8 billion recorded in 2010. BDO remains the largest Philippine bank in terms of total resources at P1.1 trillion.
BDO's loan portfolio expanded 24 percent to 670 billion last year by "focusing on creditworthy borrowers in fast-growing industry sectors."
My wife and I have a joint peso savings account at BDO, Banco de Oro, as mentioned earlier, in Iloilo City.
Opening this account required a P5,000 deposit, almost 120 USD Dollars. If we let our savings balance fall below 5,000 pesos we are assessed a fee of P300, 7.15 US Dollars. That's a fairly hefty charge, but we don't dip into that account and primarily opened it since our debit card from our bank in the States expired this past July. The bank would not send us a new one to the Philippines.
BDO required a copy of my ACR-I, Alien Certificate of Registration card, for my proof of ID and to have me listed on the account. I'm told by some expats that they did not need an ACR. Most bank's requirements I see online stated that an ACR card is necessary. Check with your bank to see what they require.
We were told by bank personnel that we would be able to transfer our funds online between our bank in America and our new BDO account. Didn't work out that way. I called our bank in the States. They informed me that such a transfer cannot be done online with them and would be considered a wire transfer which I was told had to be done in person.
I went back to BDO and explained the situation to another customer service representative. The young lady that had informed us that we could transfer funds online between banks was herself transferred to another branch in Iloilo. The company that handles our retirement account distribution in the U.S. cannot direct deposit funds to a foreign bank.
But we still needed an account in the Philippines so my sister-in-law working as a domestic helper in Kuwait could send remittances to our account. We take care of her 13-year-old son and 14-year-old niece, Sherwin and Shaina, shown in an extremely rare photo. They're smiling!
(Yes, I know that's a shiny skirt my niece is wearing. Her school was in a P.E. competition yesterday and that was the required uniform.)
So what was our solution? Well, we could write a check from our bank in America and deposit it with BDO but it would take 30 days for our check to clear. All of our funds are tied up in our IRA which is a T-72 fund recognized by the IRS. Some expats I know transfer their funds in that manner.
The T-72 monthly distribution is locked in for five years. We have less than two years now before we can access that account without taking a huge tax bite that would have occurred if I had cashed in my lump sum retirement check from former employer AT&T.
So we opted to transfer our money from our U.S. bank account using XOOM. You can send up to $2,999 for as low as $4.99. We pick up our money in pesos at our local BDO branch in Iloilo once a month and don't have to make three separate trips to an ATM now. Could only withdraw P10,000 at a time with a daily limit of P20,000.
Since our international debit card fee was P200, 4.75 USD, for each P10,000, $240.00 withdrawal from the ATMs, we're charged about the same as we are now by using XOOM. XOOM makes some additional money on the USD to PHP exchange rate transaction, just like Western Union and other remittance companies do.
If you would like to get a $25.00 reward from XOOM when you sign up, in the form of a PayPal deposit (it's free to set up a PayPal account), Amazon.com gift card, Walmart.com gift card, Sears gift card or Lowes gift card, just contact me at this LINK and I'll send you the details.
I send our transfer from my bank in the States in my name and to myself in the Philippines. XOOM will check your first transaction and call you to insure the transfer is not fraudulent but after that I've never had any problems using them The staff is friendly and helpful.
There are other options for personal banking available in the Philippines with different deposit requirement accounts required for each type of account. There are also banks in the United States that have branches in the Philippines, such as Citi Bank. That's another option to investigate. Our current set-up is personally the best for us at this time.
In the future, we will probably also open a US Dollar account when my Social Security becomes available to me in early 2014. More information on this subject can be found in my new E-book, "The Philippines Expat Advisor," a 340 page comprehensive guide to moving and living in the Philippines. Available for only ten bucks for the next four days only. Check this LINK to order your copy now and for more details.