Best Banks in the Philippines

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 peso

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. 


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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! DSC

(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. Fullscreen capture   AM

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), gift card, 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. 

11 thoughts on “Best Banks in the Philippines”

    • Hello Dave,I looked into the Citibank and it sounded pretty good.I was told that if I had a Citibank account in the US and opened an account at the Citibank in the Philippines not only would it be a free transfer but also would be able to be done online.To me this sounds like a pretty good deal as it would take some stress out of the extra cost to transfer money,we all need what we got lol. I will look into any cost or limitations for drawing money out from the PI account,but so far it looks good.

      • Thanks Rey, that sounds like the easiest and most viable option I’ve heard to date. Please post more info if it should come your way. Thanks again.

  1. So Dave, if you had a Citibank account, and your income was direct deposited to your account, could you simply withdraw it from any branch in the RP?

  2. After my first trip to meet my now wife and nearly in a panic of running out of cash, I had problems using the ATM. Western Union gave me lots of problems sending money. I found XOOM and they are fantastic. I then realized and called them to see if I can just XOOM myself money while I am there. No problems. I am interested in this topic because my wife and I are putting our plans together and I said I need to set up an account there or I will look into CitiBank. My vacation is coming up and will be getting your book.

  3. No problem Dave…even better news.I went to the Citibank Philippines site and looked under Global banking and not only can you
    Withdraw from ANY bank’s ATM in the Philippines 1 and from over 20,000 Citibank ATMs worldwide, but you can also transfer funds from here or abroad with the flick of a finger they say.Also you can Have your new bank account open and ready to use when you relocate to another country. So free transfers,able to draw from any bank ATM in the PI and able to set it all up before you get there sounds great to me 🙂

  4. Hi Dave, looks like the BDO people gave you a Peso Passbook Savings Account. When I set up my account with BDO they gave me a Kabayan Savings Account, only P50 to open and there is no minimum average daily balance requirement. I think it is supposed to be only available to OFWs who send money home, but for some reason they gave me one, possibly because I remit money from NZ.

  5. Dave,
    My G/F’s accounts are in BDO. Citibank would be a good idea, except there are no branches in my part of Florida. There would be a branch in the philippines close to Cavite in Paranaque. So right now writing a check to myself would be the best option

  6. I used to use Xoom until they told me I broke their rules. They didn’t tell me what I did just refused to allow me to transfer any more money. We used to use PNB RCI online until the state of Ohio decided that wasn’t allowable because PNB didn’t have a license in Ohio. We were using Western Union but the fees are too high. I decided to send my wife an ATM card and just keep enough in the account for daily living, automatically transferred from a another account. There are some fees but less than Western Union.

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