Since my lovely asawa and I moved to the Philippines almost eight years ago, my capacity for waiting has been tested numerous times. A recent visit to Banco de Oro, BDO, the largest bank chain in the Philippines, proved to be another exercise in endurance. “90-Minute BDO Transaction Taxes Crusty Old Expat’s Patience” chronicles my latest foray into “Filipino Time.”
BDO on “Filipino Time”
“Filipino Time” is a maddening cultural Philippines phenomenon in which nothing needs to be done in a hurry. Showing up late for meetings or appointments is the norm, rather than the exception. If patience is indeed a “virtue” as The Good Book says, it’s one “virtue” that would test even the patience of the late Mother Teresa if she had lived in the Philippines.
Graphic Source: BDO website
Dropping the Dollar Account
We dropped into our local BDO outlet in Iloilo City the other day to close a dollar account we didn’t need anymore. Since we were already at the bank, I thought we could transfer an existing savings account to a time deposit certificate in order to accrue more interest.
While “Jello” began the paperwork to close our BDO dollar account, I explained to him the reason we wanted to close the account. Since BDO wouldn’t even deposit a tax refund check from the U.S. Treasury Department, I saw no need to keep the account.
We were getting charged five U.S. dollars a month for the dollar account since a $500 minimum balance was now necessary to avoid any monthly fees. When we originally opened the account, 200 U.S. dollars was the minimum balance required.
BDO No Longer Accepts U.S. Treasury Checks
Since I had made an overpayment in our taxes last year, Uncle Sam sent my asawa and I a refund check for about $160.
Two years ago the same BDO outlet in Iloilo had accepted an $8,000 check from the U.S. Treasury Department. But now, it wouldn’t even accept one for less than 200 bucks, because, as the BDO supervisor informed me, they were “having trouble” with U.S. Treasury checks.
“Having trouble?” I asked incredulously. “This check is guaranteed by the U.S. government!”
“I’m sorry, sir” the supervisor replied, “I can try to get it approved for you but it will take at least a week.”
I was ready to pull all of our accounts out of Banco de Oro but my wife convinced me to let the supervisor work on getting the check accepted. All I wanted to do was get it deposited in our account. Why the big hassle?
About a week later my spouse received a call from a different supervisor in BDO and informed my wife we would need an affidavit from a lawyer since our names on our account were joined by an “AND” and not an “OR” which was listed on the U.S. Treasury check.
There was absolutely no way I was going to see a lawyer just to get a check for 162 dollars deposited. I decided we would mail the check to our friends in the States who could deposit it in our U.S. account. I was fed up with BDO’s asinine policy.
Graphic Source: fiscal.treasury.gov
U.S. Treasury Check Now Approved?
By the time I finished my long-winded explanation, “Jello” had closed our dollar account. A manager then approached us with some paperwork. It seems this manager had gotten approval to deposit our U.S. Treasury check without us having to go to a lawyer to get an affidavit.
“Sorry, Maám,” I said, “I was told that we needed an affidavit from a lawyer and we’re no longer going to deposit the check here.”
“But, sir,” the manager remarked, “I already have the paperwork done.”
“I’m sorry you went to all that trouble,” I replied, “but it doesn’t make sense to deposit the check since our balance will still be under 500 dollars and we will continue to have a monthly maintenance fee.”
90-Minute BDO Transaction Taxes Crusty Old Expat’s Patience
“Jello” had passed my request to transfer our saving account to a time deposit certificate to another associate.
After my asawa and I filled out a multitude of forms for the time deposit, the associate said the address in her system was different than what was listed on our account passbooks.
We had lived in Iloilo City for 18 months but had our present address in Guimaras, where we now reside, on our passbooks. Their system still showed our Iloilo address.
“You will need to get a barangay certificate for this address change,” said the associate. (A barangay certificate from the local government unit is official proof of residence.)
An hour had now already passed since this whole process began, my patience had reached its limit.
“We’ve been at this bank for so many years and now you’re asking us for a barangay certificate? Just close all of our accounts now and give us our money in cash.” I demanded, obviously pissed.
The associate excused herself and quickly made her way to a manager.
The manager that had previously spoken to us about our U.S. Treasury check quickly came over. I questioned why we needed a barangay certificate. The manager assured us that it would not be necessary and she apologized for the mix-up.
We had one more hiccup. The associate setting up our time deposit had quoted us the wrong interest amount for our deposit. I quickly showed her error and she corrected it. Her error could have cost us a lot of money.
We then decided to go on with the transaction, which, after 90 minutes, was finally completed.
While threatening to close our BDO account, I proclaimed that maybe we should deposit our money with BPI, Bank of the Philippine Islands.
That might have proved to be a disastrous move. That very day BPI had an internal system “glitch” which had screwed up thousands of BPI accounts. Some accounts had numerous unauthorized withdrawals draining their balances, while some customers received healthy credits to their account.
In fact, one customer received a 12 BILLION PESO credit to his account, which he promptly reported. It took BPI two days to straighten out the mess.
So we will stay with BDO for now and hope we won‘t have to return there anytime soon. I’m sure they feel the same way.