Advice for Expats

Here’s How to Send Money From The Philippines to The USA

Maybe you’ve made money doing business in the Philippines or for whatever reason many expats do need to send money back from The Philippines to the USA. However most of us have trouble when it comes to sending money from the Philippines to the USA. There are also special considerations that need to be made when sending large amounts of money to America that we’ll go over…

The best ways to send US Dollars from The Philippines to America that I’ve used are Western Union and Ria Money Transfer services. These are best for transfers under $400 USD. Anything more than that you’ll get killed by the exchange rates which is why I use Transferwise for transactions larger than $400. If you want to send Philippine Pesos you need a borderless account.

Whether you chose PayPal, Transferwise, or Western Union you can manage to get your money back to The US easily.

Western Union

This is the most expensive yet straightforward method to transfer money from The Philippines to the USA. In order to use Western Union you simply take your physical money to one of their many locations throughout the Philippines and mark yourself as the recipeint in America. If you have a Philipine bank account with a debit card you can also do it online.

The disadvantage of Western Union is that they are expensive. They charge about $5.00 plus give the worst exchange rates that I’ve ever seen.


The reason I like PayPal over traditional money transfer services such as Western Union is you don’t need to have large amounts of cash with you. However, to transfer Philippine Pesos to the US you will need to pay $4.99 plus a 15 peso fee. Their exchange rates also aren’t the best but better than Western Union’s.

However, their service is really easy to use. First, you open a free PayPal account, if you don’t already have one. Second, you link your Philippine bank account to your PayPal account. Third, you link your American bank account to the PayPal account. Fouth, you transfer the money into your Paypal account and simply withdraw it into your American bank account.

How to Transfer Large Amounts of Money from The Philippines to The USA

If you are planning to transfer large sums of money from The Philippines to the USA then you need to use TransferWise. Why? Because when dealing with large international transactions the exchange rate is key. Even a 0.5% difference can cost you thousands of dollars! Transferwise is the only money moving service that uses the real exchange rates set by Forex.

They just charge an upfront fee, unlike most other money changers that charge an upfront fee plus give a bad exchange rate. You can go to the Transferwise site to compare the different fees.

In order to use Transferwise, you will need to have a local bank account and transfer the money from it to your US bank account. If you need more information on how to open a bank account in The Philippines go here.

Special Considerations

If you are planning to send large sums of money to the US then you need to take into account these laws.

The Bank Secrecy Act of 1970 requires American financial institutions to report any transaction exceeding $10,000. Most people already know that but if you also try to make transactions just under the $10,000 limit, for example $9,999, this could cause the bank to file a Suspicious Activity Report (SAR). Even more than that. multiple transactions just under the $10,000 limit may also trigger a bank to file a SAR against you.

File IRS Form 3520. This is if you are sending money from a bank account that is not in your name to an account in America that is in your name. You must file this form in the current tax year. The penalties for failure to file are severe:

  • 35% of the gross value of the distributions received from a foreign trust.
  • 5% of the gross value of the portion of the amount treated as owned by you
  • A separate 5% penalty if you fail to furnish the correct required information

Get more information on the IRS reporting requirements here.

A Better Way Get a Borderless Account

If you’re planning on receiving payments while in The Philippines the best way is to simply set up a borderless account. This is an account through Transferwise that will enable you to receive payments in multiple currencies (including Philippine Pesos) anywhere in the world. You may withdraw the money into your regular bank account back home. You can get an account with US, UK, or Aus bank details.

How a Borderless Account Works

The TransferWise borderless account is an online account which allows you to hold money in more than 40 currencies. You can make and receive payments from your account. This is great if you want to receive payments in The Philippines.

What are the benefits of a TransferWise account?

  • Low-cost international money transfer – up to eight times cheaper compared to a bank.
  • You can hold your money in more than 40 currencies and receive payments in GBP, EUR, USD and AUD with zero receiving fees.
  • Get local bank details for GBP, EUR, USD and AUD instantly, without needing a local proof of address in those countries.
  • The account is no cost and is entirely done online.
  • There’s no minimum balance and no cost to order a TransferWise debit Mastercard.
  • Switch between currencies for a low fee – between 0.35pc and 2pc of the transaction amount.
  • Always get the real mid-market exchange rate for currency conversions – the one you’d find on Google, with no markup added.
  • Your money is safe with TransferWise. The business is independently regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) in the UK, and trusted by more than three million customers globally.

Who Shouldn’t Use TransferWise?

While I love TransferWise I cannot in good conscience recommend it to everybody. Those with small amounts of money–less than $400 would be better off using a traditional money transfer service such as Remitly or Western Union. The reason being is that below that amount the TransferWise fee will be greater than the savings you’ll get with the real exchange rates.

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