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Expats Living in The Philippines Love TransferWise!

Being an expat can be expensive–more expensive than most people realize. One of the things that really adds up are the atm fees to get your own money in the Philippines. Most banks here will charge you 250php (about $5 USD) then you get hit again with whatever your bank at home charges in international transaction fees.

Say Bye to ATM Fees and Crappy Exchange Rates!

Most of us try to minimize the fees by always withdrawing large amounts of money at a time, but most local banks will limit you to 10k. A buddy of mine got pick-pocketed shortly after making a large withdrawal and I’ve personally never been comfortable carrying large amounts of cash on me.

That’s when I began looking for alternatives. First I tried Western Union but their fees were high and exchange rates were low. Plus you have to wait in long lines to actually get your money. I looked at some of the other companies such as Xoom and Money Gram and they were pretty much the same scenario. Even though most of them advertised decent rates I quickly discovered those were just teaser rates for new customers only.

Then I discovered TransferWise. They are different because you always get the real mid-market exchange rate that banks don’t normally offer to retail customers. All you do is you use your normal ATM debit card to send money to your local Philippines bank account. That’s it! You can transfer large amounts of money without paying lousy exchange rates or transfer fees. Learn more about TransferWise.

How Exactly Does TransferWise Work?

I’m glad you asked. It’s quite simple actually

  • First, you open up a local bank account. I use BDO personally.
  • Second, you go to the Transferwise website and initiate a transfer from your home bank account into your local bank account
  • Save a ton of money

How to Open a Bank Account in The Philippines

To open a bank account in the Philippines you will need the following documents:

  • Your Passport
  • ACR I-card (Alien Certificate of Registration card).
  • Proof of Address such as a utility bill

You may be able to open an account with just your passport and another form of ID other than your ACR. I’ve heard some banks will accept an Immigrant Certificate of Registration (ICR) as proof of residency but I’ve never tried that.

Unfortunately, this has to be done in person. You will have to go to the bank in person to open an account and if you don’t have an ACR card you might have to have a meeting with the bank manager. However, just make things easy for yourself and come with the proper documents. Expats that try to get the rules bent for them usually end up in a bad situation at some point.

Once you have your documents you simply go to the bank fill out the forms and make the minimum deposit. In BDO the minimum deposit is only P2,000. You can get a bank book for making withdrawals and deposits right away. Another reason I went with BDO is that I got my ATM card the same day at the branch but not every branch offers this.

How Long Does it Take to Get Your Money?

The first money transfer to The Philippines will take the longest. Anywhere from 1-5 business days. This is due to the security and anti-fraud checks they have to do as required by law and for your safety. After that, each subsequent transfer should take place within minutes to possibly 1-2 hours.

Related: Still Not Sure? Take this Quiz

Best Benefits to Using Transferwise

  • Save Money: This is because you get the real exchange rate instead of the made-up rates other companies give you
  • No ATM fees: The money goes to your local bank account so no more having to pay ATM fees to withdraw your own money
  • Safety: Since the money goes to your bank account you can withdraw it as you please. There’s no need to ever have copious amounts of cash on your person
  • Convenience: You don’t have to wait in line at Western Union and have two forms of ID just to get your money
  • See how much money you’ll save with TranferWise
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2 thoughts on “Expats Living in The Philippines Love TransferWise!

  1. How long does it take for Transferwise to move money from a US account to BDO? I moved money with them from my US Credit Union to AUB, and it took over a week to arrive. I know that this may be partially AUB’s fault, so I’m curious as to the speed to BDO.

    I use Remitly, quite often. It only costs $3.99 per transfer, but the exchange rate is nearly as bad as XOOM or WU.

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