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Transferwise Philippines Review – Not Fast But Cheap

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

Say Bye 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.

Transfer Money to a Philippines Bank Account

Transferwise is unique that instead of transferring money from your home bank account to a retail front to pick it up, you open up a local bank account and transfer money into it. This releases them (and you) from the costs of operating retail centers or having agreements with pre-existing retail centers.

Can You Use Transferwise to Send Money From The Philippines?

No. You can’t transfer pesos from a Philippine bank to another currency. 

If you need to send money from the Philippines to the United States you may be able to use Western Union or MoneyGram. You can also use PayPal. Just transfer the money from your Philippine bank account to your PayPal account and from your PayPal account to your home bank account. 

How Transferwise Philippines Works

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

You may transfer a maximum of 480,000PHP in one transfer.

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 because I got my ATM card the same day at the branch but not every branch offers this.

Transferwise Accredited Banks in The Philippines

You may use Transferwise to transfer money in most banks of The Philippines. Here is a comprehensive list

Allied Bank, Allied Savings Bank, AMA Bank, ANZ Bank, Asia United Bank, Bangkok Bank, Bank Of China, Bank of Commerce, Banco De Oro (BDO) Unibank, Bank of the Philippine Islands, Bank of Tokyo, Bank One Savings and Trust Corp, BPI Family Savings Bank, China Banking Corporation, China Bank Savings, Chinatrust Bank, Citibank, CitiBank Savings, Deutsche Bank, Development Bank of the Philippines, East West Bank, Equicom Savings Bank, Far Eastern Bank, Filipino Savers Bank (A Rural Bank), First Consolidated Bank, First Macro Bank, Guagua Savers Bank, Hongkong & Shanghai Bank, HSBC Savings,

Islamic Bank (Al-Amanah Islamic Investment Bank), Land Bank of the Philippines, MayBank Phils, Metropolitan Bank and Trust Company, Phil Business Bank, Phil National Bank, Philippine Bank of Communications, Philippine Savings Bank, Philippine Trust Company, Philippine Veterans Bank, RCBC Savings, Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. (RCBC), Robinsons Savings Bank, Standard Chartered Bank, Sterling Bank, Tong Yang Savings Bank, UCPB Savings Bank, Union Bank of the Philippines, United Coconut Planters Bank (UCPB), United Overseas Bank, University Savings Bank, City Estate Savings Bank, City Savings Bank, First Allied Bank, International Exchange Bank, Luzon Development Bank, Malayan Bank, One Network Bank, Pen Bank, Planters Bank, Postal Bank, Premiere Bank, Robinson Savings Bank, Security Bank Corporation, Security Bank Savings, Summit Bank.

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.

NEW!! TransferWise Fees Have Changed-Check Them Here

As of March 8th, 2019 TransferWise will be lowering their fees for most customers (but not all). They call it ‘fairer pricing’ because they will no longer subsidize higher-cost transactions with lower-cost ones. They are the most transparent company about their fees that I have seen. See their new fees

Here’s What Your Fees Pay For:

  • 39% Banking Partner Costs
  • 19% Their Profit Margin
  • 18% Building and Improving TransferWise
  • 14% Labor Costs
  • 10% Offices and Other Overhead Costs

Who Shouldn’t Use Transferwise

  • If you are sending small amounts of money (under US$100)
  • People who need the money right away
  • If you don’t have a local bank account
  • People staying in The Philippines for less than 6 months

Transferwise probably isn’t a good fit for someone that needs money instantly. So, if you’re in an emergency situation and you need money right now then I would probably just use Ria Money Transfer. Also, you need a bank account to withdraw your money in The Philippines.

If you’re not planning on staying here longer than 6 months then it’s probably not worth the hassle to open up a bank account. Transferwise may also not be the best solution for transferring small amounts of money either. The reason being is the savings comes in the exchange rates. This means if you’re sending less than US$500 you’re not actually saving that much money, if any, after paying their upfront fee.

UPDATE!!

Transferwise recently updated their fee structure so now it is worth it to send small amounts of money. You can check out their new fees here

Related: New To Manila? Check Out These Expat Hacks

Note: It is the first transfer that takes the longest. After the initial transfer, subsequent ones should take place within 1-3 hours.

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
  • Great Reputation: Transferwise is used by thousands of people throughout the world each day
  • 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

 

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