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  1. Hi,
    Can a foreigner working in Manila open a safety deposit box without being a customer of a bank ? What is the steps in opening a safety deposit box ? Which is the safest ?
    Thanks

    Reply

    • Sorry, we don’t know for sure but probably you’d have to be a customer of the bank to rent a box. Bob and Carol

      Reply

  2. Not ever have we had any problem at any bank in manila, with any broker and our safety deposit box, we have one since more than 10 years,is very safe. The retirement office, i have the SRV, is very helpful, the hospitals accept my health insurance cover from europe without paying deposit.
    I believe it has a lot to do with whom you are connected, where you live and who the in laws are. I come here for 25 Years, are married 30 years, and have never ever had any problem with anyone.

    Reply

  3. Creative piece ! I was enlightened by the details , Does anyone know where my assistant might acquire a sample Wells Fargo CNS3519 FOL example to use ?

    Reply

  4. Great article!
    I’m curious about he safety deposit boxes… Why do you say we shouldn’t assume they are safe?

    Reply

    • I have read online reports from those that claim items have disappeared from their safe deposit boxes. Also, banks fail and we are not sure how the contents of safety deposit boxes are handled. That said, we have had a Philippine bank safe deposit box for years and have never had a problem.

      Reply

  5. Great articles Bob,

    I’m curious, (if you know) can an American who has denounced their citizenship still be eligible for SS benefits when they reach retirement age?

    I visited family there in ’12 and used my visa debit card (Capital City Bank (Southeast region of the USA only)) and to my surprise I got a fantastic rate and no foreign usage fee. They treated the transaction(s) like they would if I used another banks ATM ($2.00). The local banks didn’t charge any service fees.

    Keep up the good work…

    Reply

    • Take a look at the link below. Social Security benefits are earned. Collecting them overseas seems to depend on what citizenship you have after you renounce your U.S. citizenship. If you have Philippine citizenship, the following applies: “If you are not a U.S. citizen and none of these exceptions applies to you, we will stop your payments after you have been outside the United States for six full months. Once this happens, we cannot start your payments again until you come back and stay in the United States for a whole calendar month. You must be in the United States on the first minute of the first day of any month and stay through the last minute of the last day of that month. In addition, we may ask you to prove you have been lawfully present in the United States for the full calendar month. For more information,
      contact the nearest U.S. Embassy, consulate or Social Security office.”

      http://www.ssa.gov/international/your_ss.html

      Reply

  6. When I deposited money for buying land in a Philippine bank, Banco de Oro (BDO), they would not let my wife withdraw without answering questions like, “What are you going to spend the money on?”.
    Has anybody else had such an experience?
    BDO claims that all Philippine banks are required to ask this question for larger amounts.

    Reply

    • Robert,

      We have not had that exact problem but at first, we saw suspicion when my wife makes withdrawals. For that reason, I try to have my Filipina wife do our banking by herself. That way they will become accustomed to her making withdrawals. We have been banking at one branch of a Philippine bank for six years now and know the staff quite well. Then, when I am unable to be present, say I am hospitalized, she will be able to take care of all the banking. As far as asking what we would use the money for, they knew we were building a house so the question did not come up.

      If you’re not happy with your bank branch, try another.

      Bob

      Reply

  7. Hi Bob,

    Thanks for all of the information you provide. I recently got my Resident Visa (waiting on my ACR Icard). I have a question I don’t think you have touched on yet? Is there a place or person that you recommend in the area for EXPAT Tax Preperation for US Expats?? Just curious?? Thanks for your time!

    Rick

    Reply

    • Rick,

      Thanks for your kind words. Our U.S. taxes are pretty simple. We just use the TurboTax free version for those with AGI of less than $31,000: http://turbotax.intuit.com/taxfreedom/ We really don’t have any guidance for those with more complex tax returns. Maybe another reader can help.

      Bob and Carol

      Reply

  8. Hi,

    My boyfriend who is from Europe has been staying here in the Philippines on a tourist visa. Would he be able to open a local bank account? If so, what are the requirements? We have heard from some people that he wouldn’t be able to open one because of his tourist status.

    Reply

    • He’ll probably have trouble. Banks (and phone companies and etc.) seem to require proof of immigration status, although I understand they are not required to do so. His best best may be to have his passport and other ID, dress nicely, go around to banks asking to open an account. Talk to branch managers rather than lower level staff. They are the ones with discretion to waive rules. Rural banks, such as Bank of Makati on Iznart, may be more flexible than the big commercial banks. Good luck.

      Reply

      • Hello Erin and GoIloilo,
        I am an Australian citizen. I have been on a tourist visa in the Philippines many times already. I recently opened a joint bank account with my Filipino Asawa, using my Australian passport, a valid Pinoy drivers licence, and an extended tourist visa photo ID card issued by the Philippines Bureau of Immigration. The bank we went to was BPI Family Savings Bank. Their website is: http://www.bpiexpressonline.com/. They have many branches all over the Philippines. In my opinion, I think its best to bring as many photo IDs with you as possible. I didn’t have any luck at Metrobank though. I wish you luck!
        Mystery-Man

        Reply

      • I just opened a bank account in the Philippines and had no trouble at all. Other than the long wait to get to talk to someone. I am here with my wife on BB visa. All they wanted was copies of our passports , two passport photos, and our US driver license and the US $$$$$$$$$ which we had deposited into US dollar account. I do not believe they care about your immigration status because they never looked at the visa stamp. They only wanted a copy of the photo page of our passports.

        Reply

    • 90% of foreigners can open a bank account with BPI,BDO, and Metrobank, etc. It just requires two ID’s. The 10% who get denied are foreigners who come from countries on the financial blacklist, and even they can most often open a savings account. This notion that somehow you can only bank with CITI or HSBC is just false. The guy who wrote this article is an idiot. Banking in the Philippines is extremely easy and user friendly with ebanking, atm cards, direct deposit, and has become a tax haven for some expats. There are some restrictions for foreigners — for example, you cannot get a loan without a residency permit or citizenship or investment residency, but you cannot do that anywhere else in the world (besides your home country) either. I have lived in the Philippines for 37 years and own two resorts, I have NEVER has any issues with Philippine banks.

      Reply

  9. Thank You Bob and Carol for all the info. you’ll are giving us. My wife is from Bacolod and we want to retire there. everything you all write, about your journey is very helpfull. “Please don’t stop”. Our last trip there in 2011 was a decision maker for us. We found some land close to Marapara Heights Subdivision, Right off Circumferential Road, in Bacolod. We have a big Mango tree on the land,” YUM YUM YUM !!!”. Some of my wife’s family live close by, and i believe they will help me help us get to the completion of our goal. I hope to hear from you and will continue to review all the information you provided.

    Thank You,
    Merlin

    Reply

  10. Hey Guys… thanks for the great article. I wanted to add something about the ATM Cards. I just started using ING Direct from Canada (but i figure you’ll have this in the US branches). The international fee for taking out money is only $2. I used to have to pay $5 which was outrageous since i was stay there for 3-5 months at a time. Paying out $5 each time was brutal. Now, paying $2 doesn’t seem too bad 😉

    Thanks again
    allen

    Reply

    • Thanks for this tip. $2.00 is reasonable. How are the foreign currency exchange rates? Another bank that is expat friendly is CapitalOne.

      Reply

      • Foreign currency exchange is on par with my other bank. I’m not sure what it is exactly, but it seems reasonable enough that i’ve never questioned it 😉 LOL

        Reply

  11. George,

    In our little town, RCBC savings has the only ATM in town. I’ve never had a problem.

    The main banks are similar. Just choose the one which is most convenient, and if you drive, has a place to park your car.

    One think to check for is if they charge for foreign check deposits. Chinabank does not.

    Ted and Alice decided to stay in the U.S. — quite conservative really!

    Reply

  12. Bob & Carol

    Thanks for your responce. My future landlord has recommended to me the bank RCBC. I look at it on my computer and it looks like maybe a decent bank. Do you have any inputs on that? I checked out the China bank and it looks like a good bank. How’s Ted and Alice these days? Just couldn’t resist that! I hope ya’ll have a good since of humor lol 🙂

    Reply

  13. I’m getting ready to retire in PI soon. As what I have read here so far, I guess it looks like it is better to do the tourist visa thing there first and get established with a good bank then apply for the SRRV. Would you say that is correct and easier. I tried to send this from another page but it wouldn’t go through, I hope it goes now. Thanks for any response

    Reply

    • George,

      Sure, that’s a good plan. It’s easy to apply for the SRRV at the Philippine Retirement Authority offices in Makati. If you qualify for a 13a visa (married to a Philippine citizen) it’s best to apply for that before you come. You don’t necessarily have to use the same bank for your SRRV deposit as for your other banking. I used the Bank of Commerce branch near the PRA for my deposit but do my routine banking at another bank which charges lower fees on routine banking.

      Bob and Carol

      Reply

  14. hey bob, great site and so much info to take in. Regarding this post, for UK expats nationwide bank provide free overseas transactions for checking and credit cards, saved me a lot of money in my first year in PH. HSBC also like other large banks have an extended service if u hold your cash assets with them you can have multiple currency and location accounts, this also provides free international (@ preferential rates) & local transfers 100% of the time. however i am very close to manila (tagaytay) so it may not suit the provincial readers. All the best and respect to u for a great and informative site

    Reply

  15. one more thing. can i direct deposit ss in a dollar acct there after arriving without going through the consulate? dont want to receive a drop dead letter every yr. what do u think? jay

    Reply

    • Jay, if you register with SS as residing in the Philippines, you’re going to get checked up on. You can live in the Philippines but have your checks go to a U.S bank. That gets away from the checking up part.

      Reply

  16. i have enjoyed your very informative home building experience, i lived in the pi in laoag city in the north for over a yr then my wife came back with me to wisconsin and i have struggled in business and emmy teaches at the day care having received state teaching credentials years ago but they dont hire 60 yr olds in the union. we will both receive ss next yr. she retired after 26 yrs teaching in the pi before coming here, and gave away all of her retirement to the family of course. she retains teacher healh ins in the pi and she says i can get on it as a spouse when we go back. anyway she has a house, which she gave to her sisters of course! but there is room to build a love shak next to it. hope to build 100 sq mtr or so next door and plant bouganvilla all over. not as fancey as your dwelling but livable. will visit baguio once and a while when it gets hottt. interested in doing an internet buisiness have any ideas? thanks jaynemmy…fonddulac wis…

    Reply

  17. Just a little bit of info for people that may want to know. I bank with Wells Fargo and they will do a transfer to BPI for only $8 I don’t remember the max amount but I think it was either $3000 or $4000 for the Philippines.

    Thank you for the article, very informative.

    Bill B

    Reply

    • Hi John and Retchel,

      Long Island to Bukidnon — what a change! My son went to SUNY Stony Brook.

      We are hoping to complete the project for 2.5 million, including our rather elaborate car port. Of course this does not include the land, fence, the bahay kubo, some of the filling and furnishing. With everything our cost will be over six million or $US 130,000. I figure that’s about the cost of a P20,000 per month rental, assuming a 4% real return. Does it make sense for a 66 year old foreigner to invest that much in a place he will only live a few years? That’s a highly personal decision. A main consideration — I’d like to leave my wife with a home. Would the wife be better off with the $130,000? For me, I’ll rest more easily knowing my wife has a place to live, a small income and the hope of Social Security survivor’s benefits when she turns 60.

      Best wishes.

      Bob and Carol
      Tigbauan, Iloilo
      http://

      Reply

    • Thanks for the link. I checked the Wells Fargo site and found that when to send dollars from Wells Fargo through BPI you receive pesos at an exchange rate determined by the banks. I don’t know what the exchange rate is but I suspect it will below the best rates. I’d be interested in hearing from those who have used the service about their experiences.

      We use the simple method of writing checks from our U.S.bank account, depositing them in our Philippine bank U.S. dollar account, waiting thirty days, taking out the dollars and exchanging them at the best rate we can find. There are no charges or fees.

      Reply

  18. Hi, Bob – Thanks for your informative and objective articles on Iloilo in particular. You’re truly a gain in Iloilo and for that, Maraming Salamat and keep up the good work. I hope my wife and I get to see you and your wife as soon as we’re settled in Miagao.

    Can you please include car/auto buying in one of your topics? Does Toyota, Honda and other dealers sell hybrids there yet, e.g. Toyota Prius or equivalen? Most car companies here already have hybrids in their SUVs and luxury cars.

    Thanks again.

    Reply

  19. Pingback: Banking Basics for the Expat in the Philippines « Philippine Bargains

    • Dan, hold down the ctrl button while tapping the + button. This will enlarge your screen (Zoom in). You can also zoom out by holding down the ctrl and tapping the – button.

      I prefer doing this than putting on my glasses. 😉

      Reply

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