Good Banking News for American Expats

I’m traveling in the States this week, and I had to go to the bank yesterday in order to wire Rebecca some money for bills at the house and the fish ponds. I had a most pleasant surprise when I got to the Bank of America office in Miami. In fact, this was the only pleasant surprise I have ever had at any bank!

On LiP, there have been numerous articles about accessing your money from the Philippines, and even more inquiries from those hoping to move to the RP in the near future. Everyone has to make a living and making banking arrangements before moving is one of the most important tasks you have to finish before moving.

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In my case, Rebecca holds a Philippine account, and I have accounts in the States and in Abu Dhabi. Previously, I transferred cash between accounts primarily by using ATMs. This normally worked OK, but I ran into problems with daily withdrawal limits and it could be quite cumbersome if I needed more than 20,000 pesos at a time or the machine ate my ATM card (This happened at an HSBC machine and it took them over 2 months to get me a replacement card… They are now on my permanent list.)


The money laundering and tax evasion reporting laws made ordering wire transfers between accounts in different countries from US-based accounts very difficult, requiring an order in-person at a bank branch (Impossible from the Philippines), or a pre-approved wire transfer order submitted ahead of time, and entered into the bank’s system. This year, the law changed requiring banks to perform these functions electronically, and it now becomes possible to easily request a wire transfer when you are outside the United States. In fact, the surprise at Bank of America was that they are now requiring all wire transfer requests be made online, and they can no longer be effected in person at the branch. Bank of America’s new policy is that unverified transfers can be made up to $1,000 limit with no verification online, and with no limit after a simple online verification that is completed online at the time of the first transfer and takes about 1/2 a day to complete!  The cost of each transfer, no maximum limit, is $30. Needless to say, this new procedure makes my life much, much easier. It now means that all my financial transactions can be done online, shifting sufficient funds between the States, the Middle East, and the Philippines to pay all my bills, no longer needing to use repeated ATM transactions (At least $30 in fees for over $1,000) or visits to Western Union, and so on.

American Expat
American Expat

The branch manager stated that Bank of America was the first to offer this service, but she expected that most US banks would soon be following suit in the near future. I personally liked Bank of America’s online banking system, since it was easy to use and quite comprehensive. In fact, I was able to set up the accounts online, simply submitting a signature card when I was back in the States to get everything started. Before I found this out this week, things had gotten to the point that I was seriously considering opening an offshore account in the Bahamas or Macau, simply because of the hassle of transferring money from US banks.

So, for those moving here in the near future, or for those who are already here (set it up next visit back), this option for managing your money in two separate countries now appears to be the easiest, cheapest, and most efficient method of managing your money.

Post Author: JohnM (207 Posts)

John Miele is a Citizen of the World, having spent time in many locations around the globe. Currently, he finds himself in Manila, but travels throughout the Philippines. John joined the Live in the Philippines Web Magazine in mid-2008.

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  1. John Miele says

    Henry: You got it! Any time you want.

    It is a good idea for more than 1 account for the reason you mentioned. Replacing an ATM card from a US bank while in the Philippines can be a real hassle.

  2. says

    Hello John
    This is some good info. My favorite way to get money to the RP has always been wire transfers but you would not believe how many time I had the transfer stopped because the teller did not fill out the paper work properly. A couple time they even wanted to charge me even though the wire transfer did not go through. This online transfers will make life a lot easier.

  3. Steve Maust says

    Glad to hear you are back and safe in PI! Do you know of any troubles withdrawing money from an account not in the PI from the ATM's over there? My last trip we used an RCBC card, as we had an account there. This time we were planning on leaving the money in the account here and just using our ATM card to withdraw money from that account when needed. We have taken note of the fact that Ballesteros has no ATMs near there! 15 more days till we will be there! Go ahead and get those San Miguels on ice!

  4. jason says

    Hi John, hmmm… seems Australian banks are ahead of US with this one. We have had this available to us here in the land downunder for at least 3 years that I know of, as long as you have online banking set-up. Maybe tougher money laws is US hey?
    What I use though is a BDO card and an RCBC telemoney card which enable me to transfer via an agent here in Aus for a fee of $8au(php 100k limit per day on deposit BDO, RCBC – unlimited). The exchange rate offered is also much better than what the banks here offer. Not sure if this is offered in other countries.


  5. John Miele says

    Steve: Most ATM's will work if they are on the Cirrus or Plus networks (The big banks). My HSBC Abu Dhabi cards work fine here, as do my BOA and Citibank cards. Biggest problem in Bulala is location of ATMs. Closest are Metrobank, BPI, and BDO in Aparri and Landbank the other direction in Junction Luna (Both an hour away). I STRONGLY suggest you bring some US dollars (Becky and I each keep a $100 bill for that purpose…5,000 pesos can get you back to Manila, worst case) with you as emergency funds (Kuwaiti Dinars are not easy to change in provincial banks, nor are Euros, for that matter…everyone will change dollars)and stop at the ATM in Tuguegarao before heading further North (All of the major banks have branches and ATMs there.) When you get your funds, change 2000 – 3000 pesos or so into 20 or 50 peso notes inside the branch (500p notes can be difficult to get changed and 1000 peso notes can be damn near impossible, especially in Bulala).

    It looks like I may be up north while you are there (not sure as of now)… If so, I would be happy to drink a beer with you and perhaps take half a day to show you some "hidden Cagayan".

  6. Garrett says

    Hey John,
    Great information, but I recently found out not all Bank of America branches can do on-line international wire transfers. I have been researching different ways to send money to my fiance in Davao. I called Bank of America and they told me they cannot do wire transfers on line for customers on the west coast. My account was opened in Washington State. They said it had something to do with a different computer system used for their west coast branches.

    Have you ever tried sending money on-line with Western Union?

  7. Jack says

    This was useful, but I was wondering, the way you're doing this, do you wire money from Bank of America to an account in a different bank in the Phils, or are you wiring to a Bank of America branch in the Phils? Reason I ask is, we tried a wire transfer a long time ago, to PNB if I recall correctly, and it took weeks before it "arrived" and they would turn loose of it. My wife is trying to pay for a car that she bought by having her sister withdraw from the remittance account every day using the ATM, which is a pain, so I would really like to know some way to be able to move money over there occasionally when necessary to pay for a larger purchase. Any additional details re where you wire to in the Phils and how you get the money out of wherever you wire it to so you can pay it to whoever you're paying it to, would be appreciated.

    Also, to Garrett: I tried using Western Union once several years ago to send $1000 to my wife when she was stuck in Manila. After more than a month, with my wife going in every day to check, they continued to claim it hadn't arrived. She never did get it, and I had to literally threaten to sue them here in the US to get the money back — they claimed that the Western Union in the Phils is a different company than the one in the US, the one in the US claimed they sent it, the one in the Phils claimed they didn't get it, and bottom line I definitely wouldn't trust Western Union.

  8. says

    i have always used online banking with my bank here in Spain (ever since this service was made available) to transfer money to my father's bank acct in the Philippines. i can even send up to 3,000 euros for the unverified transfer! i have been using online banking for 3 years now, very convenient and a time-saver!

  9. says

    Hi John!

    Thanks to your article on money transfers I was able to convince my bank in the states to set up a reoccuring monthly wire transfer to my Metrobank account. When I first mentioned that I wanted it done they resisted but when I said that Bank of America is equipped to do that online they conceded. One important lesson I learned is to not transfer to a peso account. I had one transfer that took eight days to be credited to my account so someone I suspect could profit from the rising peso rate at the time. No explainations or apologies were tendered by the bank. I set up a dollar account to take advantage of the fluctuations in the rates and to prevent being victimized again. When I asked about just writing a check from my US account they stated that it would take 45 days to clear. Maybe they send the check by ship!

  10. ken says

    hi jonn …since last year i have been sending money to my wife in davao city from wells fargo bank. they charge $5.00 per trans action u can send 3000 us $ per day. the affiliate bank in the philippines is bpi

  11. Ricky says

    Hi John,

    May ask how long will it take for the wired money to arrive in the Philippines? For example, they wired the money in GA, around Monday afternoon, EST. What day will it arrive here, in the Philippines?…


  12. John Miele says

    Ricky: Usually by Thursday AM, latest, Philippine time (Remember time differences and banking hours. Normally one day to transfer and one day for exchange), though I have gotten it as quickly as next day and as late as 5 days.

  13. Ricky says

    Thank you so much John, it's our salary so sometimes it gets delayed for no reason, but anyway, hope it'll be here this morning…. thanks..

  14. Ron says

    Hi John,
    I hope the online wire transfers become standard practice at all U.S. banks. I have been wiring money from my bank (not one of the big ones) to LandBank in the Philippines for the last 3 years. I recently signed a wire agreement that allows me to call or fax a wire transfer. Until then I had to appear in person to do a wire transfer, not a good thing if you plan on living in the Philippines. My bank charges me $40 for an international wire transfer, then wires the money to Bank of New York & then they wire the money to Landbank. After it is converted to pesos, Landbank then takes out their fee. The money is usually there in one or two days.

  15. pogidaga says

    You can also use PayPal to send money online to the Philippines and many other countries. I got an email from PayPal today promoting this service. The recipient needs to have an email address. The recipient also needs to have a PayPal account or create one. Once the recipient takes care of all the online steps to get the money into his or her PayPal account, it can be used in PayPal or transferred to a local bank account.

    Since everything is done online, i suppose you could be both the sender and the recipient and shepherd the money to its final destination into an account in a Philippine bank.

    I haven't tried it yet. PayPal claims the transfer is fast and fees are low ($1.50 to transfer $300, $2.50 to transfer $500). If PayPal doesn't play games with the exchange rate this could be a cheap, fast, and easy alternative to expensive bank wire transfers.

    Sorry if this sounds like a plug. I don't work for PayPal or get paid for plugging them.

  16. al scalabrin says

    I had a good experience at a PSB bank. I ask if I could open an account since I would be here for a few months at a time. They said sure – they looked at my passport and a credit card and signed me up to what they call an atm account. I am limited to 30,000 per day at the atm’s but can make local transfers and get cash. I have wired funds in and deposited checks, its all working.

  17. says

    Since I am no longer with BofA, I planned originally on doing online transfers to BDO from Wells Fargo. That’s easy enough, if I bump up to a higher checking account level (ie; more fees). So instead I use and can do a direct deposit at $7.99 or pick-up in person for $5.99 . I don’t plan to transfer very often so that works fine for me.

    In addition I have a PayPal account that I plan to use as a way of moving money around as well from online sales to BDO.

  18. Dennis says

    I am not yet in the Philippines and so, appreciate your sharing of knowledge. But I read somewhere on one of these sites that the easiest way to transfer money from the States to the Philippines is simply write a check. do you agree or disagree with this? Being naturally lazy……………I’m trying to find the easiest solutions before the problems arise.

    • says

      That is an easy way, but there are many easy ways. I don’t use the “write a check” method, although I did at one time. It’s a personal choice, whatever is easiest for you.

  19. Al says


    You once mentioned, somewhere on this site, that there was a way around the IP address issues. Did you ever write about that? I’m about to be in the Philippines for a year or so and I really will need to be able to get onto and manage my websites.
    Thanks for any help,

  20. Heinz Schirmaier says

    Hi John.
    Just read your article about transferring money. I also have a BOA account here in the States and my asawa ko is in Mactan/Cebu. One thing you did not mention which Phil Bank reciprocates with BOA. I want my asawa to open an account so that I can electronically transfer money into her account. Right now we were just contemplating continuing using Western Union, have her cash the money ($’s) wherever she gets the best rate and then deposit at a bank of her choice. I have read that a lot of these small banks are not financially stable so we would need to find one who works with BOA. Since I’m a Senior, BOA waves a lot of fees for me here including ATM withdrawal fees, wonder if same thing applies at a bank there who works with BOA.
    If YOU or anybody else has an answer I surely would appreciate a reply. You have my email, or reply through our friend Bob.
    Thanks a lot!

  21. Heinz Schirmaier says

    A few years after John posted this, but last week, May 2014 when I was at my BofA branch I asked the charge of having an automatic transfer of my SS which is deposited there automatically every month and they told me it would be $40 every month to transfer to an Account in the Phils. Seems a little expensive especially since they don’t pay the computer a salary! As a Senior, I don’t pay any fees here, but as soon as I leave the country I guess I cease to be a Senior, lol!
    Just thought I pass this on!

  22. Kris Griffeth says

    Howdy. I am currently in the philippines (province of Antique) visiting my in laws for the first time, and I want to be able to easily send them money on a regular basis upon our return to Texas. Since BPI has branches in both LA and New York, how feasible would it be to open an account while here, leave the credit/debit card here, and just mail a check to LA every week?

  23. John Miele says

    Henry: Thanks for the offer, but am already back in the Philippines last night. Didn't go through Chicago. 2 week trip, Tokyo, Miami, Tampa, Houston, LA, Seoul, and Hong Kong, with just a couple days in each stop.

  24. Henry says

    John – We can always have drinks when I return to the Philippines next April. The San Miguels will be cold enough, eh?

    Your article got me thinking about having a backup source of funds (just in case). While vacationing there, I used my Chase ATM card to access my checking account (via BPI). I had no problems, but if my ATM card were to be eaten I'd be in serious trouble. The Chase ATM fees weren't too high so I'm satisfied with that. However I should look into opening an account with Bank of America [and compare ATM fees especially in the Philippines].

  25. John Miele says

    Eric: It's not so bad with a book and an Ipod. Also, I fly enough so that I'm usually upgraded on the long flights, so it is a bit easier.

  26. John Miele says

    Jason: Right you are! US banking laws tend to be strict and cumbersome, as are the banks themselves. Unfortunately, we expats get caught up in rules designed to go after big fish money launderers and tax cheats.

  27. says

    I receive money every month through Western Union. Whenever Google sends me money for the advertising they do on my sites, it comes through Western Union. I've never had a problem with them.

  28. John Miele says

    Jack: I wire the money directly to Metrobank in QC… Takes about 1 day to be credited to the account. (Sometimes 2 days, due to the time difference between the states and here.)

  29. John Miele says

    Jack: Furthermore, once the money is at Metrobank, I access it either through the local ATM, or through the teller window inside. Very easy.

  30. John Miele says

    Tom: Glad you found it helpful! I really dislike banking games… Your solution was right on target! I've done 3 transfers since I wrote the article. The BOA branch I have is in LA, and it took 2 days to Metrobank, USD to Pesos.(4 days to my Middle Eastern USD account for some reason). As to exchange, on the wire transfers, it is $10 cheaper to have BOA change to Pesos first and then wire, as compared to Metrobank doing the exchange, largely negating any exchange rate fluctuations.)

  31. JohnM says

    Ken: I never knew that about Wells… There is no upper limit on BOA. Could prove useful in the future with really large amounts, but the $5 is really cheap with Wells.

  32. says

    $40 for a wire transfer is too much. Western Union charges up to $12 per $1,000 transmittal and the money can be picked up at any Western Union outlet anywhere in the Philippines within 24 hours.

  33. John Miele says

    Ron: That used to be the practice at BOA until this year. I think all US banks will eventually move over to this method.

  34. John Miele says

    John: The problem with Western Union is that you have to appear in person. What this article is about ia sending money from a US account while I am located in the Philippines or elsewhere outside the US. Western Union is fine if you have cash in hand and are just sending it (I did this frequently when I was in Abu Dhabi)Additionally, on large cash transfers, Western Union can get quite expensive, once you start sending over $1,000. The $40 fee from BOA is unlimited as to amount(In the millions).

  35. John Miele says

    Pogidaga: I also got that email, but I have had many problems with PayPal in the past… especially when trying to use credit cards from an IP address outside the US or in a different country than the card billing address. It usually turns out to be more trouble than it is worth. In fact, my last experience with them was trying to buy something from Bob's web site… It is why he has several payment options available (His other options worked fine, BTW… Little plug there)

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