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.
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.
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.