opening a filipino bank account
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Can a Tourist open a Filipino Bank Account

Using the ATM with a European MasterCard is a costly affair. The max amount of withdrawal is 10,000 pesos per transaction and the withdrawal and interchange fee is around 10 euro each time, add to that the exchange rate and the fact that each time you use your card the bank might consider blocking it due to ‘suspicious transactions’, one might wonder if there are easier ways to get to your money when living abroad.

But since I’m living in this country on a tourist visa, I wasn’t sure about that, and reading other foreigners’ experiences about opening a bank account in the Philippines on message boards I wasn’t quite hopeful I could be successful in opening one myself.

So one day I found the courage to step into a BDO office one of the many banks available in the Philippines. After doing some research on costumer-experiences and the overall prestige of banks in the Philippines I decided I wanted an account at BDO Unibank Inc, commonly known as BDO or Banco de Oro.

BDO Unibank, the largest bank in the Philippines. It belongs to the SM Group of Companies, one of the country’s largest conglomerates owned by tycoon Henry Sy. Their main competitors are BPI and Metrobank. Considering either one of these three large banks in the Philippines, I liked BDO besides their overall good performance, for their new slogan: We make it happen.

Let’s see if they could make it happen for me!

The friendly young lady at the counter told me that all I need to open a pesos online bank account is:

  • 2 different government-approved ID’s with a signature clearly shown
  • 2 1×1 size passport photos

That’s all.

There are a lot of forms to fill out and to sign once the procedure of opening an internet banking account started:

  • Personal details
  • Signature card
  • Card Application Form for Local ATM Card or BDO MasterCard Debit Card
  • Terms Of Service (the actual contract with BDO)
  • Annex 1 Facta questionnaire for foreigners

The first four are simple, just fill them out, they are pretty standard bank forms that you will probably recognize from your local bank ‘back home’.

The Annex 1 Facta

Annex 1 Facta is a special form that all foreigners have to fill out. Due to international agreements between the USA and the Philippines on money laundry and tax invasion.
For non-USA citizens or those with no financial connections to the USA it is simple, you probably answer all the questions with ‘no’, sign it and you’re done. But when you have any (financial) connection with the United States and answer one of the questions with ‘yes’ you have to apply with more detailed information.

To be honest: I have no idea what the implications are when you have (financial) ties with the USA and no other answer was given then: Due to agreements between the USA and the Philippines. But I guess it is no more than it appears to be: making sure all finances and taxes for the USA are accounted for.

Make a deposit and wrap things up

After filling out all the forms and signing them you are to sit in front of a webcam to have your picture taken at 3,2,1,……smile. Next, you are asked to make a minimum deposit of 2000 pesos. You receive a copy of the deposit slip and there is your account number. After 5 working days, you can collect your ATM card.

Due to international money laundry rules and agreements, there are strict rules on over-the-counter cash deposits. And because every country might have its’s own rules it is my advice to you to ask how much cash money you can deposit over which period.

Putting all your eggs in the basket of a Filipino bank account might not be a wise idea when your situation is about to change it might be hard to take money out of the account and out of the country due to international money laws but mostly due to the laws of the Central Bank of the Philippines.

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PLEASE NOTE: This article is over 4 years old and rules may have changed. The last time I visited BDO they questioned the account, for tourists (visa holders) are no longer allowed to have an account. Rules may vary from branch to branch and it is wise to walk in and ask for requirements first.

Another thing to consider when opening a bank account in the Philippines is that unlike in Europe where there is insurance for your assets when the bank is shut down, in the Philippines these guarantees are limited and very low.

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