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How to get money out of the Philippines?

My son and I transferred a lot of Euros to our Peso account (big mistake because of the weakening peso!!). The initial idea was to invest in a business in the Philippines. But we changed our minds and now we have the unpleasant task of transferring all the money back to Europe.

We opened a BDO Online Peso Savings Account after receiving our first ACR-iCard, proof of long stay in the Philippines, and we received a BDO Mastercard, a debit card that can connect through Cirrus. Well accepted, within its own limitations and daily limits in the Philippines, but a monster to use online since it gets refused a lot and when we were in Kuala Lumpur we could only withdraw cash from the ATM at Islamic Bank and one other vague ATM machine, all the other bigger banks did not accept the card. So when traveling or purchasing things online we highly depend on our Dutch credit cards.

Yesterday we had our first run to the money exchanger in order to start transferring our money back to Europe.

At the money exchanger?? Why not transfer money from your account back to Europe, piece of cake, no need for a money exchanger!

Let me explain…..and bare with me…. let’s step back in the middle ages of banking:

We thought: swift code, account number, valid ID, and done!! But that did not work….it works, getting money INTO the Philippines. But getting money out of the Philippines is a whole new era of understanding, (or not understanding) how banks in the Philippines work.

Due to the financial laws worldwide for several reasons like money laundering, terrorism-oriented financial transactions, and other illegal stuff, financial borders are shutting down.
Due to financial laws from Banco Central Philippines, no money is to be transferred out of the country, only to keep the peso high and enforce regional economic growth.  It is kind of a one-way street.

Ah, now I hear all the “experienced” expats tell me that I can use Western Union or Padala Express or whatever money transfer service online: Well sir, get your facts straight, it is not happening anymore. The laws have changed, as Western Union informed me: since January 2018 and there is no money going out of the Philippines or the Philippine peso is no longer supported.

Only…..and only …….when you have a person collecting money on the other end, in person, you can send money through money gram, Western Union, etc. Online services simply do not support the Peso any longer or not yet.

So here we are, ready to leave, but we dare not to leave your money behind, especially not in a country where most bank transactions are handled manually and money gets lost easily. I remember receiving a refund from a payment coming from the US, and it was lost for over 6 months. And nobody seemed to care. I had to visit the BDO branch over and over again before I got someone’s attention that focussed on my case and found the money to forward it to my account. It only took 6 months……6 months……!!

No need to tell you we are also not relying on our badly accepted BDO Mastercard and we will not leave the money here in the Philippines without us being present to keep a tab on things.

So we looked for a solution, and there is one, but it is very complicated and very time consuming and we have not yet tested the full extent of it

We opened a BDO US Dollar account. A BDO Euro Account will not allow you to transfer money to Europe only from Europe into the Philippines. For some dark unexplainable third world country economic reason.

We opened a US$ account at our BDO Branche, and here it becomes stupid: We have to manually withdraw pesos from our Peso Savings account (Online banking account) go to the money exchanger to transfer them to US$, deposit the dollars manually to the dollar account through the cashier, wait for 2 weeks for the money to be available (it is visible in the USDollar account online, but not available), than transfer it to any foreign bank account, so in this case our ABN Amro account.

We are now in the process of waiting 2 weeks for the first deposit to be available and test the transfer to the Netherlands. And we are a bit anxious about it. For so far none of the bank staff has informed us correctly on any matter. All knowledge we have so far we learned through experience.

Now, why not buy US$ at the BDO Branche? Yes well, we tried that yesterday, but you have to show a plane ticket to the country of the currency you buy in order to purchase that currency. So in our case: a ticket to the US. Insane? Yes, insane. So here you are; wanting to travel to Singapore, you need to have a ticket to Singapore, otherwise, you cannot buy Singapore Dollars in advance.
With us traveling to a European destination, we cannot buy Euros at BDO branches unless we have a valid plane ticket.

If you have a Philippine Peso Account you are not able to transfer money back to your foreign bank account

I summerise for you:

  • You need a US$ account to transfer money to a foreign bank account
  • You need to withdraw cash from your Philippine Peso account
  • You need to exchange your cash pesos to US dollars outside the bank office at a random money exchanger
  • You need to deposit the US Dollars manually with proof of ownership (the exchange receipt) to your US$ account at the Bank teller
  • You need to wait for 2 whole weeks for the deposit to be available for you
  • You need to transfer through online banking to a European account
  • You need to pay a transaction fee

Now some banks might allow you to transfer money from Peso accounts to Foreign accounts but ask carefully about hidden fees and taxes and how long it takes for the money to be cleared and transferred. For they will have to report the transaction and you have to pay a huge amount of export taxes over the amount and both the Philippine bank and your own National bank will charge you for the transaction.

Using your Paypal and/or your Philippine debit or credit card connected to is extremely expensive

So far the US$ account seems to be the best option for us to transfer a lot of money back to Europe. I will keep you posted on this topic, for we are not there yet.

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2 reacties

  • JC from Holland

    you have to do it exactly as I describe in the article, there is no other way to do it. That is the law. Open a US Dollar account at your BDO branch, use a trusted money exchange broker (your bank probably knows someone since you are not the only one with this problem), and start transferring bit by bit, with manual given orders in the BDO and money exchange office. It will take some time but it is the only way that works as far as I know. we lost a huge chunk of our money due to fees and transaction costs. So you have to be in the Philippines to do this. Good luck!

  • Mikael Laurel

    I have similar concern regarding sending back my money from the Philippines to Europe. How did it go with you? I have a BDO peso savings. I´m planning to fly to Philippines to get my money maybe after easing the restriction due to pandemic. I have opened a Transferwise US dollar account and they gave me account details, Swift code and routing number. I looked at my BDO online banking there is nowhere there asking for routing number if I were to wire money to Europe and use my US dollar account as the recipient. Please advice. Thank you.