Just looked at the clock and calendar and realized I have been sitting here blogging and neglected a trip to the bank … I have to go and fit that in pretty soon, I guess right after lunch before I take my usual siesta.
Many people have talked to me before and I have written a bit about how foreigners typically handle their money here when your home, and sources of income, are far away “across (one of) ‘the ponds.”
My income (from some pension funds and from my Internet entrepreneurial efforts) is all US based. I’m blessed with a comfortable income … but when your money is 7,000+ miles away there is a definite problem in spending it here in the Philippines. Here’s what works for me. Others may have some different methods top contribute, which I’ll be happy to hear about.
Have a Home Country Bank:
Actually, I have use a federal credit Union … SSFCU, I’ve been with them for years and they offer great customer service and a fully-staffed 24 hour help desk that has always given me the right answers the few times I needed to seek assistance. I’m lucky enough to have a US mailing address here in the Philippines because of my military retired status so the address for checks, paper statements and such is no problem. If you will have to use a Philippine address you’ll need to contact your current institution directly and see what their rules are.
I get paper statements sent every month strictly for paper trail purposes .. I do all my banking with SSFCU’s excellent online banking services. Many other banks and credit unions today equal or exceed their level of services … so for bills you may have back in the US and such it’s very easy to make and manage payments online.
Have a US Address:
I’m very lucky because one of my sons still lives in the US and let’s me use his mailing address. this make sit very easy for me to actually deal with individuals and businesses in the US as if I were still a resident there. If you don’t have a family member you can count on, there are a number of commercial mail receiving/forwarding services that you can set up as an alternative.
Have a US Phone Number:
In today’s world the telephone is really a key to all sorts of personal business. There is also no reason at all not to have a US phone number and do basically all your business via the phone. Vonage, Skype, Yahoo! and dozens of others all have plans that let you have a US number that people can call that will ring in your home in the Philippines … either on a ‘regular’ phone, your computer, or both.
Have a Philippines Bank:
It would certainly be possible to live without my bank here in the Philippines (I use BDO, Banco de Oro … the bank of gold) but I find it very convenient to have a local bank and wouldn’t care to be without them. I do have American friends here, though, who have been here long-term … some nearly 30 years … and have never had a Philippine bank account. They live off their ATM cards from US banks, mainly. If you shop around there are a number of US banks that do not charge at all for ATM use, so this method can work for many of you.
Write Yourself Checks:
The reason I personally won’t rely on ATM card use alone is because even as a dyed-in-the-wool Internet enthusiast I don’t trust the ATM network to be ‘up’ all the time. If you read the news today you can imagine there are a lot of people in India, as just one example, who are getting a lot of “Unable To Dispense Cash” messages. (This article was written a day after a big banking network failure in India had knocked out access to hundreds of thousands of cash machines) I do have an ATM card from my US Credit Union and I do use it a few times a year to withdraw cash (Philippine pesos at that day’s current exchange rate). This is my back-up, secondary means of getting cash to live on.
My tertiary (third) backup is a US-based credit card with a high credit limit. I use this card only a few times ayear, just to keep it ‘alive”. The purpose behind this card is strictly an emergency … a sudden hospital addmisison or a sudden need for an airline ticket home. I keep no balance on it, and it has no yearly charge. If it was used for a cash advance, the fees would be steep … 3% or $50 USD per cash advance (loan), but that’s OK, becuase with a little luck I’ll never need it.
My primary method? The first of every month I write myself a check from my US credit union and physically deposit it in my local BDO dollar account. Aside from a trip to the bank … which is easy, since it is in the local mall … the inconvenience of that method is, the checks take 25 banking days to clear. That is, if I write a check today, 1 February, it is not going to be available for withdrawal for my account until the beginning of March. Sometimes it takes a little less time .. in December the check I wrote on 1 November showed up about the 8th as I recall … but it’s not really an area of concern … I keep more than a couple months living expenses in the dollar savings account so I am never hanging around the bank, breathlessly waiting for my check to clear.
Of course I mentioned these transactions are in dollars. As required I just ask my bank to transfer dollars to my Philippine Pesos savings account, which takes just a few minutes … and with BDO i get a tiny ‘sweetener’, something like an extra .05 Pesos per dollar changed to help make up for the atrocious exchange rate.
So that, in a nut shell is how I live. Write myself a check from my US bank every month, deposit that check in my Philippine bank, and spend money (either cash or Philippine ATM card) that’s in my Philippine bank to pay my bills and buy my lechon manok