Like thousands of other American senior citizens living abroad, I receive a monthly social security check which is deposited directly into my bank account in the U.S.. In order to pay my living expenses in the Philippines, there are a couple of ways to conveniently access those funds and simultaneously convert them to pesos without physically going to a local currency exchange office. One is with an an ATM card from the above referenced bank. This can be used at almost any local ATM, which BTW dispenses funds in the local currency. But this is an expensive proposition as my bank charges both a $2.50 out of network and a 3% currency conversion fee. So if I use my card to get, say, $500.00 (approx. PHP 20,175), I wind up paying $17.50 for this service.
An alternative way of receiving money from the U.S. is via an online money transfer service, such as Xoom.com, which will deliver money from bank accounts in almost any country to the Philippines, right to your door or directly into your local bank account, in either dollars or in Philippine pesos. This is the transfer system that I've been using for a couple years each month, and it's not only efficient, but relatively inexpensive as well. The fee is only $4.99 to transfer amounts up to $2,999, and at a fair rate of exchange and with no additional currency conversion fees.
This arrangement worked out for me without a hitch until last month. Before then, I had managed to build a relationship with this company such that I would order a money transfer from my U.S. bank to my local institution and the transaction would be completed within a few hours.
But this speedy access of funds came to a screeching halt due a careless clerical oversight on my part. It seems that I had I neglected to place the money in the bank account from which Xoom collects their payment. By the time I discovered the error, it was too late. Xoom had paid me and had then unsuccessfully tried to collect the funds from my bank. Of course I immediately corrected the matter, but the damage had been done. Hence, when I used Xoom this month to transfer funds, they took several days instead of a couple hours to complete my order because they wanted to ensure that the funds in my U.S. bank account were there.
I don't know how long it will take to re-establish my standing with Xoom to the point that I will once again enjoy the privilege of priority service, but the lesson is clear. It takes just one mistake to upset a good relationship, business or otherwise. And when it involves a major portion of your regularly scheduled income, it can have serious consequences. When your bank or money transfer service is located on the other side of the world, you can't just walk into the office and straighten things out with the manager.
So by my relaying this incident embarrassing as it is, if my mistake prompts other expats to stay alert with their financial transactions, then that's all that matters.