Saturday, April 27, 2013

Don't Let This Happen To You

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, 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. 


Kano said...

Hi Rick,

It's good that you found a cheaper way of receiving money in the Philippines. You can't expect a cheap way of receiving money from any bank.

Yes, it's also a good thing that one has a good relationship with any business, especially when money matters are concerned and doing smooth transactions, like in your case.

Don't worry too much about this, as in a couple of next transactions, thinks will be forgotten over there at Xoom.

Just an experience how unfriendly some banks are, but rather individual tellers.

Went to a local bank for about Php 8,000 withdrawal. You may know that you can only withdraw funds from the teller from your brach where you opened your account with.

I opened an account there about 5 years ago, much earlier than when this teller was hired there.

The teller asked me for ID and my ATM card, but somehow, since she did not see me there every day, she did not recognize me, and went to the branch manager (who probably is also a new employee - not later than 5 years' service) with my ID and ATM card and when she came back to me, the teller told me that I should go to the Automated Teller Machine (ATM) to get the P8,000 out. I duly went there and found out that my ATM card was damaged, probably the branch manager took it out from its plastic protection encasement and investigated the card and somehow split the card in half, so I wounded up with two thin cards that did not stick together anymore.

A fault of the manufacturer that makes ATM cards in the Philippines. I knew, the ATM card was not new, about 5 years, so these cards get worn out.

Luckily, I had also my wife's ATM card with me from the same bank and was then able to get the P8,000 out of the machine.

It just shows of how untrusty the tellers and managers are with their clients. Also, a lack of service on their part not to tell me that I should order a new ATM card.

They knew, I was not going to get any money from their machine with a damaged card. They were just laughing at me. Kick this guy out the bank. He is untrusty.

Rick, there's a small typo error on the title of your latest blog subject.


Secular Guy said...


Last things first. Thanks for the heads-up about the typo. My wife and I both vetted the file before I published it. Yet we both missed that error. It's enough to make one believe in gremlins. (lol)

Thanks for sharing your experience about the bank transaction. I second your emotion about customer service, especially in those institutions. Red tape must be one of the Philippines' chief imports.

Kano said...

Hi Rick,

After reading my comment, I also see a few typo errors and even some wrong words.

Yes, red tape is king here in the Philippines. It's certainly more than in Canada and probably also than in the U.S.

Secular Guy said...

As for red tape, when BDO cancelled a bunch of ATM depbit cards, mine included, over suspected compromised security last month, they put the onus on the cardholders and made us jump through hoops to get necessary replacement cards even though it was not our fault that it was the bank's decision that we had to get new cards.

Kano said...

Yes, BDO seem to have a security problem lately. My wife and I do have an account with BDO, and we tried to check our balance from their website, and things have changed.

They came up with the idea to introduce a One-Time Password (OTP). It's a password code number that is always being sent to your registered SMS mobile phone number everytime you login to BDO Online Banking.

When that changed, we just happened to change our cell SIM card and when I tried to get into our BDO on-line banking account, I was a little stuck as I needed a OTP code number first, and did now have it.

This was a surprise, and I had to go the other route by just answering a personal question to get into our on-line account.

Since we still have our old cell SIM card (in the cell phone box), I checked on this old one and yes, BDO did sent us the OTP code number, but you have to get into your online account within 10 minutes later with their code number, and since this was long ago, this code number they gave us was already absolete.

I stil can get into our account via answering a personal question.

I guess, BDO has grown very rapidly, and has a very high client base, no wonder that some clients are now trying to break into the on-line systems.

BTW, the other bank with our ATM card issue was Metrobank, but as my wife and I went to the bank on Thursday to request for new ATM cards, we were surprised to meet some friendly people and they could give us new cards on the spot, due to the fact they had the machines to create and activate the new cards.

Usually, one has to wait for about
3 days before you can pick up your ATM card.

As it turned out, a relief for one and a burden (red tape again) for the onter one now.

It can happen to many banks, not only here but also if you have a ATM card from another bank in another country.

Since I was a Belgian, we also happened to have a small bank account at a Belgian bank, and a number of years ago, the bank gave us also an ATM card there, but a little later, when we were back in the Philippines, we received a notice from that bank that foreigners living overseas could not get any funds from this bank with their ATM cards anymore, due to fraud or theft from clients that happened before from one of the foreign card holders.

So, things can change very quickly in this world of technology.

Secular Guy said...


Again, last things first. As frustrating as your experience with BDO must have been (and on the other hand redemptive with Metrobank), the mre disturbing clincher was your story about Belgian bank's pulling the rug out from under its overseas ATM cardholders. Let that be a cautionary reminder to the rest of us. There's no telling just what banks will do to their customers--just because they can.

Anonymous said...

what about Paypal to transfer funds from a bank in the USA to BDO in Phils? I support a kid in college and this is how I send money to him. Just yesterday, I sent $200 and paypal charged me $1. Not sure what BDO charges on their end. It does take 3-5 days to get the money into your BDO account.

Secular Guy said...

Thanks for your suggestion, Anonymous. I hadn't even thought about Paypal for that function and will be sure to check this out.

Anonymous said...

I previously used XOOM. I now use They have a higher rate. I use this to deposit money in pesos or dollars to my Philippine Bank from my US Bank, or to send peso or dollars to family in the PI.

Secular Guy said...


Thanks for taking the time to furnish this the tip. I will definitely check out thsy service.