I have been in the Philippines virtually since August of 2014 when I first arrived here on a scouting mission so to speak. Originally I arrived here with about $1200.00 CDN funds which at the time with exchange was PhP47,500 which I figured would be more than enough for the 15 – 20 days I was planning on staying here. One thing that I always notice is the big Western Union billboards and signs on almost every corner here in the Philippines. It was kind of like this in Cambodia but not as many, Thailand there were a large number of Western Union places as well, though I never ever thought of using one. That was then, this is now for sure.
Western Banks (TD Canada Trust)
Nightmares returned very quickly when I had to withdraw some money to help cover off my stay in Bacolod. One of the reasons I went through so much money so quickly was needing to make three months rent payment in order to get my lease, not to mention the Php2,000 I had to give for utilities incase I take off and leave the landlord hanging. So I approached the ATM, knowing this was going to be painful. I was planning on withdrawing about PhP20,000, so I inserted my bank card, and did what was needed to have it denied….knowing this had to do with the amount I was asking for, I started reducing the amount I was asking for, and much to my horror, I was only aloud to take PhP10,000 out at one time. This was something to do with the ATM’s here in the Philippines and not with TD Canada Trust. However, each and every withdrawal I was charged $5.00 CDN for accessing my money, plus the most horrible exchange rate you can find. I compared to what I was getting at TD Canada Trust to what the exchange rate was at Western Union and there is about a 3 or 4 peso difference per CDN dollar, and certainly not to the advantage of the customer. Disgusted, I turned to my sister who works for a bank, and she said she could send money through Western Union right from her online banking access. What?? How can this be, if I wanted to transfer money to myself in Bacolod, I had to pay about $30 – $45 at TD Canada Trust, and the best part is the customer service people tell me I need to be there in order to do it. But I am in the Philippines, well sir I am sorry. Yes you are sorry for sure!!
Fees with Western Union out of Canada works something like this. Money in minutes $9.50, and I have sent up to PhP35,000 where if I were to do that through the ATM and TD Canada Trust I would have to pay $5.00 per Php10,000 or in this example almost $20.00 CDN. When you are living on a fixed income this is a lot of money. With Bank of Montreal which is where my sister works she sinds me whatever amount I ask her too, at any hour of the day or night, directly through her Online Banking accounts and I pay about $11.00 Cdn per $1000.00 dollars. Plus, the exchange rate is fantastic. I will see it advertised at a certain rate and Western Union seems to offer it about 1 – 1.5 pesos more than what you will find at the bank.
Now I know why there are so many Western Union centers here in the Philippines. The vast number of Overseas Filipino Workers and the amount of money sent back to the family, and with the way banking laws and banks operate so much money would be lost to big business. I think it’s time the banks are regulated in the amount of services fees they are allowed to levy on their customers, especially since now a days its pretty much a given you need to have a bank account.