8 Ways to Receive Your US Pension in the Philippines

Are you living in the US and planning to spend your retirement in the Philippines? And are you thinking of ways to receive your US pension in the Philippines?

Here are 8 ways:

  1. Direct deposit account
  2. US bank to Philippine bank via online money transfer company
  3. Wells Fargo to BDO, BPI, PNB, Metrobank, Cebuana or MLhuillier
  4. US bank to Philippine bank via US check deposit
  5. US Citibank to Citibank Philippines
  6. Use US Debit card to withdraw from Philippine ATMs
  7. Withdraw using Federal Credit Union Visa debit card
  8. Withdraw using Direct Express Mastercard prepaid debit card
  9. …Important points
ways to receive your US pension in the Philippines

1. Direct Deposit Account

Open a Direct Deposit account at a Philippine bank so your US federal agency (SSA, VA, Armed Forces, etc.) will send your monthly pension to your Philippine bank account through the Philippine bank’s branch or partner in the US.

If you like PNB or Metrobank, these banks have branches in New York City and Los Angeles, California. You can open your Direct Deposit accounts in any of these branches if you’re near them.

I already wrote a post on Direct Deposit, so if you want this process, see this post: Direct Deposit for US Pensioners in the Philippines.

2. US Bank to Philippine Bank via Online Money Transfer Company

The advantage of this process is you can control the amount of money you bring in to the Philippines every month or every transfer. And you can save some of your money in the US while living in the Philippines.

What this method entails is you maintain your present bank account in the US which is receiving your US pension. Then if not yet done, set up your online banking and do all enrollment and verification of your Philippine recipient (you or family member), if required by your bank, while still in the U.S.

Then every month or whenever you need money, transfer an amount to your Philippine bank account using an online money transfer service.

Some of the most popular online money transfer companies are:

  1. Transferwise
  2. Xoom
  3. Remitly
  4. WorldRemit

By the way, I don’t earn anything by mentioning these 4 companies. They’re just the more popular ones, and I’ve used two of them: Xoom and Remitly.

It’s Xoom that I recommended many years ago to my US boss to send my payments to me. And it’s still what we use today every month.

The advantages of Xoom over the others are: instant delivery and release in US dollars. You can get your US dollars over the counter at BDO, Metrobank, Cebuana Lhuillier or MLhuillier and then exchange your dollars at a money changer that offers high exchange rates.

With Xoom, you can also have your pension credited to a US dollar account. This shortens your stay at the bank, as you just have to make a simple withdrawal, whereas a remittance claim entails several verification processes. For smaller branches in places where US dollar withdrawal is rare, call them before going there at least a day before so they can prepare US dollar bills.

If you don’t like waiting at your bank for US dollar bills to become available, use Transferwise. Its exchange rate is the highest I know among global money transfer operators, and you’ll know how much exactly you’re going to receive in Philippine pesos, including the transfer fee, before you’ll press the final Send button.

Transferwise sends only to bank accounts and to Paymaya and GCash. No cash pickup. And only to Philippine peso accounts. The advantage of this is you don’t have to fall in line to enter your Philippine bank. You can just withdraw from any ATM. You, of course, will pay around 15 pesos if you withdraw from another bank’s machine.

Another good point for Transferwise is that you can send to more Philippine banks, more than Xoom. Any Philippine bank with a Swift code works with Transferwise.

Remitly is more flexible in terms of how you can get your money in the Philippines. You can send to a bank account or for cash pick-up. Could be in peso or US dollars. There are more transfer partners: major banks, rural banks, pawnshops, Paymaya, GCash, Coins.ph, Bayad Center and more.

WorldRemit, just like Transferwise, delivers only in Philippine peso, whether deposited to a bank account or for cash pickup. And just like Transferwise, you can also see the peso amount of your US dollars plus your transfer fee before you press the final Send button. Transfers to Metrobank, PNB and BDO accounts are instant.

3. Wells Fargo to BDO, BPI, PNB, Metrobank, Cebuana or MLhuillier

I think Wells Fargo is the only US bank which has a branded remittance service for the Philippines and 3 other Asian countries (India, China and Vietnam).

While in the US, find a Wells Fargo branch that offers the ExpressSend remittance service and open your US pension account there. The ExpressSend service sends remittances from the US to Philippine banks BDO, BPI, PNB and Metrobank and to money transfer shops Cebuana Lhuillier and MLhuillier.

Important: You need to make your first remittance while in the US. If you’re sending to yourself and to another receiver, make your first remittance to each receiver. And make sure to try your ExpressSend using online banking while still in the US. You’ll not be able to set this up while in the Philippines.

4. US Bank to Philippine Bank via Check Deposit

Some years ago, this was the cheapest way to receive US pensions in the Philippines. Those were the years when depositing a US check to a Philippine US dollar account was FREE. Now, there’s a fee for this service.

This process uses your Philippine bank account in US dollars and your US checking account, which is receiving your US pension.

Every month or whenever you need to, issue yourself a check drawn from your US bank account and deposit it into your Philippine US dollar bank account. Schedule your check deposits taking into consideration your US bank account balance, pension deposit date and the number of clearing days, which could take 2 weeks to a month.

Take note that you’ll be charged by your Philippine bank for $20 or more if your check is returned.

5. US Citibank to Citibank Philippines

If you have a Citibank account in the US, you can open a Citibank account in the Philippines, so you can take advantage of their FREE international transfer service called Citibank Global Transfers. Zero money transfer fee.

The only challenge with this process is that Citibank in the Philippines requires at least one million pesos in total relationship balance (savings, checking and investments) to maintain an account without you paying a monthly fee.

There are also the HSBC Premier Account and the Citigold Account in the US that offer VIP services, including FREE global transfers. Check them out if you have huge savings you don’t yet need that you can park with them, so you can get a VIP account.

Citibank Branches in the Philippines

6. Use US Debit Card to Withdraw from Philippine ATMs

If the US bank receiving your US pension does not charge for international withdrawals and gives you rebates for ATM fees, this method could be the best for you. Notify your bank you’ll be using your debit card in the Philippines so your card would not get blocked when your bank sees it’s being used overseas.

Note also that Philippine banks charge 200 pesos or more for every ATM withdrawal by foreign debit cards. And usually ATMs outside of central areas have lower maximum withdrawal amounts (4,000 pesos is common), which means you might have to pay 600+ pesos to withdraw a total of 12,000 pesos.

7. Withdraw Using Federal Credit Union Visa Debit Card

This comes from a US Bank Account for US Citizens Abroad Without US Residential Address.

The great thing with this account is your Visa debit card that comes with this account has no annual fees and no foreign transaction fees! And a US residential address is not required.

This ACA-Members/SDFCU Account is a deposit/savings account offered by the State Department Federal Credit Union (SDFCU) in partnership with the non-profit organization American Citizens Abroad (ACA) to US citizens living and working in other countries, either full-time or part-time.

You don’t have to be connected with the US federal government to qualify, as the SDFCU is not affiliated with the US State Department nor the US government. And you’re not required to have a US residential address.

The account can receive your Social Security pension and other federal benefits and help you manage your US taxes, tax refunds, investments, bills and credit.

You can also use this account to process your CARES Act recovery rebate direct deposit payment.

Your SDFCU Visa debit card can be used anywhere in the Philippines and other countries where VISA is accepted. The great thing is there are no annual fees and no foreign transaction fees!

Before you apply for this account at the SDFCU website, you must first register to become a member of ACA. Your ACA membership will be your qualification to become an SDFCU account owner.

Annual fees for ACA Membership:
Regular – $70
Senior (aged 65 and older) – $55
Contributing – $170
Lifetime – $600

ACA is a nonprofit membership organization headquartered in Washington, DC and established in 1978. It says it has nearly 9 million members in more than 50 countries. Its mission is to advocate for US citizens living and working abroad.

Here’s more information on this ACA-Members/SDFCU Account

8. Withdraw Using Direct Express Mastercard Prepaid Debit Card

Direct Express is a Mastercard prepaid debit card issued by Comerica Bank in partnership with the US Department of the Treasury. It can be used outside the US for ATM withdrawal and for payment at stores that accept Mastercard.

Only use this method if there’s no other option because it can be the costliest among the listed 8 ways to receive your US pension in the Philippines. The Direct Express fee for ATM withdrawal outside the US is $3.00 plus 3% of amount withdrawn. In the Philippines, you also add the local bank ATM withdrawal fee for foreign debit cards which is 200 pesos or more.

If you use it to pay at stores outside the US, the Direct Express charge is 3% of the amount you purchased.

To apply for this card while in the US, call the Direct Express card enrollment center toll free at 1 (800) 333-1795 or visit your local federal paying agency.

When calling the Customer Service Department from outside the United States, you should call 1 (765) 778-6290 (collect), or visit the Direct Express® website at www.USDirectExpress.com.

You can’t deposit your personal money into this card. The card will only accept funds paid to you by the federal government.

You can’t transfer funds from your Direct Express card to a bank account outside the US.

You may close your Direct Express card account at any time at no charge by calling the Direct Express card Customer Service Department number listed on the back of your card.

Important Points!

As you explore the 6 ways, consider these factors:

  • You need to maintain a physical address in the U.S. to maintain a US bank account year after year.* You can ask a friend or relative who’s willing to lend you their address and notify you when there’s a mail for you.
  • To open a bank account in the Philippines:
    • You need to tell your purpose or reason for opening a bank account in the Philippines. The bank will have additional reporting work to comply with the US Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), so they have to make sure your account is worth their extra effort.
    • You need to present your Alien Certificate of Registration (ACR) or Immigrant Certificate of Registration (ICR) and
    • You need to present your passport
    • You also need to have a residential address in the Philippines, and some banks might ask for proof of address (rental contract, EMS or mailed envelope with postal marks, condo ownership deed, etc).
    • You will also sign forms related to Philippine banks’ compliance with the US FATCA and regulations of the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
    • Sample Form: Metrobank’s FATCA Certification, Consent and Waiver Form
  • Most Philippine banks offering the Direct Deposit account are now offering only passbook accounts with no debit or atm cards. They say this is to protect the pensioners from fraud or deceitful acts.
  • Your total bank balance up to 500,000 pesos is insured by the Philippine Deposit Insurance Corp. (PDIC). That’s the total of all your bank balances in the same bank, in case you have different accounts in the same bank. The Philippine banking system has been stable despite the closure of a number of rural banks over the years and the closure of commercial bank Export and Industry Bank in 2012 . Several big banks even survived their US$314 million exposure to US investment bank Lehman Brothers when it collapsed in 2008.

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 *In the USA Patriot Act of 2001, a law that aims to prevent terrorism, money laundering and other financial crimes, there's no clear-cut statement that mandates US banks and  financial institutions to issue bank accounts only to US citizens who have a residential address in the US. 
But many US banks have taken it upon themselves to be more strict with their own rules to lessen their risks, including checking residential addresses when they see that all or most withdrawals are done overseas. In Section 326 of the Patriot Act, banks and other financial institutions are required to implement a customer identification program to verify the identities of customers and maintain customer records.

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