If you're already in Cebu and need to get at your money stashed away in a bank account in another country, probably the most convenient method is via an ATM card that can be used overseas. The bank where you have your account needs to have signed up to a system which allows you to do this. One of these systems is called Plus. Check the back of your ATM or credit card; if it sports the Plus logo, you can withdraw your money at ATM's in Cebu City.

Technically, money can be withdrawn at a variety of ATM's across the city, but these are often out of order or hard to get at due to long lines. The safest places to withdraw are Citibank or HSBC, in the Cebu Business Park. In the case of Citibank, since you only need to swipe your card, there is no risk that the machine will swallow it and leave you up the creek without a paddle. Also, Citibank rarely run out of money, unlike some of the small ATM machines throughout the city, which are operated by local banks (such as the United Coconut Planters Bank).

If you're still abroad and wish to transfer money to Cebu, you could go for the tried and tested but expensive Western Union, who tied up with a chain of pawnshops and are located all over Cebu Province. Since remittances from abroad to the Philippines constitute a massive chunk of the Philippine economy, these places do brisk business, and large numbers of people are lining up at all hours of the day to withdraw dollars sent by relatives and sugar daddies in the US (the pawnshops will give you actual dollars). There's even a 24 hour station at Fuente Osmena.

A company which has been advertising a lot is Xoom. Recipients in the Philippines can withdraw money at any Equitable PCI Bank branch, and there's plenty of those in Cebu City. It's about time Western Union got some real competition and Xoom seem to be up to the task.

An even newer option is SMART Padala. SMART, a major cellular phone company, and have devised a system, called Padala, whereby beneficiaries of funds receive a text message which can be converted into cash at certain outlets. The number of places money can be received (in Cebu) or sent (in the US) are limited. But SMART Padala is definitely cheaper than Western Union.

In May, 2005, a reader of this website informed us that iKobo is a good way to send money. The company sends an ATM card to the recipient, and the recipient can use this ATM card to withdraw at Plus-enabled ATM's. I suppose this system is feasible if the remittances are likely to be on a regular basis, or at least more than a one-time occurrence, and the recipient is unlikely to lose the card. Ikobo went bankrupt in 2008.

Lastly, you could also send a wire transfer to a local bank account. This is usually fairly quick. However, in case of bank accounts at certain banks - such as the PS Bank for one - the money must be wired to a bank in the US and rerouted to the Philippines in case the originating bank is not located in the US. This takes time and increases the risk of problems.

It should be noted that, as of May, 2005, PayPal do not yet have a system in place in the Philippines.


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