If you’re an American or probably from most other Western nations, you are probably not going to like the way bills are paid in the Philippines. In short, you pay your bills in person. Not only are they not usually paid via postal service, you get up and go to each utility company and the bank to pay your bills. There are indications that things are improving. Things do often get better here. When I first arrived here in 2008, you could not use a foreign credit card at most stores. Now, at the larger retailers and many smaller shops you can use them. Often with a 5 percent surcharge but you do often have the option.
Paying your bills electronically, either via your bank or the providers website is practically, if not totally, unheard of. Even when you order something online you have to go withdraw money from your account and deposit it in their account. Then contact the seller and give them the information so they can verify and process your order.
Paying Your Utility Bills in the Philippines
In Cebu City, generally you go to the VECO office to pay your electric bill. If you have a land line, you go to that provider’s office. Yes,
there is more than one and incidentally, your phone book will only have the phone numbers for those people that use that provider. If anyone publishes a unified phone book, I’ve never seen it. I don’t know where water is paid for but it is probably provided by the city and they will have another office for you to go to. In Bogo City, I saw it but if you didn’t pay by a certain time, you had to go to their office which was far outside of the main city in order to pay your bill. Jessie had to go there a couple of times.
Once you arrive at each location, you will usually take a number and have a seat. I don’t know how long it takes but if it is quick, that would be a massive surprise to me. Quick is one thing the Philippines is not known for. For example, when you go to virtually any restaurant in the USA as soon as you are seated, you are offered drinks. Usually in hopes that you will drink it before your food gets there and order more. That’s smart. Here? No way, you might get thirsty waiting for someone to offer you something to drink. Then, more than likely they will fill all the orders for drinks at one time. Perhaps 30 minutes later, you will see one person walking around the floor with a lot of drinks on a tray. In some ways, customer service is better here. Cable or DSL people will come out on Saturday or even on Sunday. In other ways that old “Fall in line” mentality of Asia is foremost in customer service. One size will fit all and if it doesn’t, oh well, you can do without. Individualism is pretty much a thing of your Western past in the Philippines and it’s probably the same way throughout Asia.
I have a Philippines credit card and I have to go to the bank to pay it. Stand in line for at least 30 minutes and pay the cashier. She can’t tell me what I even owe. I have no clue because since I left Bogo City, I’ve not seen any statements. I tried to change my address at the bank but they told me to call the 800 number on the back of my card to do that. I can’t call that number from my room. I can from the hotel lobby but I haven’t done it because I hate talking on the phone, especially here because people don’t understand my accent. They especially don’t understand numbers when I say them. I ran into that when I order food to be delivered. Now that Jessie is here, I will call and tell them what I want but let Jessie handle it from there. I wanted Jhen to do that but she was never here enough to get it done. So far, I have forgotten to do it when Jessie and I go to the lobby.
Paying Your Bills in the Philippines is Getting Better
I do see movement toward improvement. When I go to an ATM, I have recently started seeing a message that I can pay my bills there. I have not actually tried that and until I start getting bank statements again, I will not try it. Since I am in a hotel, the only bill I have to pay is my credit card and hotel bill. I don’t have the pain of going to the various providers to pay.
You also have the option to pay many of your bills at a 7-Eleven. I have not tried it, if you have, please let me know in the comments below.
Banks, at least my bank has signs posted all over their lobby advertising their online banking. You can login from your mobile device. For me, the problem has been signing up. First I did not have my full account number. I got that from the bank. I just needed to add two zeros to the beginning of the number I had. However, when I started the process to the “Quick sign up” I ran into problem. The thing times out before I get all the information entered and then I have to start over. I got passed that but then it wanted an “Identifying number.” I have no idea what number they want. I tried several but none worked. Later, I wondered if it as my phone number. I have not tried since then. I plan to let Jessie give that a try. I am supposed to be able to pay my credit card bill from the app. So for now, five months after seeing the signs, I still go to the bank to pay my credit card bill but this last month, Jessie went for me.
Banks in the Philippines are not Centralized
When Jessie moved from Tacloban 7 years ago, she tried to move her account to Cebu City. She was told to go to Tacloban and close her account there and then open one here in Cebu City. My ATM card needs to be replaced. When I asked about that, I was told I had to go back to Bogo City to do that. Guess what, that’s not going to happen. That’s freaking insane! I will open one here as they suggested. I’ll stop using the one in Bogo City and it will be closed for me. What? In the decade of 2010? You must be joking! Nope, that’s just the way it is. Take it or leave it. It takes six hours to go to Bogo City and back by bus. It just isn’t going to happen. At most banks, you must provide an Alien Registration Card (ACR) to open a bank account. It isn’t a law but a bank policy. There are a few banks that don’t require you to have one but most will. Though, I’ve been told if you go in and just ask to open one, they will do it. The people that did that may have had a large initial deposit, I do not know. I had to get one. For most, It is no longer an issue because soon after you arrive, you will be required to have one with most types of visas. The only exception I know of is a Balikbayan visa. The Residential Retirement Visa may include that or exempt you from it too. It is hard for me to wrap my head around the idea that you need to move your account if you move to a different city but you do if you live in the Philippines.
Do you live in the Philippines? Are your experiences different from mine? They might be in the National Capitol Region (NCR) which includes Manila. I don’t know. If you have questions or thoughts, please ask in the comments section below. As you can see throughout this article, in many ways customer service in the Philippines is going to be one of the adjustments you’re going to have to make to your standard of living in the Philippines. There are many others, if you are rigid in your ways it may be a hard adjustment for you. Just don’t join in the chorus of foreigners complaining. The complaints start with ‘Back in my homeland they do it”…. Well it isn’t your homeland. As Jessie told me many times, get use to it. Now, I often tell her the same thing. Like when she says “I’m cold.” When she was in Tacloban, she often told me “It’s so hot” and for starting in June, I warned her, “It will soon be too cold.” An easy prediction and I was correct haha.
Filed under: Finicial Issues for Expats
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