Long-term travel: How to manage your finances (Filipino & British Banks

Long-term travel: How to manage your finances (Filipino & British Banks)

BZFLAG Medina Inspiration and Love Stories, Travel Blog 29 Comments

This article is inspired by our readers who’ve been asking us how we manage our finances on the road. Some might think that having a Filipino bank account might be a problem when traveling, but I can assure you it isn’t! This is based on our experience and might only be relevant for travelers with a Philippines Bank Account and/or UK Bank Account. Jonathan and I don’t have any credit cards as we only use cash, our debit cards, and Paypal. (Update: We just applied to get two credit cards last February but it’s only because it’s quite hard to travel around USA and Europe without it, most of the hotels would ask to hold the card when you check in aside from booking flight tickets. Anyway, we survived traveling the world for two years without credit cards!)

How to manage long term travel finances

Some of you already know how we funded our South America backpacking adventures and it’s all because of all the jobs we’ve done while traveling, mainly teaching English and practicing massage. If you want to know how YOU can fund your travels, then check out this previous article and our list of Practical travel jobs you can do while traveling.

Monkey DividersKACH Finances – Philippines Bank Account

BZFLAG Travel - Pamukkale Turkey 14

Enjoying Pamukkale!

When I left Kuwait and Iraq to travel long term, I went home to the Philippines to handle some formalities, most of which was about my bank account. I already had a BPI (Bank of the Philippines Islands) account from my University days, so I decided to stick with them.

First of all, I opened a Dollar Account aside from my Peso Savings Account, then activated my Online Banking, then I activated the ATM Cards for International transactions and lastly registered my sister’s bank account as my beneficiary so I could transfer money to her online.

For the first five months of my travel, I tried not to use the bank savings and relied solely on the money I had in cash and the money I earned while traveling (teaching English/ freelance gigs), but there were still a few issues that I wish I had settled before leaving the Philippines.

I can use my BPI bank card in South East Asia, India, UK and now in South AmericaPeru, Chile, and Bolivia.

ISSUE 1: The BPI Bank Card only has CIRRUS – therefore I can’t book stuff online, nor can withdraw money in banks easily that only accept VISA and MASTERCARD. The solution, which I discovered later, is that I should have APPLIED for and OPENED a VISA DEBIT CARD that is connected to my Savings account. BPI has one, but I can’t get it now as I’m not in the country so I linked my sister’s bank account to mine to get her a VISA DEBIT CARD – so I can still transfer money to her if I need her to pay for something online on my behalf.

I initially had issues understanding part of my online banking, but an awesome reader who happened to work in BPI (Thanks, Jack Lloyd Derramas!) helped me to sort it out, and I couldn’t be happier with my BPI bank service!

Monkey DividersJonathan’s Finances – UK Bank Account

Istria - Croatia - BZFLAG Travel 24

Before leaving the UK, Jonathan already had his Barclays account, and he applied for a prepaid CAXTON FX currency card which is connected to his Barclays. He can transfer money to his Caxton card, and most ATM withdrawals are FREE. Unlike in the Philippines, British bank accounts have something called an “overdraft,” which means that they can still take money from their current account (for a daily fee) to use even if they don’t actually have any money! It’s more like a short term loan than a credit card, but spending money you don’t have can be just as risky. Jonathan refuses to even apply for a credit card!

Monkey Dividers

JOINT FINANCES – Steps on How We Handled it

After few months of dating and agreeing that we will start having our savings together, Jon and I have decided that I would handle the financial documentation. I’m an avid fan of Excel Spreadsheet, and I always track and document how much we spend and earn!

passports

Jon and I lived in Vietnam together for seven months, but in Vietnam, you can’t easily transfer money outside of the country, and while working there we got paid in cash. We could have opened an HSBC account, but we decided not to. So when we left Vietnam and flew to Singapore, we sent half of our savings to my BPI account and half of it was kept in CASH while traveling around India (I will tell you later how to handle your CASH)

First Step – Decide where to put the Travel Money and Long-term Savings – you should separate them! (Yes, even while traveling we try to save money for our future plans)

So since Jon’s UK account is a debit card and has access to Visa/Mastercard ATMs, we decided that we would use his bank account for our travel expenses while my BPI account would be for our long-term savings! (But if you only have a Philippines account then make sure to apply for a VISA Debit card before you leave the country! It will save you a lot of hassle!)

Second Step– Open a Local Bank Account

Since we already have the bank accounts for our travels and you already know that we live in a place for longer time – Vietnam and Peru. We decided to open a local bank account. We didn’t do it in Vietnam as we only discovered it when we were about to leave. In Peru, we opened an account with Banco Azteca – we have a Peruvian Soles and Dollar Account so we can receive and keep our teaching salaries. Yes, you can apply even if you’re on a Tourist or Business visa.

Third Step– Create a Pay Pal Account

Jon and I started to earn money online recently, so we created a Pay Pal account and we connected it to his UK Bank account so we can easily withdraw money wherever we go. With Pay Pal, we can also pay for things online! I’m also about to create a Pay Pal account connected to my Peso account for our savings!

Fourth Step – Always have CASH

This is a must! Not all cities in every country have ATM and sometimes you will have to cross international borders, where no one accepts your Visa / Mastercard debit cards. Being out of cash can be a big hassle unless you’re traveling with someone who can lend you money.

When I was backpacking on my own, I travelled mostly with cash on hand, and it was all separated – some was in my day bag (small backpack) together with my laptop, a few hundred in my big backpack (at the bottom of it), a few hundred with my passport wallet/belt bag. I even had some money hiding in my toiletries bag, wrapped in plastic!

How much should you have? I used to have a daily budget and monitored it weekly. Now that I’m with Jon, our daily backpacking budget is $25/day (together), and we withdraw the money on a weekly basis – $175/week. If we splurge at the beginning of the week, then we have to manage how we will survive the rest of the week. If we don’t spend any money at the beginning, then we can splurge on stuff at the end. The thing is, we’re not a crazy party couple anymore, and we rarely drink as it’s too expensive for us and we don’t like wasting our time with hangovers.

Also, we always have our emergency money – We have $100 stashed with our passport wallet or another safe place just in case. It’s been very helpful when we were stuck at the end of Aysen Region in Patagonia, which is 600Km from the main city, where there was no ATM and there’s only a bus twice a week! I love that $100 bill!

Fifth Step – Learn How to Budget

This is the most important of them all. Sure, you already have your bank account set up, and you already have all your cash, but if you don’t track it then it will be gone with the wind before you can say, ‘One Pad Thai and a Singha beer, please!’

It’s a good start to use your online banking to track your withdrawals, but I highly suggest that you also document your daily expenses so you can track where you’re spending your hard-earned money! This is great especially if you plan to travel long term and you want to have a sustainable travel lifestyle where you EARN and SAVE money while on-the-road.

Jon and I have traveled a lot, but we tend to stay in one place to save a bit then travel again, we’re now starting to save money for our dream of building our Yoga and Ayurveda resort in the Philippines! So, we make sure that when we earn money now – half of it will go to our travel budget and half goes to our Philippines savings goal!

TECHNIQUE: Have small envelopes to divide your expenses – food, accommodation, drinks, and activities. You can also download some mobile apps or do it the traditional way, using Excel spreadsheet (my favorite!)

Monkey Dividers

SUMMARY OF TIPS

1. Get a Bank Account with Online Banking

2. Apply for an online DEBIT card connected with your Savings or Current Account

3. Create a PAYPAL account connected to your bank account

4. Carry CASH but learn how to separate your money

5. Have at least 100USD stashed with your passport as your Emergency money

6. Have awesome siblings or family members to help you out – my sister has been helping me whenever I need something to process in the Philippines while Jon’s siblings have all helped us in a lot of ways whenever we weren’t able to transfer money or access our accounts.

7. Don’t forget to BUY THAT !

BZFLAG and Jonathan

Now, Jon and I are debt-free and are starting to grow our savings for our dream Yoga resort in an island Paradise – not all backpackers don’t care about their finances! Actually, backpacking helped us a lot with learning to manage our finances smartly!

There you have it! If you need help planning your dream, long-term backpacking adventure or how to have a sustainable travel lifestyle, feel free to us here. (You can also help us with our travel funds!)

How about you? How do you handle your finances while on the road?

Monkey Dividers

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Comments 29

  1. Hi, I’m from Philippines. Are you sure this is a VISA DEBIT CARD? Not Prepaid Mastercard? I never found this VISA Debit Card in BPI site. I am currently lookig for the best bank to use for international withdrawal/ transaction since I’ll be in a long-term travel next month.

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  2. The post is really helpful. I liked the method you used. As you mentioned the PayPal account is a good idea, but the 4% service and the exchange rate is very high. As I am from India and I am collecting the money from my International customers through PayPal. Due to this charges, I am loosing lot of money.

    Will it be safe to carry the Cash in all places?

  3. This post is really helpul. Thanks! And I like how you mentioned that you guys are also saving for your long term goals. There are some people who tend to forget that. I suggest you guys invest as well so your money isn’t just sleeping in your savings acct.

  4. I love your blog! I’m also dreaming of quitting work and taking the travel path. I have lots of anxieties on this since I am gonna travel solo. Lots of doubt but still want to make it real. I’m gonna follow your guides from pre-travel tips to real action on the road 🙂 Thanks a lot for your helpfulness through your blog. I can feel your generosity and concern for travel dreamers like me.

  5. Hi BZFLAG & Jon! Good Day! Hope all is well with you guys in Cuba. I have online banking with BPI & BDO. Im worried that once I access them outside the country, it will ask for an OTP thru my registered globe mobile number. I will cut this globe line just before I leave the country in June 2016.

    When you opened your online banking outside of PH, did it ask for an OTP number?

    How did you go about it?

    Thanks!

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      Hey Mar, how’s your trip planning? I didnt need it and I never had a Philippines number since I had my online banking but what I highly suggest, you go BPI and ask them directly. =)

      Excited for your trip! Where are you going soon?

  6. Really very helpful for travelers! More or less every traveler has bitter experience with managing finance while travelling! This could help them!

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  7. Hi BZFLAG, it was great to read your article. My husband and i managed to get to travel around thailand for 4 months recently and has inspired us to travel for longer within the next year. It would mean we would have to give up our jobs both of us are in our 50’s. While in thailand we both got our TEFL certificates Any advice for us oldies Lindsey

  8. Couple from the Philippines!!

    I thought that this article was outstanding! You guys really are an inspiring and knowing the steps of how you saved money was very helpful. I really like how you listed the ways you went about it and explained what you needed to do exactly in order for this process to work! Thank you for allowing to share this information the public. I love traveling and plan on traveling outside of the country sometime soon and I am glad that I got to read this information because it was very helpful! I am from Michigan and I think it is a wonderful place to visit, you two should stop and check it out. Good luck to you both!! 
    Kelly Whiteside

  9. Hi BZFLAG! You certainly pin pointed everything a person have to do regarding their finances while on the road (would work well to those who don’t travel as well!) I hope that yours and Jon’s dream resort would eventually happen in the future and expect me to visit when I go back home! Anytime soon me and my boyfriend will quit our jobs here in Finland and eventually set off to this pretty world exploring its wildest corners and your handful tips would certainly help us get our financial together safe and sound. Thanks a lot for all the informative tips you’ve been writing! <3 Evan

  10. Hi BZFLAG! This blog is very informative. I have to say you really covered the things that matters about the topic. First you mentioned you have a goal and afterwards described how you intend to do it. Perhaps, you may want to add the time frame you are considering to be able to achieve your goals. With the current cash flow and savings you get from all these, how long will it take you to finance your dreams? Actually I am really interested with how much you make in a month. I am considering quitting my job too and travel for half a year then return back to work. I don’t think I will be able find a work that can beat the income I am getting now for being an expat. (Oil and gas engineer here ^_^)

    1. Hello Rick, where are you now?which company? I used to work for Hunt Oil in Erbil, Kurdistan! Anyway, thank you so much for reading!

      Ha, the time frame, we plan to go back to Philippines by end of 2017 or by 2018 and finally settle down and start our own yoga and Ayurveda resort- that’s the main GOAL. I dont know how we will make it but I know we will.

      Making money? It really depends on the month and where we are. Also the most important is how much we saved not how much we earn. For example in Vietnam, we were getting paid $20 to $25/ hour for an English class while here in Peru it is only $11.The cost of living here in Peru is waaay higher than Hanoi but we are able to save more money in Peru cuz we do Ayurveda Massage for $40. In Hanoi, we were able to earn 2K to 4K usd per month but we’ve been partying a lot, in Peru it’s like $1K to $2K but we rarely spend money.

      So it really depends, my income in the Middle East is waaaay a lot than my lifestyle now but I’m able to save more money now than before. So it all depends on your lifestyle. I suggest invest on other skills if you decide to travel long term. Hope this helps, let me know if you need anything/

      1. I am now in Seoul working for an EPC company. I worked in Qatar and Japan before. I did projects in Malaysia, Qatar, Phils. and now Canada.
        Thanks for disclosing the amount. You are very transparent. The amount you mentioned is combined or per person? Sorry for asking.
        Is it also possible to work in Europe with Schegen visa?
        You are right it’s about how much you save and not how much you earn. In my case I can save more than half of my salary. So, that’s why it is very hard for me to leave my job for good. ☺

        Isko din ako. Wag mo na itanong ang student number ko. Hahaha

        Maraming Salamat and Mabuhay kayo dalawang unggoy! Hehe parang panget pala pag tagalog.

        Hope to see you guys is South America soon.
        Cheers!

        1. Yeah Rick, it’s combined as our finances are already joint! No, you’re not allowed to work in Western countries with Tourist visa even anywhere but you have to check the rules. We have Business visa in Vietnam so we can do freelance job, in Peru, we applied for a permit with our tourist visa but we are moving around and volunteering – they dont have a visa for that so volunteers here come on a tourist visa.

          hahah! Okay, i wont ask the student number! hahah! =)

          haha, okay lang sanay na sa tagalog na unggoy! Chos! Thank you and hope to see you here, we will be going to Antarctica soon! =)

      2. Hi! I’ve really enjoyed reading all of your tips! Like you, I have been working and living in various countries the past several years and just got married to my partner. We tried settling down in my home country but I couldn’t do it. Once you’ve spent too many years on the road, the idea of staying in one place long term is terrifying.

        Anyway, just wanted to ask if you have thought about that? Particularly since you’re going back to your home country. You might hate it!

  11. Hi BZFLAG! This was a good read. I have an advice for you guys. For your long term savings, try putting some of it in investments, to retain the value of your money, or else, inflation will just beat it’s worth. If you’re using BPI, I believe you can invest there through it’s UITF products, which are available also through online banking. You can choose whichever fund will work best for your goals, as well as your risk appetite, there are conservative, moderate and aggressive funds. Try to plan it according to your mid, or long range goals. With the 4-5% annual inflation rate for the past 10 years, keeping your money in a savings account for your long term goals would be suicide.

    1. Hello Tina, this is brilliant info! I used to have a mutual fund account but I pulled out the money just recently! But thank you for this knowledge, we’ll gonna consider it! Really appreciate this! =)

  12. I still love credit cards..u can pay it online using ur debit card..or if u have other credit cards u can defer some due dated bills to other credit cards to prolong the due dates ( have not done but a friend of mine does that) or u can withdraw money from it..Some places don’t accept cash too so (like in my Husband’s) ..it saves u from Forex differences and bank charges for withdrawing cash….. Credit card saved me when i was in thailand 😉 I forgot to activate my Bpi atm for international transactions. … But great tip BZFLAG…gotta love paypal and the $100 bill!!!’ i do it too 😉

    1. Hello Kea, thanks for the feedback! I used to have 3 credit cards before backpacking, it was awesome as I ws actually quite dependent on it. Never carried cash even paying for my car gasoline! But I cleared everything when we started travelling, I’m more relaxed now not thinking of playing tricks with the banks and stuff like that as there are days I dont have access online or to banking issues! Yeah, that’s the thing with BPI- have to call them sometimes that I’m moving to a new country so they wont block my card and it’s funny no one even bothers to think that my BPI is a debit card as it doesnt have a VISA and Mastercard on it, no one will dare to take it! haha! Glad you liked the tips! =)

      1. Both debits and credits have it’s advantages and disadvantages and yeah you are right about the trouble with getting online and with BPI transactions.

        Happy travels! Cheers!

        1. Agree with you, not sure we will get a credit card. Jon doesnt like it! ha! Thank you Kea! Happy travels too!! #positive vibes!

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