Sending money from Canada to the Philippines the hard way

A family emergency in the Philippines exposes the inconveniences and high cost of sending a remittance from Canada.

By: R.B. (TelcoinDYoR)

It was a Sunday afternoon during the long weekend and my family and I were enjoying some time at home, binge-watching Netflix. We didn’t go out that day as I was dealing with a bout of arthritis, limiting my mobility. So far the day had been relaxing and stress free -until my wife got an important message from her family back home in the Philippines.

Her mom, who had been suffering from diabetes for a few years now, was being rushed to the hospital after she inexplicably lost consciousness. Thankfully, by the time my wife received the call, her condition had stabilized and she was ready to check out, but she needed to get some medication. Of course, no questions asked, we were ready to help with the cost. We just needed to go to a Western Union kiosk to send the money. No problem right?

Looking at the time, we needed to rush so we could send the money. We normally go to the local Walmart, as they have a WU kiosk and it’s only 5 minutes from home. It’s convenient. As I have arthritis, my wife would have to go by herself. She quickly grabbed her car keys and left. Half an hour later, my wife called and said she needed to go to a different location. Apparently, after lining up for more than 20 minutes in the customer service line, she was advised that the Western Union system was shut down due to network problems affecting all Walmart locations. As we never used any other physical remittance shop outside of Walmart, we quickly searched for other Western Union kiosks. We found a Money Mart location, about 10 minutes away, but it was closing very soon and my wife needed to hurry.

An hour later, the front door opened and it was my wife. She had this very frustrated and irritated look on her face, and I was afraid that she wasn’t able to send the remittance. “I was able to send the money, but there was a very long line up. All the way outside of their door,” she said. “A bunch of people were cashing their cheques and sending them to their families back home as they are closed tomorrow.” I told her at least she was able to send the remittance before the shop closed.

Crisis was definitely averted. They were able to receive remittance, pay the hospital bill, and get the medication that was needed. However, I can’t stop thinking about the experience itself. Was all of that necessary? Any chance the whole ordeal could be improved? Yes, we could have decided to pay an extra fee and sent the money online. She didn’t need to drive out and waste almost two hours. Convenience does come with a price, people say. But is the convenience really worth paying for in this instance? Most people don’t realize what $10 CAD can do in the Philippines. To put it in perspective, $10 CAD is in the middle range of the minimum daily wage where my wife’s mother lives (region IV-A). Again, that is daily wage — one entire day’s worth of pay. As a Filipino living here in Canada, do I really want to give away a day’s worth of wages to Western Union? Honestly, I don’t. My family and friends need it more than they do. Every time we send money, a day’s worth of pay is lost in Western Union fees. Since we send money twice a month, that will add up to 24 days worth of pay in a year, essentially a month’s wages. I know, $10 CAD might mean nothing to a lot of people here, but it definitely means a lot to my fellow Filipinos back home.

Convenience, low fees, and lightning-fast transfers are very hard to find among incumbent remittance players. There are cheaper ways of sending that involve the recipient waiting for a day or more. You can definitely do it faster, but then you have to pay extra. There are some businesses that seemingly offer fast transfers with minimal fees, but the “hidden” exchange rate is so high that it doesn’t even come close to mid-market FX rates. Almost no one can offer what I am looking for, except for Telcoin.

This is the exact reason why I am waiting diligently for Telcoin’s launch of the Canada-Philippines corridor. As someone who’s suffering from mobility issues due to arthritis, I can virtually send remittance anywhere using the Telcoin app. I will be able to send them money directly and instantaneously to my family’s GCash account back home. Due to the fact that the fee is very low, it’s more money for them — which means more food on the table and quick access to medication, even in the case of an unanticipated emergency. A win-win scenario where everyone is happy, something that doesn’t happen in the remittance space.

Telcoin, I am waiting for your launch. I can’t wait for the day that I can proudly say that I “Send Money Smarter” to friends and family back home in the Philippines.