The pros and cons of the GCash American Express Virtual Pay

gcash amex

The premise of the Globe GCash American Express virtual card is pretty simple: for a P250 annual subscription fee, GCash gives you a virtual United States-based American Express credit card that’s funded by your GCash Wallet. You can then use the virtual credit card and its accompanying details (credit card number, security code, and expiry date and US-based billing and shipping address and telephone number) to shop at websites that don’t ship to the Philippines. The US address is offered in partnership with My Shopping Box, a company that accepts packages on your behalf and ships them to your Philippine address for an additional fee. Now, the GCash American Express virtual card is NOT new – it was launched last October 2012 – but this was my first time to use it.

How to register and how it works:

Here are the pros and cons based on my experience so far:

The good:
1. It works! I’ve already used it twice and it really does work like a credit card. However, please note that I had the packages sent to my aunt instead of MSB so I can’t comment on MSB just yet. The peso equivalent is deducted real-time from your GCash wallet.

EDIT: I have since used My Shopping Box to deliver several orders. I would only recommend using MSB if you are shipping small, high value items via air. Their rates for sea cargo are okay but they take a very, very long time to deliver. Most sea freight forwarders take 30-40 days to deliver to Metro Manila. In comparison, MSB takes 50++ days. My last sea delivery order left the US on December 15 and I received it on February 8.

The cons:
1. The GCash dollar-peso exchange rate is hideously high. The first time I used it, their exchange rate was $1 = PhP 46 compared to the BPI MasterCard rate of PhP 44. This problem was fixed by my third transaction, when their rate was “only” 50 centavos higher than BPI MasterCard. I hope this remains the case and was not a fluke.

2. The card and your transactions may get flagged as possible fraud and canceled. This happened during my second order with the same website. My first order worth $100 went through just fine. However, my second order worth $440 was flagged and canceled. This was because the card’s US billing address did not match my IP address, which was obviously in the Philippines. I got around this by placing my order via phone (and paying international call rates) instead of ordering online. Now, I’m not sure if the card number is permanently flagged and thus unusable or if they flag on a per-order basis. Sigh.

My tip: keep the order total low. If you can afford to, break it up into several smaller orders.

3. In the event of order cancellation, the credit back to your GCash Wallet is INFURIATINGLY SLOW. MY GAWD. Remember how my $440 order got canceled? I couldn’t fault the website because they were only protecting themselves from fraud. Their customer service agent was very helpful and was the one who suggested that I place my orders via phone in the future. However, I WILL and CAN fault GCash and Globe for their fucked-up system that takes 3 FREAKING MONTHS to credit back MY MONEY. The GCash funds were deducted the second I clicked “Check Out” but Globe is going to take 3 FREAKING MONTHS to credit back the funds after my order was canceled. HOLY HELL.

So yes, take note.

Overall, the GCash American Express virtual card is definitely a nice thing to have for as long as nothing goes wrong. Once something goes south… good luck with that.

A full belly and aching feet in Puerto Princesa

The previous post is up here. Yes, it’s taken me this long to write about the second part of my Puerto Princesa adventures. This trip happened last July 8-9. *hangs head in shame*

We woke up at 7am because we needed to get an early start for the day’s activities. The latest we could leave Puerto Princesa was 5pm so that we’d arrive in El Nido at the somewhat reasonable hour of 11pm. Since breakfast wasn’t included in the room rate (boooo), we checked out of the inn and had breakfast in Jollibee.

Hibiscus Garden Inn’s small restaurant. Breakfast ought to be included in the room rate since there’s nowhere else nearby to eat.
All hotels should come with hammocks.

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Singapore Day 4 – shopping in Sim Lin Square

Well this is embarrassing. I’ve already gone and left for China and I haven’t even blogged about my last day in Singapore yet. Gah. *facepalm*

Anyway, the pertinent parts of the story are:

  1. My parents and two youngest siblings’ flight back to Manila was at 10am while mine and Rob’s was at 5pm. Rob and I ate breakfast at the McDonald’s in Bugis Junction, went to Sim Lin Square, ate lunch at the McDonald’s in Bugis Junction, then caught a cab to the airport. The concierge at Ibis kept our bags after we checked out at 9am so that we could wander around.
  2. I bought a BlackBerry Curve 9300 in Sim Lin Square! Yahoo! Got it for around Php 4,000 less than what it usually sells for in Manila. Now the downside: we spent three hours going around the place and I lost my patience with two vendors. My infuriating experience prompted me to write an article detailing how I to get f*cked over while shopping in Sim Lin Square. Read it here.
  3. The departure area of Singapore’s Budget Terminal was a nice place to wait. But then again, I’m used to NAIA so an airport with comfy chairs, clean bathrooms, and decent food already passes with flying colors. LOL. My only complaint is that there were too few chairs. Bought siopao to eat on the way home.
  4. Dear Philippine Customs Officer, young man + young woman + traveling together DOES NOT EQUAL A ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIP. JFC the customs guy thought Rob was my husband. EWW EWW EWWWWW!!!

How to shop in Sim Lin Square (Singapore) without getting f*cked over

Sim Lin Square in Singapore is a well-known gadget haven, boasting of six floors of stores selling nothing but the latest computers and consumer electronics, including laptops, tablets, mp3 players, mobile phones, audio equipment, and the like. While the vast array of shops leaves you spoilt for choice, this also leaves you open to unscrupulous sales personnel. Yes, even Singapore has its share of con artists. Based on my own shopping experience, here’s a short list of tips to avoid getting suckered in Sim Lin Square or any other shopping area in the world:

Buddhist monks shopping in Sim Lin Square

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