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Bringing money over to the Philippines

Discussion in 'Travel Tips and Advice' started by David52, Aug 5, 2022.

  1. David52

    David52 Member

    I was thinking of bringing both my debit card for cash withdrawals and a also a couple hundred quid to exchange to get me started once I arrive in the PH.

    Is this a good idea? Are there any better alternatives to this?

    I will be there for a month.
  2. Br28016

    Br28016 Active Member Trusted Member

    In the past I've replied on debit and credit cards with an initial couple if hundred pounds exchanged at airport. Have got good exchange rates at airports on arrival in Philippines.

    Issue with debit card for getting cash is that fairly heavy ATM fees for cash withdrawals in addition to UK bank charges. (Think 150 pesos but may have increased in recent years.) Also limit of 10000 peso withdrawal for single transaction

    Cheapest option was transfers to wife's bank account in Philippines using someone like wise or Western Union and then getting her to take out money.

    Depends on where you are and where staying with regards to credit card option. Also depends on how much cash you want to use.

    Fairfx (GBP) were my preferred option for minimal cash withdrawal costs.
    • Agree Agree x 1
  3. oss

    oss Somewhere Staff Member

    It's a cash country, although things are gradually changing.

    Contactless transactions are rare, even when allowed you find them asking you to insert your card as well :D

    Have you been over before I can't remember in detail what you posted when you joined, the reason for asking is just to get an idea of your experience on the ground in a country like the Philippines.

    Carrying a lot of cash is dangerous, however I personally always used to carry a lot of cash on me because exchanging cash for peso over there is much cheaper than trying to buy peso currency here in advance.

    Pounds don't stretch as far as they once did in the Philippines, last time I travelled I took £800 in cash and converted £400 in NAIA (airport) on arrival at a reasonable exchange rate about 2 peso lower than the international mastercard rate I think I got about 65 peso per pound, for once that was my only cash foreign exchange transaction during my 30 day stay and I brought 400 GBP back with me as well as 8000 PHP to help me on my next trip.

    Personally I would be nervous relying on just a single debit card and some cash, last time I took my Wise card, Revolut card, 2 credit cards, and two real bank debit cards.

    Wise and Revolut both have a 200 GBP cash withdrawal per month limit but they have the advantage that you get the international mastercard spot rate with no additional fee, you only pay the 200 or 250 peso ATM fee for each withdrawal and conversion of cash and that fee is applied to your transaction by the Philippine ATM owner not your own UK account provider. After you have taken £200 from Wise or Revolut you will then get charged a foreign exchange fee if you take any more during a month, so for me these are single use cards (at least for cash) but they are good for other card payments like restaurants and hotels and shops and they are free of FX fees when used for card payments.

    But as I said the Philippines is largely a cash country and as a foreigner you can need quite a lot of it, last trip I probably withdrew a couple of thousand pounds on my Nationwide Flex Plus debit card, the Flex Plus account is free of foreign exchange fees you will only be charged a couple of hundred peso by the Philippine ATM network for every ATM transaction so although it is scary it is best to try to take as much as the ATM will allow in a single transaction, don't just withdraw 2000 peso or the ATM fee will represent a 10% fee, if the ATM allows it take 20,000 peso most of the 7/11 shops have ATM's now and they will pay out 20,000 peso in a single transaction for a foreign debit card like my Nationwide one that brings your effective costs down to around 1% of the transaction.

    When i am traveling I am essentially travelling to my home in the Phils so when I get there the airport FX transaction is just to give me some money for the first day until I can get to an ATM and the nearest one is about a 10 minute walk up the road, I have a safe spot in the house to store cash so generally I get as much as I can in one ATM transaction then stash most of it in the house and take what I think I will need for a day's outing when me and my kids go out.

    When we are out I try pay for most things on my credit cards be it in restaurants or if I am buying stuff for the kids in the malls, however food stalls and the likes are almost always cash and the likes of going to the cinema is going to be cash, taxi's are mostly cash, stores like the 7/11 are mostly cash as well, when you have become used to our cashless world here in the UK it does feel a bit backwards these days, I think I've only spent about 30 quid in cash in the last two years here in the UK apart from my taxi to and from the airport which came in at 60 quid each way.

    The two credit cards I take over with me have fee free foreign use so when I make a card purchase I get the international spot exchange rate, Nationwide's credit card and my Aqua card both have this feature but of course never withdraw cash on a credit card as that is insanely expensive and only spend on a credit card what you can afford to pay, I clear my balance in full on all my cards every month I've haven't paid intrest on a credit card in over 13 years.

    One more tip, while I carry a lot of cards while travelling once I am on the ground I will only take one card and some cash out with me at any one time, my kids now have their own bank accounts and next trip I will make sure they have cash in their accounts so that we have a backup if I lost my cards or if my cards were stolen while we are out. That reminds me that if you have someone with a local account that you trust you can avoid the ATM fee by remitting money to that person's account and withdrawing on their local ATM card.

    And when you leave the country at the end of your trip you are allowed to take up to 10,000 peso out of the country (it might be higher than that now but best to not risk taking much more than that) if you posibly can, then take peso that you have already paid FX fees on out of the country so you have that bit of cash ready for arrival on your next trip, the 8000 I brought back means I probably won't exchange pounds at NAIA airport next time and instead wait to get some extra cash at our local 7/11.

    I probably have higher cash demands than most people would over there because I have to pay for things like my kids enrollment in school and I was having to get cash to help them get their own bank accounts this time, but for any kind of traveller it is still very much a cash based country and you really don't want to get caught out with not having access to funds, I'm terrified of the idea of losing my cards over there, I've seen an ATM machine crash and swallow the card of the person in front of me in the queue, if you only have one card that kind of thing could happen to you and you are not going to easily get a replacement while you are over there.

    Actually one disturbing thing about the ATM network was that on several occasions I turned up at an ATM to find it out of commission luckily my card was returned on the one occasion I put it in while the network comms were down and I hadn't noticed, they are not as well programmed as they are over here and don't always report their status before you insert your card.

    Taking some cash is certainly a good idea it is much better to convert over there but always check the rate they are going to give you if it is more than 2 peso short of the current international FX rate then you are being robbed.
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2022
    • Informative Informative x 1
  4. David52

    David52 Member

    Thanks for this well detailed description.

    Some very good tips you've provided here. Thanks

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