Why do you need a bank account in the Philippines?
If you’re in the Philippines for a brief vacation, a local bank account may not be necessary. However, for long-term stays or if you’re planning to live and work here, a local bank account becomes indispensable. Not only does it save you from hefty international withdrawal fees, but it also facilitates smoother transactions such as paying bills, receiving your salary, or even doing online shopping. In the Philippines, digital payments are on the rise, with banks offering a myriad of services such as inter-bank transfers through InstaPay, QR code payments, and mobile banking apps.
Which account to choose?
The choice of bank largely depends on your visa status and your specific banking needs. While some banks allow account opening with a tourist visa, others require an Alien Certificate of Registration (ACR) card which is generally issued to foreigners who are on a long-term visa in the Philippines. It’s advisable to visit the bank’s website or branch to understand their specific requirements. Like in Thailand, nothing is consistent and requirements can be different depending on the branch of the bank or even of the worker. But in general, an ACR card will be needed, can be hard to open a bank account without ACR (but not impossible).
The Alien Certificate of Registration (ACR) card is a valuable document for foreigners residing in the Philippines. This card serves as proof that the holder, a foreign national, is legally staying in the country. The ACR card is a requirement for foreigners who are staying in the Philippines for more than 59 days (you can also get it as a Tourist). The ACR card is important for opening a bank account as it shows proof of identity and legal residence in the Philippines. Banks are mandated to comply with the country’s banking laws and regulations, including verifying the identity of the person opening an account, their address, and their immigration status. Therefore, presenting an ACR card can simplify this process and helps fulfil the bank’s ‘Know Your Customer’ (KYC) requirements.
BDO, one of the largest banks in the Philippines, is quite expat-friendly when it comes to account opening.
- can open online
- can get a debit card
- minimum initial deposit – PHP 2000
- QR code payments
- 2.5 ⭐ in google play for the mobile app
BDO is one of the most popular banks for expats. The bank allows foreigners to open an account with just a passport and additional identification. As a major bank, BDO has extensive services including QR code payments via its mobile app. You can access the list of requirements on BDO’s website.
You can open an account in the branch or online – Bank website: bdo.com.ph
Metrobank, as one of the premier banks in the Philippines, provides accommodating services for expats looking to open an account.
- can open in branch
- banks website says that foreigners need a passport or Alien Certificate of Registration (ACR), and the initial deposit requirement to open account
- can get a debit card
- minimum initial deposit – PHP 5000
- QR code payments
- 2.7 ⭐ in google play for the mobile app
Metrobank is a widely recognized banking institution among expats in the Philippines. The bank permits foreigners to open an account with just their passports and an additional form of identification. As one of the leading banks in the country, Metrobank offers extensive services such as QR code payments through its mobile app. The requirements for account opening can be found on Metrobank’s website.
I’ve got an email from one of expat-wallet users about opening a bank account there:
Metrobank Cebu – Ayala Center Mall
They asking passport + copy of the place where you staying (you can make one fake lol) + what source of income. like freelancer, investor what ever.
you get the ATM card few days later
to open the bank account they’re asking to deposit 5000php (90usd)
Very easy and you have access also to your bank account online, app, you can receive, transfer money. you can load your phone or pay any bills from the Philippines.
You can open an account in the branch – Bank website: metrobank.com.ph
The banks above are probably the most recommended banks for expats on the Internet, but you can also consider some of them from the list below.
Maybe you don’t really need a bank account? Digital wallets have been gaining traction in the Philippines, serving as a convenient alternative to cash and card payments. They’re ideal for in-store purchases, online shopping, utility bill payments, and even money transfers.
- GCash is the most popular digital wallets in the Philippines. Operated by Globe Telecom, it allows users to make cashless transactions such as paying bills, sending money, buying load, and making QR code payments at partner stores. You can also use GCash to invest in money market funds and to buy insurance products. You can open an account in GCash as a foreigner.
How to send money to the Philippines?
After opening a bank account, you’ll want to fund it. Wise is a popular option for this due to its low fees and quick transfer times. They partner with local banks in the Philippines, making transfers almost instantaneous.
You can open a Wise account here – on the website: wise.com
How to send money from the Philippines?
I tried to find information on the internet about sending money from the Philippines to other countries, unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find any good and cheap solution. Probably the best option would be to exchange cash in local country or send it by bank wire transfer.
- How to open a bank account in Thailand: a guide for expats and tourists
- How to open a bank account in Cambodia: a guide for expats and tourists
- Foreigner’s Guide to Thai QR Code Payments with PromptPay
- How to open a bank account in the Philippines (wise.com)
- How to Open a Bank Account in the Philippines (expatden.com)
The article is also published in Polish on my blog.