I have a US bank debit card (CapitalOne 360, formerly INGDirect) that lets me make withdrawals for free, in the local currency, and at the prevailing official MasterCard market exchange rates (which are usually very good - I've tried and tested this card in many countries.)

But often the country's local ATM will charge some transaction fee, especially if you are using a foreign card. In some countries, fee-free ATMs are common, while in others they do not exist.

This question is specifically for the Philippines. I'm hoping to get PHP when I land in Manila.

Googling I see some old forum posts on TA and LP saying that the fee is either 200 or 150 pesos, with a max withdrawal amount of 10,000 pesos. One post claims there are some free ATMs (Citibank, HSBC, Maybank, Standard Chartered, China Trust Bank) in the country.

Can I find such an ATM at the airport? And if there are no such free ATMs in the airport, are there any in the city of Manila?

  • Clarify what country/currency the funds will be drawn from? – WGroleau Dec 10 '15 at 2:22

IF you can get an account in USA...

Schwab bank visa debit refunds any ATM fees at the end of each month. They use the bank exchange rate when getting non-U.S. funds at an ATM. Same rate if I use it for a purchase.

I have heard of other banks with similar terms, but I can't name them.

  • Walmart in Mexico was clever enough to detect a U.S. card, convert at THEIR not-so-great rate, and ask for that dollar amount from the bank. Grrr. – WGroleau Dec 10 '15 at 2:23
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    But my experience is that there'll be no indication that there was a separate fee. E.g. if you withdraw 4000 Baht in Thailand and the local ATM charges 200 Baht transaction fee, then it will simply show up as 4200 Baht on the receipt and in your bank account (although you get only 4000 Baht in cash). So how do you go about asking them to refund you that 200 Baht? – Kenny LJ Dec 10 '15 at 8:44
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    Most ATMs separate out the fee when the debit from your own bank. The ones in Iceland did not. I have exactly this Schwab Card, and when I called and explained that all the correct withdrawals were in multiples of 1000 ISK (that's USD $8 and in fact all withdrawal were in multiples of 10,000 ISK), they cheerfully agreed that the sub-1000 ISK amount was an ATM fee and credited it back in a few days. I am sure the same would happen with baht. – Andrew Lazarus Dec 11 '15 at 18:05
  • I'll defer to Andrew Lazarus. I’ve never had to request one, but he described the approach the bank told me to use. In Mexico, Italy, Spain, UK, Canada, Germany, and even Iceland, the fee was stated and refunded automatically. – WGroleau Dec 12 '15 at 1:29
  • Cool, I'll have to check out that bank. – Kenny LJ Dec 12 '15 at 3:14

You can try asking for a Visa or MasterCard cash advance at the exchange window, for an amount greater than the ATM limit. Use a Visa or MC debit card, not credit card, as credit cards start charging interest the moment you get the advance. Many debit card issuers treat a cash advance as a purchase not an ATM withdrawal so don't charge any ATM fee, though you need to check with your bank in advance. Some banks charge a service fee for cash advances, so again ask first.

The limit on withdrawals from an ATM is a physical one, the machine can only process 20 banknotes at a time. So the maximum a machine can dispense would depend on whether the ATM was stocked with 1000 peso or 500 peso notes. Banks stock their ATMs differently based on location, rural locations where locals take only small amounts have small denomination bills, in tourist areas where big withdrawals are common, they load bigger notes. This further effects max amount possible.

If you are only looking for enough Pesos to get into town and have some spending money for that first day, I would just bring some cash and swap it at the exchange window when you arrive. Then the next day explore the banks & exchange services in town to find the best place to get the rest of your travel cash needs.

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    There may be a physical limit but ATMs will only give 10000 PHP even if stocked with 1000 Peso notes. But you can do repeated transactions (incurring the ~200 Peso fee each time). I've never seen a machine that would let me take out more in one go. Also, beware if you're landing late / early as the exchange desk may not be open. – SpaceDog Dec 10 '15 at 2:47

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