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I've spent quite a few hours of my vacation in the Philippines looking for fee-free ATMs. I've tried perhaps 20 different ATMs across the Philippines. Unfortunately, they all charged a 200 peso fee for foreign cards. Including even Citibank, Maybank, and HSBC (note though that I don't have a card for any of those banks).

Is it perhaps the case that there is now a uniform 200 peso fee for all ATMs? I believe I read a message flashing on some ATM screens that from Oct 1, 2015 onwards, all Bancnet ATMs will charge P200 for foreign cards. I don't know what exactly Bancnet is, but it seems like everything is Bancnet.

Follow-up question: Most ATMs I tried seemed to have a P10,000 withdrawal limit, although I think Citibank's may have been P15,000. If indeed all ATMs now charge that ridiculous P200 fee, then which ATM allows the max withdrawal (so I can minimize my losses)? I read somewhere that HSBC perhaps does P40,000 (and if so the P200 fee would just be a 0.5% loss). Can someone confirm this? And if so, also point out where the HSBC ATMs are?

If indeed all ATMs now charge a P200 fee for foreign cards, then travellers might wish to seek other alternatives (to avoid paying what amounts to a 2% tax), such as bringing more cash (USD or Euros) to change locally or using remittance services, etc.

  • Are there free ATM anywhere on the planet ? :-) – Max May 31 '16 at 16:54
  • My bank in Germany (DKB) guarantees free ATM use worldwide. If a fee is charged by the ATM, you can file for reimbursement once back home. I got about 60 USD back after my US trip, even without having to show any receipts. I could imagine there are banks like this in other countries as well. – helm May 31 '16 at 18:54
  • I was never charged a fee even though the ATMs said I would be. It was nearly a year ago and my bank was never charged. – user51765 Sep 27 '16 at 18:14
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As of May 2016, I used my Fidelity Check Card in every ATM, from the local ones to those of foreign banks. So far, the only ATM that didn't charge a fee was the HSBC ATM. For reference, I used the one in Greenhills.

In regards to changing currencies, the best rates in the entire Philippines are in Greenhills within Manila. Only use the money changers that are independent. Quite often, they will have higher rates than the official international rate, due to following black market rates (.01P to 2.00P on average). My personal preference is the green booth in the corner of Unimart because they always have a lot of cash on hand for large transactions. When going to Greenhills, in particular the counterfeit areas (the centre is separated by legitimate outlets and rows of knockoff stalls), just watch your belongings like anywhere else.

EDIT: For those calling to change money in advance (I'm assuming departing from Western countries), airport kiosks and banks in the United States will rip you off hand and foot on conversion rates for any currency. Looking at their margins, many make a comfortable spread of nearly 10% from the official rates, always in their favour. For traveling in general, only convert, at the absolute most (in the case of the Philippines and countries like it, $50) from a bank or airport kiosk. You will always find a better rate in town. Even if you can't find a money changer, that effective "2% tax on withdrawals" is better than the 10% the convenient options charge.

Source: Family in Manila and I travel to Manila every year.

  • 1
    "airport kiosks and banks in the United States will rip you off hand and foot on conversion rates for any currency." - this by the way, seems to be a universal rule and not limited to the US airports. +1 for an excellent answer. – Burhan Khalid Jul 24 '16 at 5:12
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Bancnet is the local ATM network in the Philippines, it also does on-line payments, and a bunch of other stuff -- see the link. There are a few other networks but Bancnet is by far the most common.

I have never seen a machine that doesn't charge the 200 PHP for foreign cards although I can't find anything that says this is mandated by Bancnet, it may be just an agreement between the banks. I strongly doubt you'll find a machine that doesn't charge it -- it would need to be an international bank that's directly connected to their network and that seems unlikely in Bohol given it's not in Manila. There's some discussion on-line that HSBC doesn't charge that fee but that doesn't match your experience.

All ATMs are limited in the number of notes they can dispense and have transaction limits along with daily limits. If you're using a local card you might be able to take out as much as 40000 in a transaction if you're using a card for that bank (i.e. PNB link) -- but even then I've seen machines limit transactions to 10000 PHP when they apparently shouldn't.

With a foreign card you'll almost certainly be limited to transactions of 10000 PHP and a daily limit imposed by the card. If you can find an ATM from the same bank as your card you might be able to get more -- I can't find anything definitive.

So, minimizing the loses is difficult. But really 2% isn't that bad -- I'm struggling to think of a cheaper way. If you're making large transactions then using a credit card might be better. If you plan to spend a lot and stay a while you could look at getting a pre-paid card (they're easy to get as they have to be funded and the bank has no liability) and funding via wire-transfer. But that's probably going to be more expensive unless you're going to transfer a lot (and I'm not sure it'll be cheaper).

EDIT: Of course, the best choice to avoid this is to change enough money before travelling to the Philippines (shop around to find the best rate where you are). Note that you're technically not allow to bring in more than $10,000 of foreign currency or 10,000 of local currency. Local exchange rates are pretty bad so changing before coming over is a good idea.

Also see this question for more general discussion on reducing charges.

  • For me, had I known about this, the cheaper alternative would have been to change cash, either back home or in the Philippines. Unlike this apparent cartel of banks in the Philippines, money changers usually face vigorous competition and will never make a 2% profit on each transaction. – Kenny LJ Dec 30 '15 at 5:38
  • @KennyLJ, yeah I assumed you where here already and changing money was out of the question. However you should check the exchange rates, all the ones I've seen in the Philippines are terrible -- best idea is to change money in advance before getting here. – SpaceDog Dec 30 '15 at 5:42
  • Hm even at Manila airport I got a rate of 1 USD = 46.9 PHP on Dec 22, when the mid market rate (according to xe.com) was 47.1725. Pretty good I think. – Kenny LJ Dec 30 '15 at 5:48
  • @KennyLJ, fair enough. Maybe I've just been unlucky in the past. – SpaceDog Dec 30 '15 at 6:03
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I withdrawn money at Metrobank ATM on the Boracay Island with a MasterCard form an European bank (and in a few other places in Philippines too), and was never charged any more then I was withdrawing by the ATM operator. I checked in the bank account history too right now just to be sure, the bank lists how much I was charged in the original currency too. I was usually withdrawing 9900 PHP to have some smaller bills.

The bank I used does not refund ATM fees, so that's not the case.

This was February 2016.

protected by Community Nov 7 '16 at 20:54

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