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The Philippines is an attractive vacation destination - but also a great place for expats looking to live and work somewhere new. If you’re thinking of joining those who have already made the move to the Philippines, then you’ll need a local bank account.
This guide walks through all you need to help you open a bank account in the Philippines. Plus we’ll introduce Wise, a non-bank alternative which offers a comprehensive multi-currency digital account you can open before you even leave home, and use to hold and exchange PHP alongside USD and 40+ other currencies.
Due to documentation requirements, it isn’t usually possible to open a Philippine bank account from abroad as a US citizen. This service may be offered to Filipino citizens, but as a foreigner you’ll usually need to be resident in the Philippines to get your account opened.
If you are able to find an account which suits your needs that can be opened from abroad, the documentation required will be similar to the previous list, although the minimum payment required must be made by international money transfer instead of cash. It’s an admin-heavy process, so expect it to take some time.
It’s not usually possible to open an account in the Philippines as a foreigner and non-resident. All banks ask for proof of your address in the country to open a standard account.
If you want to get started before you move, try Wise - a non-bank alternative which offers a multi-currency account you can open from the US, and use to hold and spend PHP conveniently. More on that later.
If you’re opening a bank account in person in the Philippines, you’ll need to bring documentation to prove your identity and residency.
If you don’t have the exact documents the bank specifies, it may still be possible to start the process if you meet with the bank manager to talk through your personal circumstances.
|The documents you’ll likely need are:
Banking in the Philippines is advanced, with a network of international banks as well as regional institutions.
For foreigners opening accounts, it’s usually best to stick to an international bank or one of the large national banks which cover the Philippines as well as the broader area.
Regional banks can be more difficult to use and only offer limited services. To start your search, here are the four largest banks in the Philippines:
BDO Bank¹ is one of the largest in the Philippines with over 1,600 branches and 4,600 ATMs, plus full service overseas offices in Hong Kong and Singapore, and a selection of international offices.
Checking accounts, debit and credit card as well as some other discounted goods and services are available. You can also open a savings account in either PHP or USD, which can suit Americans living in the Philippines well.
Metrobank² has over 940 branches in the Philippines, and over 2,300 ATMs. There’s a broad product offering including savings, checking, and fixed term deposit accounts as well as some savings options. They cater a lot to overseas Filipinos with accounts that can be opened from abroad.
Landbank³ is owned by the Filipino government, and has a local network of 530 Branches, 76 Branch-Lite units, 2,906 ATMs, and 58 Lending Centers.
You’ll find a full range of products and services for personal customers, including checking accounts and debit/credit cards. They also have remittance offices throughout Asia and much of the Middle East, as well as some parts of Europe.
BPI⁴ was the first bank established in the Philippines, right back in 1851. Today, they have over 1,100 branches and an extensive ATM network with good online and telephone banking.
Among their checking accounts, there are options specifically for entrepreneurs who want an interest-earning current account. You may also receive additional discounts or perks in local businesses.
Wise can help you manage your money across PHP, USD and 40+ other currencies, with convenient spending, options to send payments to 160+ countries, and currency exchange which uses the mid-market exchange rate and low fees from 0.43%⁵ every time.
Wise isn’t a bank - it’s a registered Money Service Business in the US and regulated here and in many other countries across the world. It’s also simple to get started online or with just your phone.
Just register an account and upload your local US documents for verification, and you could get a powerful multi-currency account and debit card, before you even leave the US.
Before you open a bank account in the Philippines, go through the terms and conditions carefully - especially when it comes to banking fees and charges. The structure of charges might be quite different to what you're used to, so be wary.
Check, for example, if there are account handling fees to keep your account open, or separate charges to be able to use a credit or debit card. You might also have fees for withdrawing cash from an ATM operated by a different bank.
How much these charges will impact you will depend on how you use your account, so think carefully before you choose.
Use this guide to help you pick the right bank in the Philippines for your needs - and don’t forget, you can also choose a non-bank provider like Wise to access many day to day services that help you manage your money across currencies for less.
- BDO Bank - Philippines
- Metrobank - Philippines
- Landbank - Philippines
- BPI (Bank of the Philippine Islands)
Sources checked on 09.12.2023
This publication is provided for general information purposes and does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its subsidiaries and its affiliates, and it is not intended as a substitute for obtaining advice from a financial advisor or any other professional.
We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether expressed or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.
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